The weekend of November 8 – 10, 2013 was the Native Rhythms Flute Festival in Melbourne, Florida. It was a spectacular gathering of people, and creative and musical artists.
To see more information on the extraordinary performers, talented artists, and the event go to the Native Rhythms website. Many of the performers this weekend have been nominated for, and/or won many awards such as a Grammy and various Native American music awards. You can purchase all of the performers CDs and/or listen to their music on their websites.
I want to share this amazing experience with you. Thankfully, the weather was great, although perhaps a bit too windy at times for those playing the flutes. I was able to enjoy all three days of the event by pacing myself and taking some medicine. I was so excited to be there, it is beyond description.
I posted a photo album. I will add some names under more pictures as time and my health permit.
If you watch slideshow quickly for some performers where there are numerous photos, its almost like seeing them perform live. If you look at their expressions in the photographs, you can see their passion and love of the music. They play with their heart and spirit, and it shows. When we in the audience listen to them perform, it mesmerizes us and draws us in and we feel the intensity and love of the song and the story it tells. I know personally, that I feel at one with the music and it brings out various emotions, depending on the rhythm. During the evening performances, there was a slide show on the screen adjacent to the stage. I also included some screenshots in the photo album so you could see what we did.
This has been my first outing away from home since May of this year. Being with friends, and making new ones, has been such a blessing to me. It energized my spirit. Hearing the flute music from so many performers deeply touched my heart and spirit. The performers and flutemakers live in various parts of the country and when we talked about those areas or where they travel to that inspires their music, it brought back memories for me when I was in those areas. Especially when we talked about the western states like Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico where I spent many weeks during my trips. I loved being out west.
Several months ago, I gave Pam a few of my Native American flutes and she got hooked on the sounds when playing them. Native American flute music reaches deep inside one’s spirit. I told Pam about the Native Rhythms Flute Festival. I think it was back in August when we started talking about it. At that time, it seemed so far away and we weren’t sure if I would be able to go, but we really hoped I would be okay to attend the event. Well, time passed, and finally the weekend arrived, and I was able to go. Pam drove and she had booked a motel room for us for the weekend. This weekend is just what I needed… How wonderful it was to walk around in the fresh air and visit with many of the artists/performers/vendors that I have known for many years, most probably more than 12 years. We have seen each other at various Native American events and flute festivals, and we always talk and visit with each other during those weekends and catch up on life and travels.
In addition to visiting with people I know, I got to meet new people and performers. The event volunteers and staff were incredible and very friendly and helpful. I can’t use a porta potty, and the restrooms were a pretty far distance for me to walk. Whenever I needed a ride to the restroom, either Larry, Jeff, Susan, or Joanie gave me a ride, and we got to talk and get to know each other during the ride. This is the 3rd or 4th time I have been at this event and it seems to get larger and better as time goes on. Having been on committees for events, I know how much time and effort goes into putting on an event, especially of this type. It’s wonderful that so many people are involved in this event and they do it so all of us can enjoy it. Thank you staff and volunteers.
The first thing we did after arriving at the park where the flute festival was held is to walk around and see the various booths and what they are selling. Since I know many of the vendors/artists I also spent time visiting with them and catch up on life. Sometimes we see each other a few times a year, and others we only cross paths every few years. Still, we have a common bond and can rekindle our friendship. A few of us keep in touch by email several times a year. I was able to introduce Pam to my friends and several performers, so here is another common thread and interest. Pam was also able to attend several flute workshops. Watching Pam enjoy this event and all she got to experience here touched my heart. What a wonderful feeling it is to share something that I have loved for years with another person, and watch them feel the same passion and love for it.
The nice thing about these type of events is that everyone is friendly and helpful and glad to talk with each other and visitors. Flutemakers and the musicians graciously answer questions, and help with technique if anyone asks. The performers have a booth where they sell their CDs and they love to talk with us and autograph the CDs we purchase. I always try to go up to all of the performers sometime during the event and thank them for sharing their music and talents with us. Usually, right after their performance they have so many people around them wanting to talk and buy their CDs, so I either wait a while until they weren’t so busy, or else I would talk with them during the day in their booth.
