Last week was the annual ODPC (Original Dulcimer Player's Club) Funfest held in Evart, Michigan. The Funfest has been going on for 44 years and is the largest dulcimer gathering in the world! It's held at the Osceola County Fairgrounds each year. Matthew has been going to it for about 6 years now, but this was my first time. He has been telling me all about it from the start of our courtship, so it was nice to finally make the trip up there together to enjoy the festivities! Evart hosts impromptu jam sessions, daily workshops, several fully stocked vendor halls, and a nightly performance.
The official Funfest starts on Thursday and goes through Saturday, but campers start showing up a month and a half in advance to hang out with their music buddies, see the surrounding area, and simply have fun jamming together!
Matthew and I showed up on Wednesday evening with enough time to quickly set up our tent and then go join the "Squirrel's Nest". The "Squirrel's Nest is a jam session that started about 6 years ago when Matthew first started coming. There are several long time members that jam, but they are quick to welcome in newbies and join them in on the fun! They were all glad to see Matthew once again and welcomed me in like they've known me for years! The "squirrels" hold not only the jam, but also skits and activities and shared meals. They are one of the most popular and larger jam sessions at Evart, and they get many onlookers and listeners because of it. I soon found out that the "squirrels" only know one speed: fast! They kept a smile on my face the entire time!
We jammed late into the evening with them and finally hit the sack around midnight, but many of the jams continued into the morning.
Thursday morning was the official start and with it started the workshops. All of the workshops were held in the fairgrounds many barns. Matthew taught a workshop at 12:30 entitled "Weaving Rhythmic Patterns into Your Melodies" and then taught another workshop at 2:00 teaching students how to play his most popular tune, "The Pirate's Jig". We were estimating about 15 students per class, but were pleasantly surprised to count close to 40 students in each workshop! We didn't have quite enough handouts for the amount of students, so I made a few visits to the office/headquarter's printer machine!
Matthew did an amazing job teaching his workshops. I enjoy sitting back and watching him play, teach, and convey his methods to the students. It's such a blessing to be able to be on this musical journey with him! I love watching him use the gift that God has given him with music!
As the afternoon progressed, the ODPC staff set to work putting up the stage for that night's performances. Matthew was scheduled to perform that evening, with the opportunity to close out the show that night.
They had several terrific performers lined up to play. Many of them travel in from all over the country for this event! Some of the attendees even travel from states such as California, Alaska and Florida, and places like England and South Africa!
When Matthew took the stage, he put on a great performance! His song list for that evening included "The Pirate Jig", "Sheebeg Sheemore", "The Cumberland Dance", and "Chariot's of Fire". As he readied to play his last song for the evening, he told the audience that he had just written this one. However...it was nameless! So he asked the audience to listen to the song, and if they had any name ideas, they could make their way down to the CD sales table where I was waiting with pens and paper. They could then write down the name idea, leave their contact information, and the winning name that Matthew liked the most would receive a free CD! Needless to say, as his performance came to a close, and everyone exited the bleachers, the line started with people eager to share their names! We had a ton of fun meeting people and talking with them.
Before the evening came to a close, Matthew and I once again headed over the to "Squirrel's Nest" to join in on their jam. Although the jam was well underway when we arrived, they were quick to pull Matthew into the middle of their circle. They had arranged for three other National Hammered Dulcimer Champions to be there and play in on their jam. They even arranged for them all to put on a mini performances by playing a few tunes together. Scott Freeman is the 1999 champion, Matthew is the 2012 champion, Katie Moritz is the 2013 champion, and Tina Gugeler is the 2015 champion. All of them are wonderful musicians and they did a great job of entertaining the listeners with their beautiful styles of playing.
As we once again headed to bed around midnight, different jam sessions around the fairgrounds could be heard playing well into the morning. Matthew and I had to head out early the next morning (Friday) to be heading home as we had two more events that were going on in South Carolina on Saturday.
We missed not being able to be a part of the whole festival, but hopefully next year we'll be able to stay for weekend! They are an amazing bunch of musicians up there and they are truly more than just friends; they are one big, musical family!
On our way home the next day, Matthew and I had a fun time reading through the list of name ideas that people had entered! All of them were very good and original, but Matthew had a definite favorite: "Mosquito on the Stings". Congratulations, Gail Miloch, on coming up with the winning name! Below is a little sample of the song to give you a better idea of why this name fit perfectly!