A couple weeks ago I went to some banjo workshops that Richie Stearns taught as part of the Winter Village Bluegrass Music Camp: Bluegrass and Beyond. We were the "and Beyond" with our old-time, clawhammer style played on open back banjos. The whole thing was pretty frustrating for me; while I might be able to play a bunch of tunes relatively well and survive in a jam, I'm a slow learner and didn't pick things up fast enough to walk away with much more than a stronger realization of what I need to work on to really get somewhere in my playing.
To appease my damaged ego I thought I'd so something nice for someone else and asked Richie to visit Mary Ellen and play some tunes for her, and being one of the nicest guys ever he didn't hesitate to say yes. So a couple days later he drove up to Hospicare with his banjo and to the delight of Mary Ellen, me, a family member of another resident and the very fine nurse and former Rongo (where I fell in love with Richie's playing) owner Mary Ott, we got to hear a bunch of songs we requested, some Richie picked out, had plenty of wonderful chit chat, and the promise of a return with the very talented and sweet Rosie Newton sometime to do the songs we asked for but Richie couldn't do because they are the ones Rosie sings.
I had my camera and took some video, but it's not great and I was trying to be "in the moment," just holding Mary Ellen's hand and listening and not worrying about getting the best shot, so most of it is taken from behind Richie without Mary Ellen in view.
Fortunately there is youtube, and plenty of good video to give you an idea of what Richie is like if you don't know. After he played a song I was hesitant to request but Mary wanted, Mary Ellen turned to me and said, "When I pass I want you to post a link to that on the Caringbridge site." I dare say it's the song people around here say is their favorite more than any other. No need to wait for her to pass, she's pretty stubborn about that and it could be quite some time, I'm linking to it here. I like this version, one because it's with Rosie on fiddle, and two because it's shot by a friend I know from the Great Blue Heron Festival and I can here his giddy laugh at the beginning. "Ribbons and Bows"
Here's another song he did for us, again shot by Steve, this time actually at Blue Heron. "I Am With You Always"
Now if I can just find a version of "Everywhere You Go" with the line "You are my brother and my friend..." that he did for us. He usually does it on guitar but did a fine job on banjo, Mary Ellen told him if he screwed up she wouldn't "fire or refuse to pay him."
Thanks Richie, for being so talented and generous with your talent. And thanks Mary Ellen for your graciousness and being generous with your spirit. I love you both so much and treasure the influence you've had on my life.