Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister

The soundtrack to the movie Cold Mountain included shape-note music as sung by actual traditional singers. Minnesota-local musician Tim Eriksen, who provided the singing voice of one of the movie's characters, was involved in the arrangements for this. He organized a singing in Heneger Alabama at which the music was recorded. This led to a variety of unusual situations, like some friends of mine from rural Alabama flying to Hollywood for the movie's premier and appearing with Elvis Costello and Alison Krauss at the Academy Awards. (The original plans were that they would sing an actual tune from the Sacred Harp, but instead they sang some backup to a different song while holding their books in their hands.)

There was an awful lot of publicity for shape-note music that surrounded this hoopla, and I admit I got a kick out of seeing people I know on stage at the Academy Awards. But, on the whole and in retrospect, I'm surprisingly unimpressed with the celebrity brush of it all. (That is, I surprise myself here when I realize that deep down I just don't care at all whether Nicole Kidman, for example, shows up at a singing in Los Angeles, about which she politely expressed interest at one point.)

Now, in conjunction with the release of the movie's soundtrack, there is a concert tour crossing the land, the Great High Mountain Tour. From the tour's website:

The show, modeled on the highly successful 2002 Down From the Mountain Tour and presented by Grammy winning producer T Bone Burnett, will feature several artists from that tour including: Alison Krauss (who performed two Oscar nominated songs in Cold Mountain ) & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Ralph Stanley, the Cox Family, Nashville Bluegrass Band, The Whites, and Norman & Nancy Blake. Dirk Powell, Riley Baugus, Tim Eriksen, and Reeltime Travelers will join them from the Cold Mountain soundtrack, as well as Ollabelle (a sextet who draws their inspiration from nineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth century rural American music) and Sierra & Cody Hull (Sierra is a 12-year-old mandolin wizard who has performed on the Grand Ole Opry and PBS's All-Star Bluegrass Celebration, and who recently released her first independent release, Angel Mountain, with her brother Cody).

These may not be pop star names in the MTV and VH1 sense, but these are serious bigtime commercial performers.

When the tour comes to a town Tim tries to get some of the local shape-note singers to participate. Unfortunately, the logistics of the tour are such that Tim can't be sure in advance how many passes he can get, so, from what I've seen, he must scramble at the last minute to invite people. Of course the invitation to be part of such a star-studded (and expensively ticketed) event is quite the enticement.

Last night the Great High Mountain Tour performed in Minneapolis. On Monday Tim sent email to the local singers, apologizing profusely for the last-minute nature of the invitation but asking people to let him know if they would be able to sing at the show. I have Morris practice on Tuesday nights, and I didn't feel I'd be particularly needed on stage, so I didn't think much about it. It didn't seem to me as if it would be a comfortable setting to sing, anyway.

Last night there was a message on my phone machine from Tim, a very sweet and politic message saying that he wasn't sure whether I'd gotten the email but he wanted to let me know about the invitiation to sing, with details about where to go and when and what we'd be singing. It's funny, but even though I say that I was unimpressed with the celebrity nature of the Hollywood movie connections here, I am tremendously impressed with Tim, who I think is a musical genius. Now Tim's a friend of mine. I know his family (his family even stayed at my parents house on a trip East last year). I've sung with him many, many times. But I found myself all excited by the notion that Tim would call me specifically to ask me to be part of this concert. This felt like a brush with celebrity, although I'm pretty certain that most of the people reading this won't recognize Tim's name, despite his rock-star years touring with Cordelia's Dad.

Well, it was 5:30 when I got the message, and concert call was at 6:30. If I had been free that evening, as I sometimes am, I would have headed right out. Why not? But a lot of folks were not going to be able to attend Morris practice last night, which made it even more important than usual that I be there, and I was all stocked up with food for the post-practice pigout at my place. (Once again I made 8 avocado's worth of guacamole, which was consumed, no trouble, by only four men this time.) So I felt flattered, but did not even consider going. It would have been cool, I know (and I've since heard that it was a good time), but an honest assessment of what I wanted to do last night made for the easiest of choices.

And it sure felt good to say to my answering machine: "No Sir, I care not for your fortune and fame."
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