Almeria, in Act 1, Scene 1 of The Mourning Bride, written by William Congreve, issued one of the most misquoted lines we have heard. The actual quote is “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast.” From 1697, when she first uttered these words, until today, it has been adapted to a more familiar saying, “Music calms the savage beast.” Either way, music seems to have an almost magical quality. It has the ability to lift our hearts, bring tears to our eyes and flood our minds with memories.
On the farm, my ear is tuned to the music of Nature. In the farm orchestra, the cows have a range from deep bass to high-pitched soprano. The roos prefer a solid, yet a bit off key, tenor. The leaves, the wind and the tree limbs rubbing together offer a background of instruments. This orchestra offers a peace that is hard to find anywhere else.
That is, unless you have a “Pickin’ & Grinnin’“ session going on in your kitchen. My Mama was born with a pure soprano voice. In her later years, her love of music caused her to lose her heart to what is referred to as Mountain instruments, such as the dulcimer and autoharp. She has also become fairly proficient with the Badhran ( a shallow Irish drum usually played with a two-headed stick), and the tin whistle. James also developed a musical talent. He started with the guitar, and has learned to play the mandolin, as well as other stringed instruments. Not too long ago, he absconded with my accordian; who knows all the instruments that kid can play?
So, when he comes to town, there is nothing better than for him and Grandma to gather up and steep themselves in their mutual love of music. And me, with my tin ear, loves to listen. One year for Christmas, I took the small gathering in the kitchen and enlarged it somewhat. I talked my Mama into bringing her dulcimer group down to entertain the Farm Women Exchange members, along with a few guests, for our Christmas celebration. Imagine the sheer pleasure to find out two of the group played the hammer dulcimer! What beautiful music.
Music is one of the simple pleasures in life. Anyone who plays music knows that it is almost a mystical pull for musicians to gather together to celebrate the art and gift of musical ability. In living a more simple lifestyle, one of the things we encourage is for musicians to bring along their talent to any group gathering we have on the farm. It may just be a few family members, but nothing can beat the entertainment portion of the evening.
Feeling brave? Don’t have an instrument to play? There are all kinds of instruments you can make yourself. Some are as simple as an old washboard and a wooden spoon. Use an empty, small plastic water bottle; fill it with dried beans and tape the top on securely. Instant Maracas! Or, you can take it a step further like James did – he built him a Bass out of an old galvanized tub, a piece of wood and a few strings.