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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby

The Stiefel Theatre
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 2013
     A large, enthusiastic and rowdy crowd showed up for the Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby show at The Stiefel on Saturday night.  This all acoustic bluegrass show was truly an inspiration.  I'm not a a diehard bluegrass fan but I did enjoy this show.  
     To say that the music was strictly bluegrass, isn't entirely true.  There was a little bit of country, a little bit of rock, some Irish melodies mixed in with the Blues, and some Middle Eastern influences.  There were some fun songs, like The Dreaded Spoon (about a dad who took his half off the top of his children's ice cream cones) and Cluck Ol' Hen (for those who just can't find a good chicken song any more).  The group did a bluegrass version of Super Freak which was amazing.  I have never heard a Rick James song sung Bluegrass style and it was not to be missed.  I will never hear the song that I won't think of the stage version of the song.  And there was so much more.
     Hornsby did a take on That's Just The Way It Is (the long version) which was incredible.  I will always remember that version whenever I hear the song played on the radio.  He also performed a totally different version of Mandolin Rain.  I haven't quite made up my mind about this one.  I like the original but the way it was sung Saturday night was slow and heart wrenching. Ricky accompanied Hornsby on the mandolin and you could almost hear the rain.  It was so sad and lonesome.  Very powerful.  But so forlorn.  I think I prefer the radio version, it's a bit more upbeat, but there is something to be said for the stage version as well.  It's safe to say I haven't made my mind up yet.  I liked them both, equally.

     I'm not as familiar with Skaggs music and they did sing one of his biggest songs.  I knew the all the words but can't remember the name of the tune.  

     Truly a night of inspiring music and tunes mixed up and re-imagined.  It was creativity at its best.  The sky is the limit and nothing stays the same.  It just goes to show that there are so many ways to invent and re-invent music over and over endlessly. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Monday Night Book Discussions
(written by Lois Leveen)
Salina Public Library
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe  10/14/2013

        Mary El is a slave and servant to the Van Lew family.  Bet Van Lew is the daughter of slave holders.  Both women share a vision of a New South.  Bet see's the spark of something within Mary El and is determined to bring it to fruition.  When Bet inherits some family money, she purchases Mary and her mother's freedom from her own mother, setting both women (and the rest of the household slaves) free.  And that's when Mary El's life makes a dramatic shift.  The South will never be the same again.

     This is a fictional account of what may have happened within Mary Bowser's life.  Not a lot is known about her life, but what we do know is that she did work for the Van Lew's and she had a hand in helping to free slaves from all over the South.  We know she was educated, worked within the Underground Railroad, and was a spy for the North.

     While the rest of the story is entirely fictional, it is not outside the realm of possibility.  This story is a fast paced, easy to read book with action and adventure.  There is intrigue, secrets, alliances between people who might never have met were it not for the situations surrounding the characters, and there is heartache, death, destruction.  The characters are well-formed, even the secondary characters.  I felt as though I was right there, in the South, during the Civil War.  Even knowing the logical ending of this story does not diminish the telling of the tale.

     A lot had been written about the Civil War and this book does a great job with the retelling of this time in the history of the United States.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


(pronounced Can Toose)
McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 2013
     I saw the most delightful vocal men’s group Saturday night at the McPherson Opera House.  The group was Cantus (pronounced Can Toose) who hail from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota area.   This group consisted of nine male performers who sang all their songs acapella.  The group was comprised of tenors, baritones and bass voices.   If you missed this show, you missed a wonderful evening.

     The theme of the show was A Place For Us.  It was dedicated to all the people who immigrated to America from all over the world and the native peoples who were here when those immigrants arrived.  The song choices ranged from Native American chants, Hymns, Appalachian folk songs, songs from Canada and Mexico, a Leonard Bernstein show tune, and even a song written by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band.  When I say this show had it all, as you can see from the list, it did.

     I had several favorites: Hole Waimea-a traditional Hawaiian tune which really spoke to me.  I also enjoyed Aint’ Got Time to Die and Simple Gifts which everyone knows.  The Dave Matthews song, Gravedigger was impressive.  True this was a unique arrangement but I could still find Dave Matthews influence in the music.  And of course, who doesn’t like Somewhere by Leonard Bernstein.  It sums up the entire human experience in this land of immigrants and native peoples.

     If you didn’t get a chance to see the live performance, you can still check out the group’s music by going to their website at:  and also check them out on SoundCloud.  Every  month they give away a free track of their music. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

McPherson Scottish Festival


   Want to see even more of the Scottish Festival?  Here are some links that you should check out.

The Hutch News entertainment magazine, The Bee, has photos up on their website

If you like videos, check out the KJAG Radio YouTube site:

Bob Hunter, a photographer from Hutchinson, has photos up on his website: