Bluegrass in the Bunker

We spent about two weeks in Auckland City because Peter was taking a bartending course in the evenings.  While he was in class, I spent time at the library finishing the online component of my TESOL/TEFL certificate.  Other than our studies, the city had a lot to offer, cafes with delicious coffee and free wi-fi, crosswalks that let all pedestrians cross at once so that there are swarms of people crossing the street diagonally all while cars are waiting, and islands and little towns just a quick ferry ride away.  On one of our day ferry trips we went across the way to a town called Devonport where the New Zealand Naval Base is located.  There, we did what we usually do and climbed a couple of mountains.  On the way down from the peak of Mt. Victoria, we stumbled upon a little building in the side of the hill.  An old bunker built in 1891 as a command post to watch for possible Russian invasion.  We found that it is no longer an outpost of course, but has creatively been converted into the home of the Devonport Folk Music Club.  As many of you know, I have hauled my precious mandolin across the world.  It’s been quite the conversation starter, and fits almost perfectly into the overhead storage compartment.  So far I have played it every single place in which we’ve stayed longer than 24 hours!  This means I’ve probably practiced more in the last month than I usually would in a year 🙂  So, after seeing the schedule for this music club in the Bunker, I just had to check it out.

So, the next week while Peter was pouring cocktails, I rode the ferry across the way to Devonport, with my mandolin in hand.  It was a rainy evening, but luckily not pouring. As I walked up the hill, I spied the sign and continued up the stairs.  The doors were open and the sound of ukuleles playing more or less in unison was streaming out.  An older gentleman named Roger with a long white beard greeted me and recognized my instrument as a mandolin of course (you’d be surprised what some people think it is… I’ve gotten banjo, ukulele and violin).  I introduced myself and he let me in for in free!  (It’s usually $5 for cover) He told me I could play two songs during the second half.  When the ukuleles were finished, the Folk Club turned into basically an open mic, everyone was allowed two songs, and people were encouraged to sing along.  I took my turn and decided to play two songs that would most likely be unknown, Eternity by Daniel Leussler and Yamina by Bob Dixon.  Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and laid back!  They encouraged me to come again on Wednesday for the Bluegrass and Old Time Christmas celebration that Wednesday.

On Wednesday in was quite rainy again, but I trekked up to the Bunker anyways and some familiar faces introduced me as the mandolin player from Minnesota and asked me if I was from Lake Wobegon… Peter was bummed that he couldn’t come because he was in class, but it was also nice to have something to do while he was busy.  The Bluegrass Club Christmas party included refreshments and snacks, savory mince pie, potato crisps and instant coffee, tea and milo.  After mingling, people started to get out their instruments.  It was time for a jam.  After listening for a few songs, they invited me up and I led them in Angelina Baker.  We played for about an hour and a half.  Some tunes I recognized, some I didn’t, but I tried to keep up!  It was very nice, reminded me of home and Danebod.  Of course they had their resident “Bob and Lynn” only they were a couple visiting from Yorkshire.  When the group played “Goodnight Irene” as the last tune to end the night, it struck a chord with me.  They sung the original version, but in my head I heard my dad’s voice in the style of Raffi singing “Foxes sleep in the forest…”

Roger let me take home a cd of a local singer-songwriter named Helen Dorothy.  Here is a song from her album.  Very folky, kind of reminds me of Dar Williams.  Have a listen!

Helen Dorothy – Windy Nights

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About wanderingsoundtrack

I write about my travel experiences and relate them to songs I already know, or have just heard or learned on the way. Listen along!
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2 Responses to Bluegrass in the Bunker

  1. Nancy Leussler says:

    LOVE THE MANDOLIN STORIES. AT KENTUCKY DANCES WHERE GRANDPA AND
    I WENT, THERE WAS ALSO MUCH STORYTELLING. THEY SAID IT WAS THE
    SMALL INSTRUMENTS(LIKE YOUR MANDO) THAT THEY COULD CARRY OVER THE
    MOUNTAINS WHEN THEY EMIGRATED FROM SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND.
    SOUNDS WONDERFUL —MUCH LOVE, NANCY LEUSSLER

  2. David says:

    Too fun. I will sing Good Night Irene to you from Casa Del Turnberg West when I go to sleep tonight. (Mom will have to help me start the verses.) Love the pictures of the little bunker. What a great place for music. Gotta believe the wooden case for your mando helps open some doors. Very unusual. Maybe I will dig up Tom Jessen’s email if I can find it and send him your blog.

    Love, Dad

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