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Hands Across the Sea    Hand Made Music    HMM 101

In 1997, our youngest son, Sam, age 16, was selected to be a Rotary Exchange student to Rajamaki, Finland. Discussing ways to raise money for the year-long study abroad, he came up with, “Hey, since you guys are musicians and we have a lot of friends who are musicians, why don't we have a concert?” Sam had grown up among our friends most of whom had been recording artists for, by then, 30 years.

Everyone he asked said yes. Not only that, they reached into their own extended families and invited others to come and play with them. Before long, 23 musicians (including Sam) were on board for a May 30th Memorial Day show. Over the next several months our house became a focal point for rehearsals, imbued with the excitement of great musicians discovering each other-- months of laughter as we tried out the songs and ensembles we were going to present at the show.

The night came. Sam put on his tuxedo. People showed up to the Chimacum High School auditorium. Color-sorted M&Ms (tongue-in-cheek, rock'n'roll contract stuff-- red ones taken out!) graced the backstage along with other munchables. Janette believes you have to feed musicians what they want-- tofu or Twinkies-- wanting everyone to have that great, pre-concert feel of everything being just right.

Chris Martin was the engineer for the gig. Just before show time he inexplicable lost half of the mixing board's capacity-- but the show must go on! Chris had to rush down to the stage between each of the six set changes to re-lead and re-plug the microphones to fit each act. Then he had to run back to the mixing booth, sync the ADAT and perform sound checks (on the fly) to rebalance to hall. Prodigious!

Sometimes things go right despite everything. This was one of those times. The audience's appreciation of the music was so warm it didn't matter that the extra setups were necessary. To gain time, Chris would often speak to the musicians through the onstage monitors and ask them to tell a joke or story while he was frantically re-plugging things together in the booth.

The evening became a family-sharing-with-family event. Everyone knew we were playing together in the cause of friendship. This contributed to a night of some of the most relaxed, competent and confident music I have heard in my lifetime. I doubt there were a dozen misplayed notes in the hundred of thousands that were played. I know so. Together with Chis, I mixed the final cuts.

Looking through my collection of over 3,000 sheet music pieces (dating mostly from 1865 to 1945) I came across a John Philip Sousa composition: Hands Across the Sea. That seemed an appropriate name for the CD. The disc itself is multi-media-- having tunes as well as pictures taken by George Bigley-- the person most responsible to digitizing the majority of my web pages' content.

Sam introduced all of the acts except one-- mine. I was holding my new granddaughter, Molly, blissing out on the music. Then I heard my name. I handed Molly off, jumped onto the stage and started talking, thinking I had missed my intro. Turns out I hadn't but I “ran right over” Sam's intended speech. I was always sorry I didn't get to hear what he would have said. Fast forward 17 years: On New Years' Eve, 2014, I put on that same tux. In the pocket were hand-written 3x5's of his intros.

Mine said: “My father has, understandably, been the most musically influential person in my life so far. His dulcimer playing is something that can never be duplicated. His support and love has helped me through the difficult steps I have had to take to make this longtime dream of mine a reality. An amazing musician and an equally amazing person-- ladies and gentlemen-- Robert Force.” Sigh. Thank you, son! (And we did raise enough money to help support his life-changing year abroad.)