Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Music at the Maison

Last week our friends Harry and Cindy brought along six of their musician friends and spent a week at Maison Conti. Harry and Cindy are old friends from California and they have stayed with us in France before. We didn't, however, know the others before they arrived.

Cindy and Harry (left below) are very talented musicians, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Harry comes from a musical family and has been playing the fiddle since he was a child. He was also part of the influential band, Kenny Hall and the Sweet Mill String Band in the 1970s. Cindy plays guitar and both of them sing beautifully. Their whole family often play music together. They have published several CDs, which are highly recommended.

Walt and Clare (right below) live in Pennsylvania. Walt is a well-known banjo player and was a founding member of the Highwoods String Band, a highly acclaimed and prolific revival band. Clare is a fiddle player, having started playing as a child. Together they formed a new band, Orpheus Supertones. They tour the world and have produced several CDs together. Walt and Clare have also transcribed 1404 fiddle tunes from the original sources and compiled them in a book, The Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes.

Ted and Sharry (below left) live in Berkeley, California. They are old friends of Harry and Cindy's and play the fiddle and mandolin. Cary and Debbie (below right) are from Seattle. Debbie plays banjo and Cary is a mandolin player. He was also part of the Kenny Hill Sweet Mill Band during the 1970s in Central California. Currently he plays for a band called Red Dog. They have several CDs available.

We had personal concerts at the Maison every day and well into the night, but everyone's favorite gig was a public concert given at Marie-Claire's beautiful house.

Unfortunately the day was rainy and plans for a garden concert gave way to an indoor affair. Marie-Claire prepared a salon, complete with curtains for the musicians, invited a dozen people or so and prepared a table full of delectables besides. Walt had invited his banjo playing friend Yves, who just happens to live a few kilometres from here. Walt knows old-timey players from all over the world.

 The concert was a huge success. Clare explained that the kind of music they play originated in Ireland but when Irish immigrants came to the U.S. and settled in the mountains of West Virginia they developed this new style of music which was especially meant for dancing. Most of the tunes are without words, although the titles really do tell a tale!

Marie-Claire has a beautiful house and I thought that Debbie looked as if she were made for this space!

After the concert, the musicians played some special tunes for Marie-Claire.

There was even some dancing.

All the musicians fell in love with Marie-Claire, and I think the feeling it was mutual. The whole night, despite the weather, was a real love-fest.

For the rest of the week we had the group mostly to ourselves. They serenaded us into the night.

It was such a pleasure for us to have these talented people stay with us. It was a very special end of summer event!

If you would like to sample a bit of the music, have a listen:

As if musical talent were not enough, both Harry and Cindy turn out to be talented artists and committed printmakers. Who knew?

We spent their last day in the studio and each of them produced a wonderful etching. Cindy had come prepared with a drawing and Harry chose to make an etching of Kenny Hall, his musical mentor, who passed away while they were in residence at the Maison.

After they left us they went on to Paris and played a concert at Quinn's school.

They were an enormous success there too!


  1. Oh Nancy.....How delightful!!!!! I loved the little video and have played it three times so far! What a wonderful private concert.
    You must really enjoy having guests like that spend time with you.

    I will be arriving in London on the Oct 1st to attend the Annie Sloan Stockist Conference in Brighton. Then on to Oxford to visit Annie's shop and also a meet up with my long time blog friend Gretel Parker of the Middle of Nowhere Blog fame. I am very excited!

    Hope all is well with you and your family and that you are enjoying the encroaching Fall season. Much love being sent to all of you from Virginia.

    Janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  2. Great and wonderful pictures nancy ! They make me think of a famous "1000 families" book by Uwe Ommer
    Think too yu had a very special and moing time with all these musiciens friends