Day 9: July 7, 2017
Music Time

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The day's target, and actually the target for the entire trip, was Westminster, Maryland, which is almost due west of Newark where I spent the night. I drove there mostly on state routes. These photos were taken on MD-138 near Monkton.

I reached Westminster early in the afternoon. I had planned things to be sure to be here for Saturday's festival with anything in front of that being a bonus. Clearly this was a bonus. I've arrived on the last day of the second of two "Traditions Weeks" but I don't really know what that means. I first heard of Common Ground on the Hill through musician and veteran Josh Hisle. Josh has benefited from the organization and has become an important part of it. He was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Initiative to assist other veterans gain access to the organization. So I've heard about Common Ground and I've read about Common Ground and I've now (I'm writing this after Saturday's festival) had contact with Common Ground and I'm still not sure what it is or now to describe it. I really think that part of my difficulty is that Common Ground really does defy the concept that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Read the mission statement here.

I did know that "Traditions Weeks" is filled with classes and that those classes are held on the campus of McDaniel College. I parked and started strolling about. Some friendly folks on their way to a flute class gave me some idea of where things were on campus. I knew Josh would be busy teaching and more but sent a text to let him know I was there and that I intended to be at the evening concert. He answered and we made tentative plans to connect at the concert. I walked through one of the building where classes were being held and eavesdropped a bit but most doors were closed. There was one open door and I could very clearly hear what I thought were flutes but a walk-by revealed nothing that looked like my idea of a flute. But whatever those tall strange instruments were, they sounded good and I sat for awhile on a nearby bench and listened to the music. I eventually headed back to my car and on to the motel.

The building in the last picture of the previous panel is Alumni Hall the site of the evening concert. It turned out to be a really cool combination of two different showcases with just one or two performances by many artists. Two showcases were not actually identified but the concert was an opportunity for some students from the previous week's classes to show what they had learned as well as a chance for many of the artists featured in Saturday's festival to provide a preview.

The fellow in the first picture is Common Ground founder Walt Michael. He didn't really perform tonight but was something of an MC. The picture is of him showing off a donated guitar that is being raffled off in conjunction with the festival. I only have photos of a few of the performers and I don't even have names for all of those. I do know that the choir was accompanied by Professor Louie and Alex Hisle. There are participants of all ages and several young adults spoke of first coming to Common Ground with their parents. I had glimpsed the group in the last picture earlier in the day. It's the class I had walked past then sat and listened to in the hallway. When I initially heard them I thought "flute" but seeing the tall instruments made me think didgeridoo from Australia. It was a surprise to learn that the instruments are from Slovakia and are indeed flutes. The proper name is fujara flute.

Not all the performers were unknown to me. That's Dan Collins and Michael G Ronstadt in the first picture and Josh Hisle in the second. I knew those three would be there but was surprised when most of the Ronstadt Brothers (Michael plus Petey) group showed up. Michael J Ronstadt was a Common Ground mainstay and his sons toured with him as Ronstadt Generations before Poppa Mike passed away nearly a year ago. The name change to Ronstadt Brothers is rather recent. It was a night of great music and great fun that ended with a real bang. Before the Ronstadts could leave the stage, Walt Michaels stepped on and called everybody back. The grand finale was a rousing rendition of "Goodnight Irene" in which just about everyone sang a verse and sax, cello, banjo, and accordion solos filled the spaces in between.

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