The Biggest Concert of My Life Is Next Month
+ Square Dances + Dos Senoritas + Lotus Wight + Corn Potato Tour and MORE
Ahoy Pals! Last weekend I had the pleasure of playing whatever I felt like for five hours outdoors on a beautiful day at a historic Michigan farm and meeting some lovely people. The day before that I played a sweet little square dance with Detroit Square Dance Society (and I just posted some clips from that event to my Instagram and TikTok accounts), which reminds me to tell you about all the fabulous things I have coming up in the next couple of months —
In this edition of Aaron Jonah Lewis Coolest Newsletter Ever:
The TWO Biggest Concerts of My Life, Actually!
Upcoming Detroit Square Dances
Corn Potato String Band Tour - New Dates Added!
Ragtime Banjo Revival
NEW - Recipe Corner
The Two Biggest Concerts of My Life - October 28 in Ada, OH, and Nov 12 at Detroit’s Masonic Temple
This is not an understatement. My vision for Ragtime Banjo Revival includes working with professional and student ensembles to publicly present my original arrangements in a live setting and at the end of October we are having our first real-world performance at the Freed Center for Performing Arts in Ada, Ohio, with the Ohio Northern University Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Sarah Waters, with whom I’ve greatly enjoyed working.
We will perform pieces with full orchestra, percussion ensemble, woodwind ensemble, string orchestra, as well as a banjo + piano duet and a solo banjo piece. What’s even more exciting is that many of these pieces have been newly arranged by Augustus Shoemaker, a student at ONU. I love how the project can be taken as a sort of open-source invitation to create custom arrangements for particular ensembles. What a deep and meaningful way to engage with our shared cultural history and with this delightful music!
The other biggest concert of my life is a banjo + organ fundraising concert for the Detroit Masonic Temple Organ Restoration with Stephen Warner (organ) and Alex Belhaj (guitar) taking place November 12 at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Complex, which contains within it many performances spaces and no less than three pipe organs. Our concert will take place at the Masonic Temple’s Cathedral Theater. All proceeds from this event will go directly toward the ongoing restoration of the rare and historic Skinner Organ Company Opus 529, which Stephen will play for the concert. Tickets and FB event (Please share, this is incredibly special!)
When I was twelve years old I went to see Phantom of the Opera at the Masonic and did I ever think I would perform there?? NO, this is beyond dreams coming true, people! This came out of the concert I played with Stephen at the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church back in March, which some of you may recall. Brandon Langford, of the Organ Restoration Committee, was in the audience and afterwards he came up to us and said he was moved by the novel combination of sounds and would love for us to perform at the Masonic. Months of effort later on and here we are!
Upcoming Detroit Square Dances
Coming up at the end of this month Detroit Square Dance Society will be at Howdy Fest II, which is taking place at the Old Miami in Detroit on Friday, Sep 29. We’re doing a square dance outdoors 7-11pm, and indoors there will be a bunch of different bands. There will also be local vendors, a mechanical bull, rodeo clown doing juggling, roller skating and rope tricks, among other shenanigans.
We are also playing a square dance at the Ypsilanti Freight House on Sep 26. More info on that here.
And Oct 21 we are doing a regular Queer Potluck and Square Dance at Spread Art. Bring food, bring friends, wear comfy shoes and if you want to dance be prepared to hold hands and smile at people and jump up and down like a fool! Dancing is optional, all dances are taught, no experience necessary, all ages and ability levels are welcome. More info at this link.
I’ve received seven preorders for vinyl so far, which means I only need to sell 93 more in order to break even and YOU have the opportunity to be one of the select few to receive an advance copy of this beautiful and limited edition recording.
Have I also mentioned — This is the first record consisting exclusively of classic banjo duets the world has ever seen…!
CDs and digital downloads are also available for pre-order. The official release is October 10.
Lotus Wight Concert
The esteemed and highly celebrated old time, country and blues artist Lotus Wight is coming to Detroit all the way from eastern Ontario to join us in the dance band on banjo for Howdy Fest and he will also play a solo folk music concert at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Corktown, Detroit, on Sep 30. Doors at 7:30, concert at 8pm, tickets $10-$20 (no one turned away for lack of funds). More info here.
