At Laity Lodge, the musicians in residence aren’t there to entertain. They are there to engage. In fact, thanks to the unrelentingly human scale of our doings, it took about two minutes for me to stop thinking of them as “the talent.” After only the first few bars of a song, offered without trappings of stage or footlights or sets, I don’t see musicians. I see a man with his drum. I see a woman with her baby on her hip. In this video, I am at the far left in my jeans and my red raincoat, listening to Christopher. He couldn’t have been more than 8 or 10 feet away from me. We made eye contact while he sang.
And so every day, I told him a story. He’d brought his offering, his music; I felt moved to share my offering, my stories.
One day I tell him that his guitar looks like it has been his good friend for a long time.
Seventeen years, he replies, without a second’s hesitation. He knows their history by heart. That guitar looks well-loved; inspired, I tell him about my husband’s beautiful gift to me, putting a new finish on the family piano that has just arrived in our household. Somehow that leads us into a conversation of the musical instruments in our past.
Frets always got in my way, I tell him.
I began as a cellist, he says. Engagement.
Ellie Holcomb and Drew Holcomb were also present at the retreat. Present is exactly and specifically the right word. Nobody phones it in at Laity Lodge. They were accompanied by their beautiful baby girl, Emmylou (yes, named after that Emmylou), who rode her mother’s hip during some performances. She also held court at the breakfast table and generally enchanted everyone.
When my daughter was three, she said to me one day, Mother? There are people who don’t love me, but they don’t know my name yet. I look forward to learning Miss Emmylou Holcomb’s view of the world when she is three years old. Seeing people applaud your parents’ gifts must have some salubrious impact on a little girl’s perspective.
On Saturday night, Christopher and Ellie and Drew performed a concert. They sang “in the round,” each taking a turn presenting a song. As any one of them sang, the other two sat on their stools in the background, but they sang along, adding harmonies and counterpoint.
That’s just how it is at Laity. Everyone feels cared for because at the lodge, everybody cares.
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, The Wine We Drink.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
–Jesus Christ, as quoted in John 13:34 (NASB)