Message from Mike Foley, HVBA President

A few words from the HVBA President, deep in his bunker in Washington, D.C.:

A French news site recently published obituaries of several dozen prominent figures, including Pele, Clint Eastwood, and Queen Elizabeth. Rest easy; they’re not dead. Most major newspapers maintain drafts of obituaries of well-known people, updating them regularly; the French site had inadvertently released them while making routine changes to their website.

Why am I bringing this up? Because, in my darker moments as this pandemic has dragged on, I have found myself pondering the fate of the HVBA and similar groups whose existence has traditionally depended largely on organizing large gatherings for concerts, public jam sessions and similar activities. When such gatherings are off limits, can we survive?

In recent weeks, I have come to realize that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our demise, like that of the above-mentioned celebrities, have been greatly exaggerated. I had not fully appreciated the vitality and resourcefulness of our bluegrass family. Although our schedule of concerts and jams may be on indefinite hold, an encouraging number of members have stepped up to fill that void in unexpected and exciting ways.

One prime example is the HVBA newsletter. This vital link serving to keep members in touch has, in the past few months, expanded significantly. Traditionally, its primary focus has been on posting information on concerts, jams, and other related events. In their absence, several new features have been added, making the site something that I, for one, look forward to. Dick Bowden, drawing upon his encyclopedic knowledge of all things bluegrass, regularly challenges readers with his trivia contests (and educates us in the process). Andy Bing’s Bluegrass Blog amounts to a highly readable and informative history of the genre and many of its outstanding artists; reading each installment is like taking a college course, but a lot more fun. David Chernack, fiddler, guitarist, and mandolin player extraordinaire, regularly contributes focused bluegrass playlists—and even includes links enabling users to listen to those lists on Spotify. Several members provide reviews of new albums; Mark Hudson, who doesn’t even live in the area these days, is a regular contributor. Proofreading each issue is yet another volunteer, Allan Brooks.

Against all odds, at least one new band has emerged in the midst of what appeared to be a desert for live music. What began as socially-distanced jams in Lynn Lipton’s backyard has evolved into the Blue Mask Boys (John Ahmadjian, Nate Allen, Bruno Bruzzese, David Chernack, August Eriksmoen, and Steve Margolis). They even managed to pull off the seemingly impossible: a live concert in Bartlett Park in October, with considerable assistance from the City of Poughkeepsie. The audience was limited to 45 carefully spaced listeners, but still . . . live music! And, of course, the indefatigable Fred Robbins was on hand to record it.

Finally, no one is as essential to the vitality of the HVBA as the association’s mother hen, Lynn Lipton, whose boundless energy influences us all, and whose efforts were instrumental in everything mentioned here. I know that there are several others whose contributions I have failed to mention, and I apologize. The bottom line, though, is that any organization is as healthy as its members, and there is ample evidence that the HVBA is alive and well.

In the words of Vera Lynn:
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where, don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day . . .

Mike Foley

Mike Foley

Mike Foley is currently on the Board of the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association. A retired educator, he has filled up some of his new-found time trying to learn the banjo and mandolin. His mandolin work, in particular, has been compared to lightning, in that he never strikes twice in the same place. He occasionally writes reviews of CD’s by groups of which he is particularly fond as a means of building up his music library. Mike enjoys evening walks by the seashore, candle-light dinners, and quilting.

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