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Monica Grabin: News/Journal

birds, birds, birds, and back to Walton School! - May 27, 2008

Yeah, I've been doing a LOT of birding lately. It's been a rather strange and slow year, but magical nonetheless. I love spring migration.

And I'm so happy to be back with old and new friends at Walton School. I had a great time with the 2nd and 3rd grades there last week and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow and Thursday.

I've been working very hard on my drop-thumb technique, which is improving, although I think I'll always sound a little like Grandpa Jones. I'm just a banjo whacker, there's no escaping it. But all I want to do is play banjo! Lots of fun.

Hope to see some of you at upcoming gigs. Please check out the calendar page for details.

My very best to anyone who takes the time to read this,

double and drop thumbing - May 4, 2008

Ok, nobody will really care about this but me, but here goes anyway: One year ago, I went to the Midwest Banjo Camp, which was terrific. At that time I swore to myself that within a year I would finally learn how to drop my thumb. I'm a frailer, you see, but have never learned the real clawhammer style, which requires one to drop their thumb down off the fifth string. Now, I don't know why, I but I could never get the hang of it, until last night. Maybe it's my new, delightful Nechville banjo, maybe the stars were aligned just right, but suddenly, I got it. Not to say I'm good at it, but I got the motion and feel so happy, and it's just one month shy of that deadline I set myself. So thank you, banjo gods, and on to more pickin'.
(Maybe it's because it was the eve of my name day. May 4th is the feast of St. Monica, patron saint of mothers. I was born on Mother's Day, quite a few years ago, b'day comin' up.) cheers.

Schools, MHC, Norlands, MerleFest - May 1, 2008

A lot has gone on in the last four months, so time to do a little updating.

Most recently, I just returned from North Carolina and MerleFest, refreshed and energized and with a new banjo. I met the very nice folks at Nechville Banjos while down there and I'm afraid I fell in love with one of their instruments. It has a radiused neck, a tunneled fifth string, and the nechville helimount system and sounds and plays wonderfully. Thanks guys!!!
I've been playing a lot ever since my return. Seeing the Carolina Chocolate Drops again as well as Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus really got my old-timey nerves tingling. And I saw amazing sets by Marty Stuart and Levon Helm. Doc Watson looks a little older but his singing and playing are still amazing. I feel so lucky to be able to see him once again. Ralph Stanley was also there, complimenting his back-up personnel on their picking "they play it straight, like I like it." MerleFest is actually too much to take in, but what a thrill it always is.

In March, I returned to Yarmouth Elementary School to work with the third grade on Women's History and in April with the fourth graders again on slavery and the Underground Railroad. I have been in Yarmouth every year for at least 15 years, and it's always a pleasure. The kids are great and willing to jump right in. I always treasure my time there.
In April I also had the pleasure of meeting the children of the 4th and 5th grades at Minot Elementary School and had a great time with them teaching/learning about Indians of Maine and lumbering and shipping. I want to thank everyone there who made this happen, and especially Donna Berry, who was a delight to meet. I'm going to rant a little now: the Minot School has no music program, due to budget cuts. What an awful thing it was for me to get a letter from one of the children there saying that she was glad to have me come and that she hoped music could be provided like it used to be. Surely we can do better.

Norlands Living History Center
I was very sad to learn that Norlands in Livermore Falls lost its barn in a fire. Billie Gammon had contacted me recently to perform there this spring, which I will do, but how awful to hear of the loss. I hope anyone who knows of the incredible work that's been done there for the last 20 years or so will do anything they can to help them rebuild the barn.

Mom's Home Cookin'
Dale Robin and I have had some nice gigs recently too, which deserve a mention. One was at the York Library in February, which was well-attended and a pleasure on all counts. We shared the bill with Cormac McCarthy, who was his usual talented and irreverent self. Everyone there was great to us, and we hope to join their excellent series again.
Also, we performed at the Saco Coffeehouse in April. The coffeehouse was our first gig as Mom's Home Cookin' and therefore a sentimental favorite of ours. This was a great night, with exceptionally good people participating in the open mic.

The birds are beginning to come back, and I can't wait. I've been going out every morning but the deluge has not yet begun. It's coming, though. Bill and I went to Texas in March for the birds, and saw 115 species, 55 of them lifers for us. It was incredible to say the least.
The Red Sox are out of their recent slump, the Celtics finally got back on track against the Hawks, and all's right with the world sports-wise, for the moment.
I'll be better at this, honest, now that I'm home for a while.
Keep singing!

ok, way overdue... - January 21, 2008

Well, somehow I've let this slip for quite a while now, but my guilt has finally built to the proper pitch and here goes. The concert at the St. Lawrence was great, imho. Everyone involved really gave it their all and made it a wonderful evening. Dana's songs were great and Dale Robin's rendition of "True Blues" was a highlight of the evening. I got excellent feedback from everyone involved and hope to make this an annual event.

