On a particularly scorching day in September, this author timidly approached the Trinity Church in downtown Lewiston. Expecting a group of teenagers, or maybe a choir, I passed through the doorway quietly, and as in typical fashion, I was late. I snuck into an empty pew just as the performer in front of me was finishing up a story. Around me was a scattered few; two couples on the other side of the aisle listened intently and two more men joined me on my side. A little girl sat in the corner, and every once in a while she bounced up and down impatiently, but even she couldn’t resist the pull of the music she was about to hear.
The first song was called “Barefoot Banjo Player,” inspired by someone the performer, Greg Boardman, knew. He laughed as he told of how this man was so barefoot that when he bought a chevy convertible, he rode with the top down all winter. I still wasn’t sure what to expect, but once he started to play I was entranced. The beautiful melody was haunting but still bright, and I half expected Passenger to start singing. When the fiddle started playing a harmony, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and get lost in the music.
His next song was inspired by a woman named Kate, and was equally as evocative. The best part was as the duo played each song, I imagined it playing along with each anecdotal story he told. It was more than just a good chord, or the right note, or even the perfect harmony— it was about how the music described the moment, and how it shifted a little every time it was played to reflect the moment now. I felt as if I was part of something special, but also so every day. I felt like a longtime neighbor or a trusted friend. I wasn’t being a spectator, but an active participant in the experience that each song conjured up.
The next song was accompanied by a tale about one of his students named Gabe, and consisted of the notes G, A, B and E, and bridged into a cheerful song with a classic fiddle melody, and everyone in the room couldn’t help but smile and bob their heads. The next song was built directly around playing an F sharp on an E chord, a sliding sound that was, for lack of a better term, purely cool. Boardman said that everything he plays he wants not only to sound good, but to feel good as you play it. The song was originally likened to a call to arms, a battle cry, but the talented strings player at the head of the room settled for something more positive, “Gandhi’s War Cry.”
His final song, played just on guitar without the fiddle, was gentle, yet penetrating. Boardman jumped up to turn off the overhead fans, stressing the importance of listening to every single note. It started slow, each plucked string reverberating throughout the room. You could hear every single person breathe, hear the cars move past outside, and in that moment it was like the room came alive with the energy of the piece. He had never played it in public before, and yet it became a natural soundtrack, entitled “Watchful.”
As he played each song, it was like the music flowed directly from Boardman’s soul out into his fingertips as they graced the strings of each instrument he played. At a time when there seems to be so much hostility between Bates and the Lewiston-Auburn community, I felt unburdened, and right at home.
The Oasis of Music is held every Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:00pm at Trinity Church in Lewiston, and hosts a variety of musical and poetic local talent — I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful artistic offering right down the street from campus.