Fiddlin’ and the ballet

When I was growing up in Missouri, we just called it country music and it usually involved a guitar and a fiddle.

Now it’s “heritage music,” and our son Joe and I went over to the Union County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon to listen to it. The arena was alive with pickin’ and fiddlin’ at the Down from the Hills Heritage Musical Festival.
Some of the best musicians in Mississippi and surrounding states were competing for $9,000 in prize money at the state Bluegrass Championships, which drew a small, but enthusiastic crowd to the fairgrounds arena.
Joe, who is a decent musician, was pretty good at picking out the players that the judges eventually deemed the best. Meanwhile, I, who never even was able to play the song flute in school, had a little harder time. Well, actually much harder; I didn’t have a clue.
The music reminded me of my childhood, though, and my mother listening to country music on the radio while we were at our family’s small lake cabin in the Ozarks of south Missouri. From early spring to late fall, we would pack up our stuff on Friday afternoons to go from our suburban Kansas City home to the lake cabin for the weekend.
We didn’t get any television reception there, so she would play the radio most of the time. During the day, it would be tuned to KRMS, a local AM station that had a collection of country classics and played them over and over.
It didn’t matter to my mother, though, because they were the records she wanted to hear – Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb. You get the picture.
When the sun went down, KRMS went off the air and she would turn the dial to WSM in Nashville, whose signal could be heard all over Missouri at night. On Saturday nights, the Grand Ole Opry was a staple around our cabin.
Sitting in the bleachers Saturday afternoon, I was thinking about how much my mother would have enjoyed the heritage festival. She died in 2005, but her favorite music continues much as it did 50 years ago.
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Saturday night we weren’t thinking about the Grand Ole Opry or heritage music. My wife, Jenny, and Joe and I were at the Magnolia Civic Center to watch students show off their dance moves.
It was Reflections from the Mirror to the Stage, the annual performance by the New Albany School of Ballet and Dance Arts.
No, we didn’t have a daughter in the show. Although at my age, if that crossed your mind, thanks for the thought. We went to support the cast, especially Clara Dyson, the daughter of Gazette Managing Editor David Johnson’s fiancé, Shannon.
We came away admiring all of the dancers, who practiced long and hard before getting on stage in front of 300 people to perform. Most of all, we admired Justine Ward Stewart, the director of the dance company, for her ability to keep smiling while leading dozens of girls, many very young, through a myriad of complicated production numbers.
I told Jenny that Stewart’s job looked like it would be harder than herding cats. And the thought of having to do it while standing on your toes made my feet ache.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at