I'm busy now with learning tunes for Fiddle-icious, a local fiddle-all instrument ensemble that I've followed from the sidelines for a long time. Bill's taken out his old fiddle and started practicing again, and this will give us a chance to play together and meet lots of new musical friends. Tonight is our first rehearsal.

Dale Robin and I are realizing we've got to get started on a new Mom's Home Cookin' cd, but she's in the midst of planning for a solo effort right now so we'll have to be patient. It's coming, though. And I'm just working on old and new tunes and a new cd effort by the prolific Dana Pearson.

other than that, the only thing to say is: Way to Go, Pats! Looking forward to a perfect season on February 3.

Counting the days till our Portland concert! - November 26, 2007

We had our big rehearsal the day after Thanksgiving, and things are sounding really good for Thursday's concert. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a talented group of friends who are willing to work with me on this, and we all have fun and laugh a lot. I'm really looking forward to playing again at the St. Lawrence. It's a great theater, intimate and acoustically lovely. Come check it and us out!

Wonderful time in "the county" - November 26, 2007

Well, I'm a little delinquent in not writing this sooner, but I had a wonderful time up in Presque Ilse. Sonja Plummer-Morgan, the extremely web-savvy librarian who hired me was a delight to meet, and has a very slick avatar. The weather was lousy but we had a good turn-out and if the audience had half as much fun as I did I know they had a great time. Thanks to everyone up there for making me and Bill so welcome, and yes, I'd love to return.

Heading up north, and prepping for the 29th - November 14, 2007

Tomorrow Bill and I will head up to Presque Isle so I can do a concert up there on Maine history. I've never been that far upstate, and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we won't get any snow showers. the librarian and I have been talking since about this time last year, so it's great that we'll finally meet each other. Look out, Sonja, here I come!
At home, I've been working with Dana Pearson on his third (!) CD, and it's been just as much fun as the last two. If you've never checked out his work, do it. You can find clips at CD Baby. I think he's a great song-writer and we have some wonderful musician friends, so the whole package is pretty nifty. Dale Robin and I just finished a couple of concerts which were a treat, one in Andover, Mass., and one here in Kittery. Unfortunately, the afternoon of our Andover concert was gorgeous and also the Pats against the Colts, so turnout was sparse, but that doesn't mean the audience wasn't great and the venue is lovely. We had a fine time. The Kittery gig was for seniors and not open to the public, but what a delight. There were a lot of people there on a miserable, cold November day, and the place was very warm with good food, good vibes and good music. We hope to visit with them again.
Finally, I'm gearing up for the 29th, when we'll do our second and final CD release concert. It's been such a gas working with everyone and I'm honored to have another chance.
My broken foot is recovering enough so that I actually took a short walk today. It didn't hurt at all when I did it, but it's been a little sore since. Still, recovery is evident. And of course I'm gleefully looking forward to having my son Gabe home for Thanksgiving. I love it when all four of us are together, which is rarer than it used to be. btw, my daughter Brenna did an excellent job on a poster for the Portland show. kudos, sweetie.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Whew! What a season! - November 1, 2007

I've finally recovered from the long nights of a great couple of series. It was a lot of fun, but Bill and I were seriously sleep-deprived. All worth it, though, watching that rolling rally through Boston again. I couldn't believe I was seeing it again so soon. My favorite moments: JD Drew hitting that grand slam, any time the roaring rookies came to bat, and watching Pap and Yuke dancing in Boston.

Other than the Sox, I've been busy practicing and choosing songs for the next CD release concert, and a couple of shows coming up with Dale Robin/Mom's Home Cookin'. (check the calendar) Also hobbling around on a broken foot. Not too serious, mostly just a big bother. should be fine in about a month. I broke it coming down stairs to watch one of the ALCS games. I guess I was in a hurry and I missed a step or two. ouch.

So, what to do now that baseball season's over...Go Pats!

Go Sox some more! and new gig - October 20, 2007

Tonight will be another trauma session, hoping the Sox can win another one. I don't care what people say about Manny, I still love him. Hopefully it'll be better back in Fenway. Go Sox!
oh, yeah, as to my musical stuff, I'm happy to have a new gig posted, for November 16th in Presque Isle, a long way away. The library there and I have been working for quite a while to find a time that works for both of us, and we're very pleased it's finally worked out. I'll be doing Maine History, a favorite of mine. Also, Dale Robin and I are doing another gig, for seniors in Elliott, Maine. That one isn't open to the public, unfortunately. I'm doing more recording with Dana and friends, which is always a blast. He's got such great songs and good musical ideas.
The garden is done, done, done. Even though the temps have been very mild, even the beans have finally given up. It was great while it lasted. I've got some songs gurgling around my little head about all that. Who knows, they might even become something.
And I broke my foot. Missed the last step coming down the stairs to watch the ballgame last week. Not badly, just a little crack which will have me hobbling around in a very ugly shoe for a while. Typical....

