Hey Folks, Max and Deirdre writing together here...
A few weeks ago, we took an amazing trip with the whole family to Maine. Back in March, our good friend and band member Margaret asked us if our band Hidden Fifth wanted to play a concert as part of a Catholic Rural Life Festival being organized by Fr. Paul Dumais of St. Joseph's Catholic Parish in Farmington, Maine. Although we hadn't played a full theater show in 4 years, we were up for the challenge, and said yes! Boy, are we glad we did!
The Festival spanned 4 days of amazing events from Sept 14-17. Fr. Paul described the event as a "Conversation on Nature and Grace" bringing together Catholics to both reflect on the ramifications of our faith on rural living, and to celebrate that life fully. One good way to describe it was a combination of a spiritual retreat, and a grand celebration of rural values such as food, farms and folk music and dancing. The festival combined common prayer, classes on homesteading skills, lost culinary arts, common meals, talks, presentations, contra dancing, and our concert.
Upon arrival, we were hosted at the beautiful Morrill Farm B&B in Sumner, ME. The B&B is on a working farm with dairy, pastured broilers, and a beautiful farmhouse and barn from the 1700s! The Family has also built their own private chapel on the property, and part of the festivities for the weekend took place there, including a procession through the fields, and blessing of the fields and barn. We got an extended tour the first morning, and were enthralled by the beauty of the farm, and the hospitality of our hosts.
We played our concert on Friday night for festival attendees and the show was open to the public. It was a fabulous evening of music and dance, and we don't know whether we or the audience had a better time that evening! We definitely want to play a show in Maine again! The venue was a beautiful old Church converted to a concert venue.
Saturday night we attended a 5-course farm-to-table dinner featuring food from 14 local farms! The parish provided free babysitting for the kids, who got to eat wood-fired pizza cooked on-site, homemade french fries and homemade ice cream from a local dairy farm. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to eat our meal without chasing kids around, and the nice ladies helping out commented that Declan really knows how to eat a lot of pizza! Since we don't generally feed him pizza at home, we guess he figured he had better stock up! We have no doubt that Siobhan took advantage of the quantity of pizza too, and the fact that Mom and Dad weren't in the room to curtail consumption.
The dinner was followed by a contradance, and we danced every single dance. Deirdre started out by wearing Declan on her back, and then when he fell asleep (we had some late nights that trip!), we put him down on a lambskin in the hall, and kept on dancing! Siobhan danced almost every dance, and did a great job for a 4 year old dancing at 10 pm!
We were also excited to meet 4 staff members from the national non-profit Catholic Rural Life. We have been members of CRL for the last year, and it was exciting to talk to them about our farm, and new website www.youngchristianfarmers.com. They gave some great talks over the course of the festival.
It's hard to convey just how amazing of a trip this was for us. All of our life's passions came crashing together at this event. Folk Music + Farming + Faith + Community + Contra Dancing + Local Food + Beautiful Rural Nature + Traditional Skills + Stimulating Intellectual Conversations. We could not even soak up all the goodness that was happening there in the four days that we had. It inspired us to live out our values to the fullest, and we were so honored to take part in, and even contribute to the festivities. We could go on and on and on, but we'll let some of the photos speak for themselves.
We were inspired to reflect deeply on how our faith compels us to work hard to restore the rural family to the American cultural landscape. We encourage all our Catholic brothers and sisters to work for the same goal, which Pope Benedict considered an important need for our times. "The rural family needs to regain its rightful place at the heart of the social order." Even if we don't all live in rural areas, we all as eaters depend on rural families to provide us with our most basic life's necessities, so we are all in this together, and we all benefit greatly from a robust culture of rural living. One concrete way to do this is to become a member of Catholic Rural Life, which needs members like us to support them in their important work of ministering to these rural communities and building them up.
Deirdre here. I keep on wanting to post but life has been so full recently that I don't have time to even step out of it and talk about it. =)
My family has been rehearsing hours a day for a big show that we have tomorrow at a 5000 seat theater in Redlands, CA! On top of that Max and I have been rehearsing for a show we are doing with our band Hidden Fifth in Maine. The practices have been long but I am so excited because I have not played this much music in over 10 years (since my family recorded their last album in 2006)! It is so amazing to be playing so much! Over the last few weeks I have improved so much just by playing and putting the hours in! This experience has reminded me of the important lesson that in order to get good (or stay good!) at something, you have to put in the hours, and do it a LOT!
Last night, we played for a contra dance and usually my hands are really sore by the time the second half comes around but this time I was not sore at all! Loving it!
I am so excited to be playing so much again and am determined to keep it up! I often get frustrated at our inability to carve out time from our busy life to find time for music, but shows force you make the time, and Max and I are determined to keep it up. Max has even been brushing up his dancing for the shows. I want my fiddle and dance students to hear this, so they are encouraged to put the hours in and get the amazing experience of playing that much better!! :) Keep up the good work kids!
The video above is a shot from one of our many band practices at home getting ready for the show! My three young cousins are joining us on fiddle, cello and mandolin, Max is playing flute, and our good friend Margaret is playing guitar. We have had multiple 8-hour says of virtually non-stop practice like this! It feels so good to practice this much!
More home practicing... Our friend David joins us on the pipes!
My whole family playing for a contra dance in Santa Barbara. We almost never get all 5 of my brothers and sisters together for a Contra dance, but last night we did! It may be the last time in a while too!
It was a very musical weekend at the Santa Barbara and Ojai Farmers Markets. We are always delighted when a local bluegrass band sets up next to our stand. Siobhan and Declan enjoyed sitting on the ground watching and listening.
Deirdre, one of her fiddle students, and some of her cousins all gathered next to our stand on Sunday in Ojai to play Christmas carols and fiddle tunes for market customers. Siobhan showed up ready to jam, and played or danced the entire time! That girl was born to perform, and has no shy bones in her body.
About the Authors
Max and Deirdre Becher farm together on First Steps Farm in Southern California. They love farming, raising their kids, playing music, contradancing, cooking, and working together to create a vibrant culture of celebrating life. See it all unfold right here!