It was about 2002 or 2003 when I first heard Jan Seiden perform, and a few years later when I first heard Johnny Lipford. At those times, they were both brand new to performing at a flute festival. Now, many years later they are accomplished musicians and have won awards and are recognized nationally. Jan and I were talking over the weekend and I told her I remember seeing her perform at her first flute competition. She told me she was so nervous and that the microphone was too high up for her but she was too shy to ask for it to be lowered. She won the competition anyway. I’m so proud of her and seeing how her career has progressed. She’s overcome some challenges the past few years and it seems to have made her stronger and more passionate about her music and life. Johnny Lipford has also come a long way and I can hear in his music how he has found his own style and comfort playing it. An advantage of attending the same event or type of event over a period of years is getting to see musicians grow and change. It’s like watching a flower grow and bloom.
On Friday night, and also on Saturday afternoon, a group called Painted Raven performed. Annette played the guitar and flute, and Marsha played the flute and dulcimer. For each song they performed, they told the story behind it and during each song a video played showing what the song was about. For example, when the song was about a wolf, the video showed various scenes of wolves. If the wolf howled, the flute sounded like a howl. By them telling the story, when we watched the video we could feel more emotion when we watched and listened. One of the songs they performed was about Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. It was on my list of places to see in 2011, but when I met with a fellow traveler in Idaho and said I was going there, she told me that Mesa Verde National Park in SW Colorado would let me see more cliff dwellings and I would not have to have a guide take me on tribal land like I would at Canyon de Chelly. So, by Painted Raven showing a video of various parts of Canyon de Chelly I felt like I was there, it completed a journey and experience for me that I had dreamed of years ago. On Saturday morning, I went by their booth and let them know how much I enjoyed seeing the videos when their music played. Annette and I talked for a while and then she autographed one of her CDs and gifted it to me, that really touched my heart. During their afternoon performance, Annette and Marsha walked through the audience during one of their songs. I’m sure everyone enjoyed that.
Friday evening, after Painted Raven performed, Scott August, Mark Holland, and Randy Granger performed. I’ve seen Scott and Mark perform before and I always enjoy hearing them. I also have several of their CDs. I met Scott at Zion Flute Festival in Utah in 2005 and saw him again in 2006. This weekend, Scott had an instrument on a string around his neck and once in a while during a song he would play it. It made sounds like the wind or a bird call. I have heard that sound on his CDs and never knew how it was made, now I do. I don’t remember what he called it, but Scott said the name sounds like I Wanna Pizza.
I met Mark at Musical Echoes Flute Festival in Fort Walton Beach, Florida many years ago when he played with his band Autumns Child. This weekend he performed by himself, also with N. Scott Robinson who is extraordinary playing percussion instruments. He used techniques playing various types of drums. Scott also had a rattle on his foot and when he was tapping his foot to the music I could hear the rattle. I love the sound of percussion instruments, the drum is the heartbeat. Mark and Scott performed as Wind and Fire.
This weekend is the first time I met Randy Granger or heard him perform, and now I have another gifted and inspiring performer that I enjoy listening to. I got to talk with him on Sunday morning and we shared parts of our stories, and I told him about my website and my current journey and he said I could use one of his songs I liked in a slideshow of pictures I took at the event. I feel like I have another new friend. Randy also signed and gifted me a CD to add to my collection, it has the song I can use for in a slideshow. If time permits, I will try to find out how to make slideshow and post a link.
One of my long time friends is Ed Winddancer. I’ve known Ed for probably 12 or more years. One of Ed’s gifts is teaching and telling stories as he performs. He loves children and he always gets them involved in a dance activity during his performance. As part of his storytelling he teaches the audience some words in his Nanticoke tribal language. When Ed performs, he puts his entire being into the dance and performance. He also introduces performers that he has dance with him and asks them to tell their story and what their dance is about as well. Ed has a great sense of humor and includes it in parts of his performance. Tammy is Ed’s girlfriend and I’ve known her for about 7 years. Boy was I surprised when she came on stage during the Saturday evening performance of Wind and Fire and did a bellydance during one of the songs. I had no idea that she did bellydancing, she was great. When I talked with her Sunday morning, she told me that she has been teaching it for many years.