Go Sox!! - October 7, 2007

A beautiful afternoon, spent the early part of it walking at Laudholm Farm, my favorite local birding and hiking site, where I saw lots of Yellow-rumps and White-throated and White-crowned sparrows, and the latter part watching the Pats win and the Sox going for a sweep. It's the bottom of the 7th, Schilling is still pitching well, they're up 2-0, how good is that?
On the musical front, my good buddy Dana Pearson is working on his third CD, and I can't believe how many great songs this guy has. What a pleasure working with him. He and his wife and Bill and I went to see Dylan and Elvis (Costello) on Thursday night, and it was a great conert, although the Civic Center is not my favorite place to hear music.
Ok, now we're just 6 outs away from a sweep, keep them fingers crossed. Go Sox!

Another CD release in the big city! - October 4, 2007

Well, I got so much positive feedback from our Kennebunkport concert, and so much encouragement to do it again, that we've decided to go for the big time and will be doing another concert in Portland on November 29th, at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center. It's a lovely venue and should be a lot of fun.

What a great night!! - October 4, 2007

The CD release concert was a wonderful success, with lots of people, lots of great players and lots of good music. Zack Macomber on bass, Mazie Macomber on guitar and vocals, Byon Yeatts on guitar and vocals, and Dana Pearson on bass and vocals did a fantastic job of backing me up, after one rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. We had a great time together and the audience seemed to be having a wonderful time as well. I was one happy, tired, and satisfied lady at the end of the night. Thanks to everyone who helped to make it happen. And a special thank you to Bill for sound and support.

CD concert is getting close! - September 13, 2007

Today a lovely article appeared in the York County Coast Star about my new CD, and about me. I was very pleased and flattered to read it. Thanks, Laura, for doing such a wonderful job. And the songs are getting ready to be shared with you all on the 22nd, in the concert celebrating the CD release. Friends have very kindly offered to play with me, we're learning some new stuff, adapting some old stuff, and hope to generally have a blast.
The weather has changed into fall mode, and Bill and I went to look for hawks yesterday on Mt. Agamenticus, but only saw a few. The day was glorious, though, dappled sun through the trees and the first leaves on the ground. I love this season.
Here's a link to the article if you'd like to take a look:

chugging to the end of summer - August 31, 2007

It's been a little quiet on the performing front lately, but my little basement studio, Home Cooked Records, is buzzing. I love working with friends both old and new, creating arrangements and having a blast. Also, I'm preparing for my CD release party on the 22nd of September at the Community House in Kennebunkport, my favorite home venue. Zack Macomber, who played bass on lots of songs on Continental Village, and his sister Mazie are both going to be helping me out, and there should be a few others as well. It should be a lot of fun.
It's labor day already; kids going back to school, and time for me to get to work on house and musical projects. Time to shake off the summertime haze and get movin'! Oh, Tuesday is soon enough....

what a day - August 17, 2007

it's so gorgeous out here in the garden; birds, flowers, the tomatoes oh, so near to being ripe, tiger lilies over my head, cool breeze, the most perfect August afternoon, about as good as it gets. And the Sox are winning too.
Had a great time in Gardiner on Wednesday. We had to play inside but not a problem, since inside is the lovely Johnson Hall, a really nice, intimate venue. Lots of people, all ages, and such nice hosts. Thanks to everyone involved.

Last night at the River House Pub - August 10, 2007

What a great evening! Playing with Bruce (B.C.) Childress was terrific, and I had so much fun singing Irish tunes! There were lots of people helping to raise money for Sheila Vennell and for Corymeela, and what was most special for me was that there were people my age (50ish) as well as lots of people Sheila's age. (20+ish)

Sheila and my daughter were in the same class in school, so I knew all these kids well, and to have them so excited and enthusiastic about live Irish music in Kennebunk was really a thrill for me.

I think we'll be doing it again, since there were lots of requests for that, and hopefully this will become a regular feature of this lovely little pub.

Thanks to Sheila and the River House Pub for putting together such a great time. Let's hope there are many more.

great Irish tenor on Saturday - August 6, 2007

Went to see Paddy Homan, a terrific Irish tenor at River Tree Arts on Saturday. He was accompanied by my good friend, Don Wessels. What a voice! And he put me in such a good frame for my own Irish gig on Thursday. I'm really enjoying learning and re-learning material for this show. Hope lots of people come, and it's all for a good cause.

getting ready for my Irish evening - August 3, 2007

Next week I'm doing a benefit for a young friend, Sheila Vennell, who is going to Ireland this fall, to work with a group called Corrymeela. They promote peace efforts in Northern Ireland and worldwide. So there's a big Irish songfest at the new River House Pub in Kennebunk, featuring me and B.C. Childress, a maker and player of Uillean pipes.
I'm not usually thought of as a Celtic performer, but I know a lot of Irish songs, and a lot of historical Irish/American info, so this is a real treat for me to be able to use it for grown-ups.
The pub is great, very cozy, friendly, and hopefully we'll fill it with young and old.

Also, Tommy Makem died yesterday...and it's from him and the Clancy's I first learned most of my Irish material. So I'll definitely do a couple in his honor.
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