We have spent the last 13 months travelling North America, living in less than 100 square feet, giving concerts in 30 different states, and sharing music with thousands of people. We had our last concert three weeks ago. It’s hard to believe we’re finished. We’re finished, absolutely, but I don’t think that the experiences we had this year are not finished with us. They’re not finished shaping and stretching, challenging and teaching me and Steuart. Hopefully the music we shared and the conversations the concerts inspired are not finished with the people we encountered either.
The morning after our last concert we heading up to the mountains of Colorado to spend two and a half weeks in a cabin in the woods. There was no internet, no cell phone reception, no neighbors to been seen or heard. There was a warm fireplace, an old upright piano, a big refrigerator where we could fit not one, but two gallons of milk if we so pleased (remember our tiny fridge in the trailer?), an oven to bake in, time to bake, and a quiet stillness that filled us with peace. It felt like catching our breath for the first time in 13 months. Did you know that this two and a half weeks was the longest we had been in one place for 13 months?
During our time in the cabin we would turn to each other and bring up stories from the tour, or ask questions like “who was the most memorable audience member?”, or “which state had the best food?”. It felt so good to be in this place of reflection, rather than planning. As we started to settle into a time of relaxation, the contrast of that feeling to what we had been experiencing for the last 13 months was a bit shocking. Throughout the year I would sometimes feel like I wasn’t working hard enough because so much of our time was spent driving, eating meals with hosts, or figuring out where to go to find this or that, rather than what I thought of as “work”, ie sitting behind a computer writing emails and spreadsheets. I loved working for myself but that also came with a huge amount of responsibility and pressure. Whether we failed or succeeded was completely up to us and we felt that at every moment.
In that place of reflection we felt – most of all – grateful. Grateful that we had, in fact, succeeded. Some of that was because of our efforts, a lot of it because of the generosity and enthusiasm of others and we believe ultimately because of the protection and grace of God. Can you believe that in 13 months, over 30,000 miles traveled, we never once had to call AAA (roadside assistance), never once had our beings or property harmed or threatened, never had to cancel a concert, and always had enough money to cover our expenses? When we look back and think about everything that could have gone wrong and didn’t, we are overwhelmed with gratitude.
I want to take a few moments to write about the last month of concerts. Our next post will be about the continuation of Music in Familiar Spaces, in the form of the MFS Artist Collective. Steuart and I (mostly Steuart) have been working on the Collective for the last six months and we’re really excited to introduce you to the idea. Give us just a couple of more weeks to work out the details, and we’ll be ready for the official announcement!
For the last month of the tour we had six concerts – more than any other month of the year. We started in southern California where we had our last Credo-sponsored concert, this time at the home of a Credo student’s family. It has been really wonderful to partner with Credo on this tour because it allowed us to connect with so many people we likely would not have otherwise, like our hosts the lovely Sanders family! Credo’s generous partnership allowed us to present several concerts on the tour for free, as well as some educational outreach activities.
One of the coolest venues we booked was a place called “The Last Bookstore” in downtown Los Angeles. The space is the epitome of hip and it was just perfect for Steuart’s program “The Bach Reader”. The place was packed, filling every seat, aisle, and balcony with some of the most interesting-looking people we’ve seen on the tour! Our next stop was Phoenix, Arizona and on our way there we stopped for two nights just outside of the Joshua Tree National Forest. One of the many awesome things about the Southwest is the abundance of public land – you can camp out for free in some really beautiful spots!
The concert in Phoenix took place is a non-profit cafe called The Refuge. We actually had a difficult time finding a venue for this stop but persisted because we had several folks in the area committed to helping us spread the word (once we found a venue). One person whom we had never even met (a friend introduced us by email) devoted hours of his time to help find a venue and publicize the concert. Time after time on this tour we were completely blown away by the generosity of strangers in helping our mission. All of these efforts paid off and we had a completely packed house!
We traveled next to Albuquerque, New Mexico, an area of the country well known for its Native American populations and roots. We worked with an American Southwest-inspired brewery owned and run by two incredibly inspiring women. It was truly a special Bach & Beer concert, with well around 150 people in attendance and some concert-goers coming from nearby Reservations. The day after the concert we took the chance to go to the top of Sandia Peak (elevation of over 10,000 feet) with a friend who lives in the area. The views were pretty incredible!
An entire week stretched between the Albuquerque concert and our next show in Santa Fe. We considered spending the time exploring the many stunning parts of New Mexico but with energy reserves on low, we opted to stay in one place instead. We found an inexpensive camping spot (with electricity!) just outside the hippie-filled town of Taos. Staying put for the week was a great decision – we got some good work done, had some nice romps in the Rio Grande with Lucy, and even watched a couple of movies!
We popped down to Santa Fe from Taos for a concert at the home of the lovely Margaret Cushing, a fellow early music player. She purchased an adobe home rich in history from the 1800’s and has converted part of it into a perfect space for intimate concerts. In a very short time she has established quite a reputation for offering exceptional concerts, with some concert-goers telling us they drove over an hour to attend. We had a really great time, especially having the chance to talk with audience members during the reception following the concert.
From New Mexico we drove north to Colorado – the final state on our route. There we had to two stops, the first in Colorado Springs where we stayed with a wonderful family whom Steuart had met years back. They hosted a concert in their home and thanks to the friends of their young children, we had lots of kids in the audience! It was wonderful. We also had a concert at the Axe and the Oak Distillery which had recently opened a tasting room in a former school building. This time, Steuart paired not only a Bach cello suite but also a suite from Benjamin Britten with, you guessed it, bourbon! It was great to hear from the distillery team about the type of mixed drink people had during the 1700’s (Bach’s time) compared with the drink of choice during Britten’s time, the early 1900’s. It was a really enjoyable evening, with some neat interactions between audience members, young and old, bonding over which suite (or drink) they preferred best!
Denver, Colorado – the epicenter of American craft beer – played host to our final concert. With over 50 breweries to choose from in the city limits, we found the perfect one to host our last Bach & Beer: River North Brewery. The Denver Post helped us out with a great article and we packed the house! We streamed the entire show live on facebook – in case you missed it, you can watch the video here. We were seriously bubbling with excitement – from the final tasting the day before, to the drive over, getting setup, greeting the first concert-goers, playing the concert and celebrating afterwards! It was perfect.
There you have it. The final concerts of Music in Familiar Spaces … at least for now …
Thank you for following and encouraging us these last 13 months. Your support has meant the world to us, truly. We can’t wait to share with you about the MFS Artist Collective, as well as our final resource book that we’re putting together. The book will include tools for musicians wanting to use the MFS model to setup their own concerts, as well as stories and photos from the road.