Whippletree, Jeanne, and a Tale of Two Rons

Hey Patronopolis (and others),

I’ve been so busy living lately I haven’t found time for blogging about it. Among the fun developments I’ve been wanting to tell you about are some new collaborations with other musicians.

Today, for instance, I’m going to play with my dear friend Chelle Terwilliger at the Good Food Store’s local food fair.

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Chelle and I are two-thirds of Whippletree. The missing third is the inimitable Caroline Keys, also a dear friend, who is currently on tour with her band, Stellarondo.

A whippletree, by the way, is a mechanism to distribute force evenly through linkages.  

Another really fun collaboration simmering right now is an un-named something something with guitarist Ron Meissner. Ron is a Missoula musician I’ve heard about for years, but it took his girlfriend Jeanne, who lives in Brooklyn but spends her summers in Missoula, to bring us together. Jeanne added her beautiful voice and spirit to my adult singing group, the Frogs (formerly Chorus Frogs), this past summer. Here’s Jeanne, on the right:

And Ron came out to support her at our final performance:

Then it gets a little confusing for a second. Ron and Jeanne met years ago through Jeanne’s dad, who is also named Ron, and is also a musician. This Ron, Ron Gluck, is an unsung American folk music hero, I’ve since discovered. Here he is, on the left:

Ron the Elder (Ron Gluck) also lives in Brooklyn, and visited Missoula recently to perform with Ron the Younger (Ron Meissner). I had the pleasure of hearing them. Ron the Elder has been playing folk music since…well, for a long time. He sings all the great old tunes (his version of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" slayed me), and can sing and play along with anything with amazing finesse and beauty. I’ve got more to share about Ron Gluck. So much so, that it deserves its own post.

But for now, back to the other Ron, Ron Meissner.

He’s a virtuoso guitar player. His dexterity and control are something to behold. And best of all, he’s incredibly classy about it — subtle, sensitive, and always serving the song. I was so impressed at his gig, I worked up the courage to ask him if he’d be willing to get together and play some jazz standards with me. He said sure, and it was such a blast! I’m really excited to explore some new dimensions of my voice, singing things like “Lullaby of Birdland" and “Comes Love," and Ron makes it all fun and easy with his gentle, intelligent guitar work. It’s a delight to have just one job to do - SING! - and to get to focus on communicating through one instrument only, my oldest and most natural instrument, my voice. That being said, I’m going to learn as much about the guitar as I can from Ron, and I’m pushing him to sing with me on some songs, too, because it turns out he has a great voice, too.

So, focusing in on one instrument is what I get to do with Ron.

And with Whippletree, I get to learn how to play the bass! Chelle is playing the banjo, a relatively new instrument for her, half the time. Caroline is playing electric guitar, and the banjo, and other things. I might throw in some accordion some day. We’re all singing.

And Patrick, Caroline’s cat, may just play this fiddle:

And I better go get ready for my gig!