During Ed Winddancer’s performance on Saturday he had several other people doing various dances. Matt, was playing the drum and singing during most of the dances. However, Ed asked him to do one of his tribal dances and as a surprise for all of us Robert Mirabal came on stage and played the drum and sang during Matt’s performance. On Sunday, as Pam and I were leaving the festival we walked by the stage to go to her car and Ed was performing. All of a sudden, I saw a someone with a white shirt running towards the stage, it was Robert Mirabal. He was coming on stage to drum so Matt could dance. I stopped and took several pictures of Robert drumming and Ed and Matt dancing. What a great way to end the day. It was Veteran’s Day and the flag was flying on the stage.
Another one of my friends is Utah Farris who is a very talented flutemaker and artist. He always enters flutemaker competitions and frequently comes in first place, or at least in the top three. I’ve seen many of his competition flutes and I’m always impressed with his creatitivity. He won first place at this competition. In addition to his talents, kind heart, and sense of humor, he is also know for his tall hat and suspenders.
Our flute community lost one of our near and dear to our heart flutemakers and all around great guy Leonard Lone Crow (Leonard McGann) who lost his long battle with cancer on August 12, 2013. His sense of humor and presence was greatly missed by all of us who knew and loved Leonard. Many performers and people who spoke from the stage mentioned his name and the impact he had on all of us and the flute community. Buttons were made with a heart and a black crow in the heart in memory of Leonard. So many of us wore the buttons and knew he was with us in spirit. When I got home, I put the button on my door poster. Leonard always had a great sense of humor and a great laugh. He also showed his creativity with the flutes he made, and he inspired so many people. Believe it or not, it’s true, he made a flute out of a turkey baster and it played. I wish I had taken a picture of it when he had them in his booth. Leonard, my friend, you are loved and missed and we know you are watching over us and playing at the flute circle in the sky.
Another one of my favorite performers is Robert Mirabal. I met Robert many years ago at the Musical Echoes Flute Festival and also saw him at other flute festivals and Native American events. One of the things I notice about Robert is his passion and integrity. Robert always expresses the importance of taking care of the earth and preserving customs and traditions. In recent years, he has been farming and growing blue corn, organically, no GMOs. He brought a large bag of blue corn kernels to the flute festival, and generously shared them with everyone asking them to plant them and share the message of corn and it’s importance with others. Corn is a main crop, it is necessary in so many ways for survival. It sustains life, it needs to be kept in its purest form, not chemically altered like several companies are doing. Read more about Robert Mirabal’s and Nelson Zink’s pueblo farming project self-sustaining life farming grains and Tiwa Farms.
In addition to being a gifted musician, Robert is also an amazing artist and performer. Many, many years ago, before I even was involved with Native American culture and events, I saw a PBS special called Music From A Painted Cave. I was absolutely mesmerized by the music, dances, regalia, and the story that was told. It stayed in my mind and spirit for many years. About 8 or 9 years ago, when I was at a flute festival, and saw that Robert Mirabal was one of the performers, I was so glad I would have the opportunity to hear him in person. Now, after seeing him perform live, and talking with him in person, I understand more about the message he wants to convey and that he shares with everyone during his performances, or when he speaks with people. We need to take care of the earth, the corn, crops, and not cause harm. You can read more about Robert Mirabal and his stories on his website.
When it was Robert’s time to perform on Saturday night, everyone was ready and excited to hear him perform. Pam and I put our chairs in the front row early in the day, so we had a great seat for several daytime performances, and most importantly, for the evening performances. So, we were front row, center, and I was able to take lots of great pictures which you can see in my album. After the previous performers were finished, Robert took the stage as the final musician of the night. He got on stage, put his instruments on a table on the stage, and began talking with us. Then he said he didn’t feel like he was standing in the center of the stage, he was several feet off center. So, two stagehands came over and moved the table and microphones a little bit towards center and stopped and looked at Robert and he motioned a little more, so they moved a little more and stopped again. This was repeated a few times, and it added some humor because of the way the crew moved a little and waited, I think they did it intentionally. It was really special to include in the night.
