Humidity and Humanities

Elk City State Park KansasOh good grief, August sure was hot! Three years on the road and no A/C has been tolling but we just keep trucking, finding relief where we can. Kansas proved to be one of our hottest stops in 2014 but Elk City State Park offered the respite we needed from the heat.

We went down to Coffeyville, KS to share an Australian Bush Song Workshop through Coffeyville Community College’s Humanities program. We performed our workshop over 16 times, in the local high school, community college and nursing homes over the course of our five days.

This is our third time in six years, participating in this lecture series and every time our program gets more and more refined. This time around our program began by paying respects to the original people group (Aboriginals) of Australia and the telling of a dream time story. Then we touched on the origins of Australia as a penal colony and stories of seafaring and songs that came with that time. Then went into the politics of the early settlement and the divide between the Aristocrats, Squatters and Drifters, finally sharing songs and stories of Australia’s Bush Rangers (outlaws). It was fitting to share the stories of the Wild Colonial Boy, Waltzing Matilda and Ned Kelly as Kansas is one of the states that many of the US outlaws roamed. We were able to make well rounded comparisons with Billy the Kid, Jesse James and the Dalton Gang.

Coffeyville Humanities programCraig was the main speaker in our series. He guided us through the stories, fun little antidotes about growing up in Australia, and he even shared about his experience in the shearing shed as a youth. He followed up by singing a hardy rendition of the classic, “Click Go The Shears.”

The rest of us each played our parts, including our son on rythmn, Graciana on vocals and I joined on vocals and the Mandolin. Having the extra support of our fellow bus riders on board was a nice welcome as well. Sylvia added charisma and fantastic harmonies and Rhys joined in on the bass, vocals and even shared the story of his hometown, Glenrowan and Australia’s most famous Bush Ranger, Ned Kelly.

Elk City State Park KansasWe camped all week at Elk City State Park. Our site included water and 50 amp service. We paid $25 a night for a spot directly across from the lake. At 102 degrees all week-long, we were so thankful to come back to Elk City Lake and jump into the bath water every single night. Our little haven in the middle of the plains was the perfect backdrop to share some of our local camping traditions with Rhys. Being from Australia he was unfamiliar with our version of smores and carmellos. We also made brats, boiled in beer, my grandmothers famous potato salad and watermelon. To top it all off, we went into town for a few meals and found the Chicken fried Steak a hit.

I wouldn’t say that Kansas is at the top of our list for places to stay for a week, however Elk City State Park proved to be a nice change of pace and offered us just what we needed to get through the week. If we make it back for another humanities series, we’ll know exactly where to stay!

 

Coffeyville and Australian Folklore

Over the past week we have lectured on Australian Folklore about 16 times, in a variety of settings including nursing homes, a mental health facility, Alzheimer unit, retirement communities, a high school and a community college. The range of settings offered some challenges but with a back ground in music therapy we were able to shift into more song than story when needed.

The humanities course is grant funded program, through the Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas. They have weekly lectures on history, folklore, story and song in all facets of life, depending on the lecturer. In a rural, southeast corner of Kansas, Caney High school and the surrounding nursing facilities all benefit from this program.

Craig was the primary teacher for our program on Australian Folklore. It was a joy to be able to watch him research and prepare a lesson that emphasized so much of his history. Starting with Aboriginal “Dream time” stories and an a-cappella song we learned from an Aboriginal/Australian group called ‘Tiddas” to the first convict ships from England and then finally stories of the bush life as documented by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. We sang Bound for Botany Bay, My Bonnie, Waltzing Matilda, our own Immigrant song and Old Man’s Town.

The kids joined us for the Community college and High School sessions, which totaled seven sessions in all. They were a great accompaniment, adding wonderful harmonies and a steady beat on the cajon’. Our son even read a few of the poems for the high school classes.

