Canoes & Rowboats & Keyboards… Oh My!

Feb 13, 2015 | 2 comments

from "Wind in the Willows"

from “Wind in the Willows”

I’ve been re-reading all the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. She is high on my list of favorite authors and, as with all authors whose books call out to be read again and again, I find something new in hers with each reading.

 In Bury Your Dead, for instance, she talks about some of her Québécois characters as belonging to a ‘rowboat society:’ “We move forward, but we’re always looking back,” says Gamache. I love that metaphor. I think it fits me to perfection. And I wonder why it resonated this time around, and not the last.

Perhaps it’s because, as I age, my boat is getting harder to row. I don’t move forward quite so quickly which gives me more time to ponder the journey I’ve made. I actually like that way of looking at things (thank you Louise Penny!). It’s far better than just lamenting the difficulties in dealing with change.

Past Perfect - Jeffrey Reynolds and Andrew, 2005 Emlen,

Past Perfect: Jeffrey Reynolds and Andrew Emlen

Only this week I’ve been facing the growing struggle with keeping our House Concerts an acoustic venue. We haven’t always stuck to that. Some musicians have brought microphones and amplifiers and have set them up in the assumption that it’s okay. Our fault, really. We haven’t always been clear about ‘acoustic only.’ But, even when we have been clear, we’ve run into the difficulty of having to refuse musicians who are absolutely insistent on the cords and plugs and all the gear that separates them from the audience. “Just say no,” isn’t always easy.

I’m probably unreasonably stubborn, but I feel strongly that there aren’t many venues left for musicians who want to play without electronic helpers. Ours is one of the few. On the other hand, there are many venue choices for electronic music. But, when it comes to saying “no,” especially to musicians who have played here acoustically in the past but have made the transition to a more new-age format… I struggle.

The requests from plugged in musicians are coming in more frequently and I’m wondering if I’ve slipped out of my rowboat and into a canoe. I seem to be traveling at a faster rate into the future and the view of the past – in this case the acoustic past – is becoming dimmer. And the age-old “don’t rock the boat” advice is becoming harder and harder to follow.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I absolutely love this. It is how I feel! Get back in the row boat. The venue your house affords is one of a different era when there was no amplification. The concert last Sunday simply transported me to the past. It is not like your house is so large that amplification is necessary. If people in the kitchen can’t hear, they ought to get out of the kitchen! If musicians are not sure enough of themselves to play without pounding our eardrums, perhaps they are not for your audiences.

  2. margie cochrane

    What I found most impressive at Aaron’s guitar performance were the music’s passages that were so quiet you could barely hear them – but yet that was exactly what the piece called for, that intense movement to quiet. Real music. Amplified it could never have had that effect.


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