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In the Garden
Author: Force, Futch, Stephens, Zimish, Batti, Ford, Piazza
Date/Studio: 2007 GOTG Park, Colorado Springs, CO
Engineer: Rick Laurenzzi
Producer: Robert Force & Manitou
Original Release: Manitou, In the Garden of the Gods (BSR309)
Current Release: Manitou, In the Garden of the Gods (BSR309)

imageThis is the starting tune of the live recording session, Manitou: In the Garden of the Gods. There we were, literally, in the garden. We had to begin somewhere since we had all arrived with the sole expectation that we would be ready for-- whatever. This meditative piece reflects both our awe at being in that beautiful place among the red rock spires and, as well, our joy of discovery. We all knew we were about to embark on an unparalleled journey to an unknown destination. Trust your friends.

Roger most likely got us started with a melodic passage on his guitar. We all picked up on it. During the piece Judy gives herself over to vocalizing what she was feeling-- being in the garden, being among the red rocks, feeling blessed. That truly set the stage for all that later was to come, even the naming of the experience. Manitou was not just the name of a place on the map, it is itself the Algonquin word for an essential nature-- the spirit of a place.

For a number of years I had been attending a small folk festival put on by the Ford family in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Every year Bud III would lend me a Vespa motor scooter from his collection and I would putt the few miles up to the Garden of the Gods Park to spend time in what is for me a wonderfully unique, spiritual place. In the park, between two towering, narrow, blade-like red spires, is a natural amphitheater. How fun, I thought, to record here using the natural echoes.

The talented musicians coming yearly to the Manitou Mountain Music Festival are awesome. Every year I'd get to play five, full hour-long sets over the weekend, a luxury in this latter day and age where performers only get a fifteen-minute cameo at folk festivals. Here I got to play many of my tunes. Folks gladly jumped in to back me up as we flowed on and off of the stage during each other's sets.

One year my friend, Rick Laurenzi, was making a movie about weight loss (Dropping a Ton and making it Fun). He had acquired a bunch of cameras and remote, in-the-field recording gear. The stars were right. I asked several of these people I had been playing with to record with me in that spectacular place. Yes! We got up at seven in the morning (an unnatural act!) to get to the Garden and set up equipment. By nine we were recording. By noon, with the hot sun now banishing the cool shadows of our alcove, we were done. Rick had left the Mac computer running the whole time.

What strikes me about the session is that we were all there to listen to each other-- not just to bounce off with riffs for others to follow. Everyone there had previously played with someone in the group but we had never played all together. As a result, the entire album came out magical. A camera crew was shooting the event. Maybe one day that footage will see the light. For now, there are a few YouTubes out there that capture some of it.

If you do a net-search with key words: “Manitou-Music-Garden-of-the-Gods” you'll find Dulcimerica Podcast Episode 30. This is a 10-minute video of part of that session when we are recording the second cut, Boy on Rock. It captures where it was we were and what it was we were doing. In that segment a young boy wanders through the frame and then quietly plops himself down on an overlooking rock to watch and listen. He is caught in the last few seconds of the video.

Like all of the Manitou cd cuts, In the Garden features four dulcimer players-- Quintin Stephens, Bud Ford III, Bing Futch and myself. Dave Batti is on bass. Roger Zimish on guitar and Judy Piazza on hand drum, native American flute and any other thing she could lay her hands or feet on during the session.

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