At one of the nursing home facilities I had an intense and profound moment as I  listened to a woman in her forties share her story of regret. She was a jolly woman and was singing along with gusto, so impressed with us she asked for our autograph. I said sure, if we could have her’s in return. She was excited and said she’d be happy to give her autograph to us but she was legally blind. However, she wasn’t always legally blind, only for the past 12 years. I responded with an “I’m sorry” and an affirmation of hope and planned to continue on in song. She interjected with a mumbling of a woman who beat her nearly to death and tried to gouged her eyes out. She said the woman only got 12-15, should have gotten life, but only 12-15 and then she got out after 6 on good behavior. I was shocked and caught off guard. I touched her arm and then she began to crying, “I made a big mistake misses, a big mistake. Have you ever made a big mistake, only to regret it the rest of your life?” I had made plenty of big mistakes but none that left me with blindness, mental delay and a huge scar on my chest.  I answered, “yes” and stuttered another “I’m so sorry.” She continued, “I had an affair misses, it was the worst mistake I ever made. I miss my husband, and my kids. I want my old life back. I want to see my kids. I want my old life back.” I really don’t remember how I responded but it was something in reference to having her old life back, something along the lines however painful, trying to embrace her new life, trusting there was a purpose for her pain and to begin to look for joy in it. I don’t know, everything coming out of my mouth all sounded so ridiculous, so inadequate. But she was gracious with me and after we spoke she smiled really big and said she felt inspired and encouraged. She was thankful for my listening ear. I thanked her for sharing and we continued in song, with “In the garden” followed by a string of old timey songs about “flying away.” Later, we exchanged autographs. Her’s said her name and “Blessing to you.”

Whew!

On friday we explored a little bit of Coffeyville’s folklore and visited the Dalton Museum. We learned about the history of this area and the resilience of the towns people in bringing down the notorious Dalton gang. It was fascinating to learn about the Dalton brothers pre-out law jobs in legislation and as a sheriff, the shift in their thinking and the final plunge into criminal life. It was their last hit before they were going to head to Mexico and retire. How ironic. They went in to the town of Coffeyville with an air of superiority and found out the hard way that “Pride comes before the fall.” All were gunned down except the youngest Dalton, who was imprisoned for 18 or so years and went on to  later wrote a book about the out-law days.

All in all, the week was pretty quiet, peaceful and we were able to catch up on some much-needed rest with early nights in the RV park. It was a balmy 68-80 degrees all week and for our past time we went pecan hunting and foraged a nice little stash that will hopefully turn into pecan pie.

New Workshop Offered for 2011

REFLECTIONS WORKSHOP

“There is nothing new under the sun.” The methodology of creating has always intrigued us. We have come to understand that everything we create comes from somewhere.

This course is designed to take the student on the exciting journey of uncovering the source of all creativity and to experience the deep connection between the Ultimate Creator and ourselves. By defining their creative source it will allow the students to experience a deeper understanding of the process of creativity. There by, being more connected to their work and developing an appreciation for other artistic expressions.

“Reflections” is a highly interactive course designed for personal and group expression. We will guide the students through a series of discussion about the methodology of creating and the exercise of creating a visual piece of art based on a word/sound source. The students will then form into groups and create a group song, story or poem based on the visual. The end result will be the opportunity to see their work move full circle. To create and to be the catalyst for further creation.

We will bring equipment for the song writing portion of the course but all art supplies need to be provided by the facility.

Questions addressed:
What is creativity? Where does creativity come from? Interpretations? Finding your voice? How music and art can speak? Becoming a catalyst for further expression?

Cost: $300
Minimum number of students: We can work with any size group.
Length of workshop: We can work with any time table.

Bio:

The Holland’s meet through music and find music to be a common denominator in their relationship. They enjoy writing together. Each offering different perspective, the end product is authentic and deeply rooted in their heritage. They are one part American dreamer, one part Aussie Charm and a splash of Gypsy love. Here them at www.thehollands.org