I’m recently returned from my latest Guitar Craft adventure, working for a short week and then giving a live performance, along with 61 other “Symphony of Crafty Guitarists” guitarists, that was stratospheric in every way.
It was an incredible experience, and my first impulse was to write at length about it – which I may well do in the future, but right now, I wanted to ask a question – I am wondering if any other attendees of Guitar Craft (or, Guitar Circles, I am now beholden to say as well) courses, suffer from this (possibly imaginary) malady, not just now, but over time – across the years – which maybe I am the sole inventor of, I don’t know.
My life is pretty ordinary – I live in an ordinary town, I have an ordinary job in that ordinary town, and ordinarily, I work on music at home, with the occasional Internet collaboration, because of a disability that makes performing very difficult indeed.
So attending Guitar Craft courses, which I’ve done in a very, very intermittent way, over many, many years (since September, 1988 in fact!) is a huge, huge privilege and it’s a real highlight – a rarity, for a number of reasons:
- A chance to socialise with like-minded musicians and others
- A chance to practice Alexander techniques – great for highly strung or stressed out people (i.e. me, a lot of the time) or, do Tai Chi – and, meditate regularly, too
- A chance to perform with like-minded musicians and others
- A chance to spend one week in a very positive, very safe, very forward-looking environment
- It’s something enjoyed only rarely, recently, every five or six years perhaps – therefore, a huge treat for me
- It’s something very memorable
- It’s an occasion where you meet up with old friends, and renew those friendships (yes, I’m talking about you, Frank, and you, John Lovaas, and you, Ray Peck)
- It’s an occasion when you meet new friends, some of which, will stay so for many, many years (I’m talking about you, Pablo, and you, Jules, and you, Jamie! – you all know who you are!)
- It’s something very special in an otherwise very ordinary life
So when you only experience this once every five or six years, that strange, strange feeling – that people think you are a good guitarist, that people look up to you and respect your musical ability, that people want to jam with you, that people want to hang out with you – whereas, in your normal life, where there are few to no like minded musicians or people – doing any of those things is very difficult to downright impossible.
Recently then, since it’s now almost a week since the end of the course, I began to have moments where it all became a bit too much for me, and I really wished I could be back in that house, back at Koos Vorrink, in Lage Voorsche, in Holland – you just wish that the course could maybe run a bit longer, or you could somehow bring that environment back with you, and continue to live among like-minded colleagues, whom you respect, and, who respect you.
I am one of the most isolated of all Crafties, being the only Crafty guitarist in the northern part of Britain, and my disability prevents me from any chance of any regular meetings with those very few other Crafties who do reside in Britain – mostly, waaaay down south where that round yellow thing * can be sometimes seen in the sky.
Other symptoms include but are not limited to:
- no desire to hear music of any kind
- no desire to play or perform music of any kind
- no desire to work on music of any kind
- a craving for silence – silence is what I crave – silence as experienced at the course I was just on
So it can be daunting, coming back to that ordinary life, and not putting away the stack of spare strings you took with you to the course, or the gig flyer, just leaving them on your desk to remind you, to make you feel like you are still there. Don’t get me wrong though, I am so, so glad to be home, home is where the heart is, and I truly missed home while I was away in Koos Vorrink. I am very glad to be home, and especially glad to no longer be parted from my partner.
I am not depressed in the normal sense, I am fine, but there is an odd feeling to life now, I miss the routines of Guitar Craft, the communal feeling at meals and at other times of shared work or play – and I’ve rarely seen a course run so smoothly as this one did, the kitchen was amazing, Fernando should be crowned king and…some of those desserts – wow! What can I say? As a veteran of many, many Kitchen Craft courses, I know exactly what it takes to run a kitchen for a large group like this, and the hard work and intense effort that goes into it, is almost invisible when you are on the receiving end of yet another amazing dish or dessert – it’s flawless.
The quality of that performance, absolutely inspired and fed into the quality of the musical performance of October 15th, 2015 (at Koos Vorrink, Lage Voorsche, Holland) which for me, was one of the single most amazing things I have ever been a part of, in my entire life – simply astonishing. I’ve never heard or seen anything like it before, even my original “Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists (I)” course performance in Sant Cugat, in 2009 – which was brilliant – was not quite the performance that THIS was.
And here I am now, talking about the course, rather than about my reaction(s) to the course – my recent feeling of being adrift in the ordinary world, so I will have to reign that impulse in, and not describe that amazing performance right now – that’s for another time. At the moment, I want to say, I can remember this strange feeling from other courses – I remember after one California course, I had to go shopping in a brightly lit, clean supermarket, with very few people in it – and each time I came around the corner of an aisle, I fully expected to see one of the 75 faces that I’d just spent the last 8 days with – and inevitably, I would feel disappointed to find that it was just a stranger – I expected the face of a Crafty, maybe holding a guitar, maybe clearing away dishes, but – someone I knew. those [however many] people on your course, become the whole universe, and when you walk out of that universe – it’s very, very odd indeed. Disconcerting, even!
This feeling persists for days, you keep expecting to see __________ – put in the name of anyone you were just on the course with here, you expect to see that face, I expect to see Fumi coming around a corner, with that huge, huge grin on his face, always laughing, or perhaps it’s one of the Vicious Queens, intent and intense, on the way to a VQ meeting, or Fernando, worrying about the menu, but secretly, thinking about the dessert…
so – there are things that remind you – I am washing the strawberries…and I notice they are from Holland. sigh. I see the waffle cookies in the cupboard, which evoke every memory of Holland – too sweet, too good, too delicious to believe.
reminders, and then, going back to work, and remembering that this is my reality 99.9999 percent of the time, and Guitar Craft is some tiny, tiny minuscule part of my life – but, the impact it has, is absolutely not minuscule! not at all. It does stay with you, for weeks, for months, for years – and that’s both good and bad. hopefully, I will have, perhaps, finally learned the right way to hold my pick. I get Robert to fix it every time I see him, he fixes it, and, I get closer to the ideal, every time. It’s progress, although it can be painfully slow progress. But that is still preferable to nothing! It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, I truly wouldn’t – but I just wonder if it affects other Crafties the way it sometimes affects me – it’s not so much a negative, as just a reminder of how ordinary life outside of Guitar Craft can be. And how it makes you feel when quite suddenly, thanks to the extreme time compression of the Guitar Craft experience, you are thrust back into the ordinary world, and you start having to worry about connections and planes and trains and cabs and all that.
it’s jarring, it’s difficult to re-adjust, and after about a week, I don’t feel as if I have quite settled back into my ordinary life. Perhaps that is because I was part of an absolutely extraordinary group of people, that rehearsed and put on an absolutely extraordinary performance – probably. Yes – that will be why. And also knowing, that I won’t be able to take part in SOCGII – because it’s in South America, which is both a practical and a physical impossibility for me. So that’s it – I was at the debut of the Symphony, but it’s doubtful that I will attend any future SOCG courses or circles. It has just become too difficult, and, too geographically challenging.
sigh. meanwhile, coming from a place of slight melancholia now – please let me know if you have experienced any post-Guitar Craft feelings of any kind, or, what other “reactions” you may have had within the first week or so after returning from a Guitar Craft or Guitar Circle course. I’d like to compare notes, find out if others have had this kind of feeling before, upon returning to their normal life. 🙂 – whatever “normal” means, I suppose!
another sigh, then, before I go…
all the very best to everybody – thanks TEAM SOCGI, wherever you have scattered to now…
* the sun