We arrived back in upstate New York (Newburgh) at 4pm yesterday, and by that evening each of us was home safely. It was an intense two weeks in New Orleans, and an overall write-up including a LOT more photos and videos will be posted here in a few days.
The support of our friends, St. Michael's College administration and faculty, and Beverly Trask at Tulane University has been stunning and we are grateful. Final post coming soon!
What? We're performing today and leaving this afternoon? How'd that happen?
The past week has been incredibly packed. We've been assisting some local groups, playing for teacher's workshops, planning the final dance performances today (all the teachers will be sharing the traditions they taught), and yesterday we had our Habitat for Humanity performance at the Musician's Village.
Folks really seem to appreciate music here in a different way than any other place in the U.S.; the Musician's Village is 75% local artists (jazz, brass band, etc.) who were displaced by Katrina. After we played for the volunteers yesterday we took a tour through the surrounding area; the devastation is palpable even after five years. Empty, rotted, and burned out houses everywhere, even one upside down in the field where it rolled during the storm. And folks still live in the area, even in some of the damaged houses.
It was a sobering experience for the group, but we also felt good that we were given the chance to come and contribute something towards the efforts there that was well received.
Today we'll rehearse some Haitian music starting at around 11:30am, perform for the concert at 1, and then after the concert we'll load up and head out.
Since Monday we've been playing for between 6-10 hours a day (either classes or rehearsals), not including the dance classes that the guys have bravely taken with visiting artists from Cuba and the Congo! It's an intense amount of work, but we find ourselves going more and more deeply into the traditions we're representing at the festival. There hasn't been a lot of time to go out and explore but we'll have some time to do that in the coming few days.
On Sunday July 6th, we'll be heading to Congo Square to participate in a special event with artists from both the N.O. Dance Festival and local traditional ensembles called "The Spirit of Congo Square - Remembering the Ancestors." One of the local community members here explained to us that this is one of the first times, even pre-Katrina, that people representing the music and traditions from so many different African nations have been in New Orleans at the same time. Congo Square used to be a place where slaves were allowed to gather and express themselves through music and dance, perform religious ceremonies, and have their own marketplace. The organizers want to take advantage of the opportunity presented by all the musicians and dancers here by gathering and pouring libations to the ancestors and then allowing the various groups to express themselves individually through prayers, music, dance - anything goes. It will be amazing, and we'll be sure to photograph what we can.
Today, July 4th, the group plans on heading to the riverfront to catch some Zydeco music, brass band, and then fireworks from two barges on the river.
Some photos of our week of playing are below, including Dan "BBQ-Man" Klug making dinner for us one night....