|The electric Karen Briggs|
This evening we had really wanted to go to the jazz and wine festival at Ft. Hunter Park, but it wasn't looking good. I felt bad for the many people who had planned to set up their booths, the organizers who had put weeks into it, and the local vintners, all family enterprises, who couldn't afford to waste time and resources.
At 3:30, sunlight returned and the disturbed, humid day seemed to settle. Folding chairs in the car -- check; pets fed -- check; tickets in pocket -- check also. Up Route 11/15 North we go, and suspicious looking clouds moving in from the west notwithstanding, we continue on and find a spot on the wet and slippery park lawn. The large tent in front of the Centennial Barn is already full of waiting music fans. We had to stop by at least four of the winemakers' stands, of course, and I was relieved to find that Ft. Hunter had the good taste to hand out glass wineglasses instead of plastic. You should only drink from plastic if you're desperate.
Local piano legend Steve Rudolph was first on, trading leads with the sax player. One of the several singers who regularly perform with him soothed the crowd with "At Last" and several other standards. She saved the fireworks for "Route 66," written by Harrisburg native Bobby Troup. Mr. Rudolph has played downtown at the Hilton ever since it opened 20 years ago (we've been a few times) and as far as everyone's concerned, he has a job for life around here.
We went back to the Nissley Vineyards booth, which was too crowded before, and enjoyed their Vidal, the closest one we tried to California squeezins. Next door at Tamanend they poured their new pumpkin-spice white wine and another quirky production, margarita wine. Sounds strange, but it was oh so good.
After a visit to the sweet, smoky Camp Curtin BBQ truck (they've been around forever also) the main act, Lao Tizer's group, got going around 6 p.m. This was the last stop on their East Coast tour and we were more than fortunate to have them, because electric violinist Karen Briggs was along. If you remember that mind-blowing concert Yanni did at the Acropolis years ago (PBS showed it several times, and I'll bet you or someone you know has a VHS tape of it), Ms. Briggs was that volcanic violin soloist in red. And she's in Harrisburg? You can see why we were so apprehensive about the storm preventing this from happening.
By the middle of their first original piece, "Uptown," I was sure her strings would either snap or melt. The crowd responded with excitement and respect. Mr. Tizer allowed as how they should be enjoying some wine too, and before they started the second number, four glasses of white were brought up.
Ms. Briggs did her take on Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherezade (with some gypsy violin improv), and they ended with another orignal that wandered from 70s jazz-funk to Latin (the drummer is Cuban) to Pink Floyd and back to earth. They deserved every minute of the ovation.
Just as we got in the car, it started raining lightly. Love it when a plan comes together.