Today I practiced “Simple Gifts” on mandolin, preparing to play at church this coming Sunday. That old Shaker hymn, composed in the mid-1800s, has made the rounds and was familiar to many people who don’t otherwise know the music we played. Composer Aaron Copland, for one, used it in “Appalachian Spring”. It is one of the tunes that encouraged me to take my violin to Quail Hollow that night in November after hearing Annette play it on hammer dulcimer. It was a standard in the Tightly Wound String Band repertoire.
The band had several gigs in December, and we were bursting with excitement about playing together as a quintet, full of ideas for more jobs. I suggested that we get our photo taken at the old-time photo booth in Quaker Square, a shopping complex housed in the old Quaker Oats building in Akron, Ohio. The mall occupied a historical brick building next to the towering grain silos, surrounded by more modern buildings, up the hill from the Ohio and Erie Canal. The canal’s cascade of locks, from the summit between the Tuscarawas River to the south and the Cuyahoga to the north, and the resultant six-hour delay going through those locks, was largely responsible for the development of Akron. That falling water was also the source of power for the Quaker Oats company in the beginning, and Summit County took its name from the canal’s summit between the river valleys.
|Front from left are Becky Kempthorne and Joanne Fox, and in the rear are Annette Overly, John Whitacre, and Dennis Kenpthorne.|
We had our photo taken in January 1990, and we played music outside the photo booth while waiting our turn. The mall manager heard us play and hired us as regular entertainers, a job we kept for about a year. It was great fun to play historical music in such an appropriate setting, and that regular gig served as a major source of funds for my mandolin savings account as I worked toward a James Jones mandolin of my own. I still have fond memories of standing on old wooden floors surrounded by brick walls playing with the band.