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A Fiddler's Show of Courage

A Fiddler's Show of Courage

Rangers move on to their final song of the evening. From left, bassist Charles Humphrey, fiddler Nicky Sanders, guitarist Woody Platt, banjo player Graham Sharp, mandolin player Mike Guggino and percussionist Jeff Sipe, sitting in with the Rangers lately.

Saturday night's concert of the fabulous bluegrass group the Steep Canyon Rangers was terrific — great musicians playing beautiful music against a stunning backdrop of Autumn finery at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was the final in a series of 20 weekly concerts sponsored by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in alliance with a number of local and regional sponsors that have made the music scene along the Plateau District a don't-miss stop along Virginia's Crooked Road. Here's a scene from up on the hill above the outdoor amphitheater:

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has had a nearly year-long association with the Steep Canyon Rangers (which has toured with banjoist and comedian Steve Martin and singer Edie Brickell in recent years) in support of Parkway-related matters, most particularly the foundation's grant for new facilities at the Parkway's Graveyard Fields site in North Carolina. The Steep Canyon Rangers' 2013 album Tell The Ones I Love featured a lively instrumental named "Graveyard Fields," and the group worked with filmmaker Paul Bonesteel, a member of the foundation's Advisory Panel, to produce a video to help raise money for the Graveyard Fields Project. That project included a new parking area and a restroom, both a huge benefit to fans of the area who have had inadequate parking and no facilities.

Last night's concert was in its closing number with fiddler Nicky Sanders clearly a crowd favorite. He strutted and pranced and danced about the stage as he was virtually burning up his fiddle with hot licks you wouln't believe on a great song called Auden's Train (I think), when disaster struck. He missed his step in the evening damps and pitched over the edge of the stage and onto an asphalt-surfaced apron between the stage and the audience. Fiddle attachments went flying as Sanders sprawled on the ground awkwardly, and banjo player Graham Sharp jumped down to see if he could help. In a show of guts and gumption and courage and, no doubt, a rush of adrenalin, Sanders bobbed back up, began reassembling the fittings on his fiddle, started tuning up, checked a nasty-looking wound to his left knee, then rejoined the band — still playing its final song — and got back on the stage for another few minutes of dancing and fiddling and making amazing music while the crowd came to its feet and applauded. 

Jack Betts

Jack Betts is retired associate editor of The Charlotte Observer.

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