By Erica Fugger
Each Friday over the course of the past three years, I stealthily slinked past the Green House great room, my bashfulness somehow overcoming the inherent urge to follow the music emanating from within. Now, with the ‘ruse’ of a newspaper story at hand, I have penetrated the depths of Union’s very own Green House Jams.
Sounds of feathery flutes, lofty mandolins, a lively fiddle, an eager accordion, the occasional piano and a couple of steady guitars waft delicately through the air as passersby follow in the path of resistance, straining their hardest to avoid the temptation of the ‘piper’s tune.’
Finally on the inside, my guard down and wondering why I ever denied myself the pleasure, I enjoy the splendor that is the compilation of the longest continuously running Minerva House event.
Green House Jams, which began over six years ago, has become a warm weekly gathering open to the entire campus community. Migrating from informal meetings of the faculty at each others’ residences to the Green House common space, the tradition has expanded to include students and staff members alike.
Among the weekly attendees are professors from the humanities and social science departments, a professor-librarian and even a professional musician (Tom Wadsworth) for hire.
Although I happened to be the only student in attendance that particular Friday, I was reassured that there tend to be a steady stream of undergrad musicians to complete the campus representation.
Either way, despite my immediate lack of instrument possession, I immediately felt at home within the group.
As I made my way amongst the sheet music and songbooks, the crowd was deciding which tune would be best to introduce me to their diverse repertoire. Settling upon a good ol’ Irish jig, I immediately fell in love with the melody despite any morbid images conjured by “I Buried My Wife and Danced on Her Grave.”
While the intricate accordion notes rang through in the first song, as the focus shifted from the Emerald Isle to the homegrown tunes of the Heartland, the focus rested upon the vocals and accompanying acoustic twangs of another faculty member. History professor Robert Wells, widely known for his endearing folk tunes shared within the classroom, led the start of “I’ll Fly Away,” whose likes hit mainstream in the contemporary film O Brother Where Art Thou?
While harmonizing vocals echoed the gospel-like sentiment of a distant era not so much unlike our own time of economic uncertainty, much of the group before me picked up a second instrument to demonstrate once again their wide range of skills. I found the improvisation to be particularly impressive, from intricate mandolin solos to heartfelt runs on the flute.
Although English professor Hugh Jenkins will not directly admit to shady business, the “fortunate coincidence” of a particularly musical Green House faculty list leaves dealings up to the imagination. What is certain is that they sure are quite a talented group.
If you are looking for a calming way to finish up the week, Green House Jams allows for just that type of environment. From more traditional versions of folk music to the hearfelt ballads of the Beatles, the group commences at noon on Fridays and completes their music-making with the conclusion of the common lunch lunch.
Whether or not I can muster the courage to dust off my flute or tinker around a bit on the guitar in order to take the Jammers up on the offer of joining their ranks, I surely plan to make another future appearance to simply enjoy the music.