Before he began to play, Robert took his suede leather bag and a woven bowl and poured blue corn kernels in the bowl. He told the story about it’s importance and how we need to share the corn and its message. He placed the bowl at the end of the stage near the audience, and invited everyone to come take some to plant and share with others. During the next few songs, people would come up to the stage and take some of the corn. It was very moving to see so many people come up and take the corn. Both Pam and I have some that we will be sharing with others. I am going to be sending some to my friends in Idaho and Texas that are an agrarian community. They grow their own food, and raise animals for food, and everything is organic and natural, the fields are plowed using horses and mules. You can read about this community in some of my stories during November of 2011 and 2012, and also on the Homestead Heritage website. Also, click on their More Sites button to read about the Gristmill and other parts of the community.
As the sun began to set during the performances, the moon was visible over the pavilion.
Back to Robert’s extraordinary performance, it was full of stories, lots of energy, passion, and great music. I took lots of photos of him performing, it was such a high energy performance. Everyone was mesmerized and intently watching and listening. Robert performed for about 90 minutes. Near the end of his performance he sang a 49er song, which has some lyrics and lots of vocables which are a combination of certain sounds. At the same time as he was singing, he was beating a hand held drum very hard with a stick drumbeater. About halfway through the song, the suede covering on the drumbeater started coming off. Robert showed us and kept playing. Finally, the cover came off and he was left with the cotton batting wrapped around the stick. He asked if anyone had another drumbeater, and someone brought him a longer one. He looked at it and decided it wouldn’t work, so he went back to using the one that was coming apart. It became a bit of humor in the song which was already a funny story in itself. I was talking with Robert on Sunday morning in his booth when someone came up and took the drumbeater and told Robert that he would get it fixed for him. Evidently, whoever made the drumbeater was not a Native American, they must have been a white person that didn’t know how to make a proper drumbeater and tie it properly so it would withstand the constant beating of a drum.
Someone made a large drum set with pvc pipes, it was set on a stand in the park near vendor booths and anyone could stop and play it. I did, and so did lots of other people of all ages throughout the weekend.
Sunday morning, while Pam was taking a flute workshop, I was at the festival grounds walking around and talking with people I knew. Also saying goodbye since we were leaving soon for the trip back home. It was bittersweet for me, and also for some friends that I have known for many years. We most probably will not be seeing each other again. One of my friends Natalie, came over and hugged me and we shed a few tears. She said it won’t be the same at these events without me there, that I will be missed. She and several others told me the same thing. I told Natalie that I am going to be cremated and have my ashes scattered from the sky, so when she sees dust on the glass and things in her booth, perhaps it will be me, and she can tell me to quit making more work for her by having to dust more often. Or, she can collect the dust and put it in a little container. It made us laugh, which was what we needed. Geri Littlejohn came over to me and gave me a warm, healing hug. We talked a few minutes, and shared our energy and spirit. I met Geri several years ago at another flute festival, we have a mutual friend that was a flutemaker.
As Pam and I were walking around the festival getting ready to leave, we stopped by Brent Haines booth to say goodbye to him and Robert Mirabal. They were both sitting in a chair and Robert was playing one of Brent’s flutes that was 3 flutes connected to each other. It looked interesting and more than I would most probably be able to play. I asked if I could take a picture of what looked like a very personal and private moment, and they said I could. This is one of my favorite pictures I took during the event.
When my time comes, I will miss being at these events, and I know I will be missed. Who knows, I might be alive to attend another one. God is keeping me down here longer than expected for a reason. I’m guessing that it’s not my time yet. So, I will keep enjoying living each day to the fullest, and share whatever stories and messages I can, and that I believe I’m supposed to be sharing. I feel so very blessed that I was able to go to this flute festival. It was just what I needed. I’ve missed traveling and visiting places around the country… this was a great substitute.
If you get a chance, go to the Native Rhythms link at the top of this page and explore the websites of the performers and artists. Perhaps, search the Internet to find a flute festival, pow wow, or other Native American event near you, and then go to it. It might just change your life the way it did mine many years ago, and still continues to do so.
A few days after this event, Pam sent me these two pictures. We had no idea at the time, until she found these pictures somehow, that we were in any pictures. We are on the far left side of the picture. I am in one on the left in the black baseball cap, and Pam is on the right, Pam’s head is showing over the performers shoulder.