Hats off to our Special Events Committee, Richard Burgman, Liana Finucan and David Sutherland, for planning yet another fantastic hands-on workshop with two blues and roots artists, Peter Karp and Sue Foley who taught two types of workshops at the RCHA. Peter and Sue opened this year’s Bluesfest on Thursday night.
The day started with the Committee setting up the Joe’s M.I.L.L., City of Kingston, and Kingston Arts Council artwork and logos. Then the guys and gals started showing up with their guitars in cases. The M.I.L.L. supplied extra guitars for those who did not bring one and they were put to good use.
I did not know Peter Karp and Sue Foley and am still astounded by their talent and long histories as troubadours, musicians, songwriters and teachers. I loved Peter’s soft Alabama accent and his down to earth teaching style. Sue, a Canadian professional musician, who’s won numerous awards is a perfect partner with Peter.
First Peter said “get your gear out”, then they divided the “students” into two groups, Peter taught one group basic blues and slide guitar styles, while Sue taught the other with acoustic guitar stylings. I attended each seminar and still have two basic riffs playing in my head. It was an afternoon of words like riffs, shuffle, top and bottom notes and groovin.
Both shared their lifelong long love affairs with music and how they got into the real blues that started in the deep south. The Texas Blues, The Chicago Blues, Muddy Waters and many other well known artists were mentioned.
All of their teachers first taught one basic fundamental about music.
“Do things you really want to do said Peter. “Playing is about emotion and passion. Don’t try to copy someone else…develop your own personality” he added.
They both spoke about getting in the groove, getting relaxed, learn, then go home and practice, practice, practice. Peter told a hilarious story about going for blues guitar lessons when he decided to switch from rock and roll to blues. His teacher said “you’ve got to get in the pocket” and for a month, two hours a week, they played the same basic run of two notes, with an old drum kit serving as a metronome. “You’ve got to pull the personality and emotion out of those notes” the teacher said. After a while Peter said he could play those notes in his sleep, and today uses this teaching practice.
Sue started her session by asking the students if they had any questions,then she shared some of her stories and had the students each playing a different “top or bottom” set of notes within half an hour.. The basic blues. You’ve all heard it. “Words are the most important part of the song” Sue quoted. “Don’t distract from the message of the song by showing off with a lot of guitar work. I often stop playing and just sing to get the message across”. she said.
Both Peter and Sue drove home the same message.You’ve got to learn the basic fundamentals and spend the first two years getting them down pat.
“Then you can choose whether you want to sit and play simple chords all night or tear the string off the guitar” they added.
After spending the afternoon with these two famous musicians, I bought their most recent CD and listened to it when I got home. They practice what they preach in their music. Heartfelt love songs, one song I found funny, then an instrumental “Plank Spank” that Sue wrote, and indeed they both tear the string off their guitars with this fast paced, song with Sue on electric guitar and Peter on slide guitar. The CD is titled “Beyond the Crossroads” and my favourites, mentioned above are #11 Plank Spank” and #12 “You’ve Got a Problem” written by Peter. If you get a chance to buy this CD, or listen to it on line, I think you’ll be astounded as I was, by their sheer talent that I”d compare to a combination of bluegrass,blues and a little rock & roll.
On behalf of the Board of Directors we wish to thank the City of Kingston and Kingston Arts Council for providing the funding for this workshop, the second in a series of three workshops that will be presented in the fall.
To our “Special Events Committee” well done. What a fantastic opportunity to listen and learn.