This is actually our 10th anniversary year, and we’re playing in Minneapolis, where we played our first gigs as a trio in the fall of 2013! Here are the dates:
Oct 5 – Sukkot on the Canals at Coriander Kitchen and Farm, Detroit
Oct 6 – Ghost Light, Hamtramck wsg Lo-Fi Rhythm Kings
Oct 7 – Toledo, OH - House Party
Oct 8 – Peninsula, OH – GAR Hall (TBC)
Oct 10 – Fort Wayne, IN - JK O’Donnell’s
Oct 11 – Kalamazoo, MI – Dormouse Theater
Oct 12 – Lansing, MI – The Robin Theater
Oct 13 – Goshen, IN – Ignition Music Garage
Oct 14 – Lancaster, WI – Three Springs Barn Concert Series – RSVP to Milesdog@tds.net (Must RSVP to reserve seats)
Oct 15 – Soldiers Grove, WI – Old Oak Inn – 608-624-5217 for tickets and reservations
Oct 16 – Minneapolis – Monday Night Square Dance at the Eagles
Oct 17 – Minneapolis House Concert – Email firstname.lastname@example.org for address
Oct 18 – ??? Something between Minneapolis and Chicago, help us out with an idea, we’re still searching!!
Oct 19 – Chicago – Banjos After Dark at Borelli’s Pizza
Oct 20 – Ann Arbor, MI – House Concert - Email email@example.com for reservations and directions
Oct 21 – Detroit – DSDS Potluck + Queer Square Dance at Spread Art
Oct 22 – Farmington Hills, MI – Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
Ragtime Banjo Revival
I continue to work tirelessly to find funding for this epic and world changing recording project sending emails and making phone calls every day.
For live performance opportunities I’m looking for professional and student orchestras and music festivals who wish to bring a grand Ragtime Banjo Revival experience to their programming, a unique and excellent choice that was made by ONU (see above).
If you have ideas for institutions or individuals I can approach about funding or about live performance please contact me directly. I rely on YOU and your support in all the forms it can take, so don’t hesitate.
Speaking of support in all its forms, perhaps you’re already aware but did you know that you can support me on Patreon for less than the price of a cup of coffee?
Just putting it out there — Support Aaron Jonah Lewis on Patreon
NEW - Recipe Corner
I haven’t finished a book in a while although I’m reading some very good ones right now, so today I’m going to share a recipe I found on TikTok a few years ago and that I make when I want something quick and tasty that can be a nice side or a meal in itself:
Chilled Silken Tofu Cucumber Salad
12oz block silken tofu
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green chilies, finely chopped (optional)
1 green onion, chopped
5 Thai basil leaves, chopped into thin strips (or substitute cilantro)
1/2c diced cucumber
2T soy sauce
1T black vinegar
1/2t chili oil (+/- to taste)
In a small bowl combine all ingredients except tofu, cucumber and basil or cilantro.
Open tofu, place on plate, drain any excess liquid. Top with cucumber, basil or cilantro and sauce.
It comes together pretty quick and it’s light and refreshing but can also be filling. High in protein, I like to enjoy it with toast or a side of rice to soak up the extra sauce. Let me know how you like it if you try it!
I just remembered, on my way home from Boston I listened to an audiobook summary and analysis of Max Weber’s foundational sociological work, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. So, I didn’t READ read it, and I didn’t listen to the actual book, either, but it was very interesting. I learned that Weber proudly self-identified as a Protestant capitalist so while I’m hearing and thinking “Oh, that’s so problematic,” he’s writing and thinking “And this is why I am/we are so successful and everyone else is struggling.”
The other thing that’s really interesting to me about this is the way it reminds me (much like many other books e.g. Sand Talk, Braiding Sweetgrass, Sex at Dawn, Mutant Message Down Under, and others) that things haven’t always been this way. Most people have only been engaging in the practice of accumulating wealth for a very short amount of time.
Weber was responding to Karl Marx, who argued that the development of capitalism was purely a result of material conditions, and Weber said, “Yes, and…” the effects of religious ideology played a large part as well. I won’t go into much greater detail here and I wouldn’t suggest reading the original book either, but reading or listening to a summary and analysis, or even just skimming the Wikipedia article could be very interesting for you, too!
In case you were wondering how it went during my solo silent retreat, it was marvelous. The silence and the dark skies were just gorgeous. I saw a lot of deer, a couple of hummingbirds, lots of mushrooms and dragonflies and a little frog, too. I fell in love with a majestic beech tree who I named Queen Beech, I took a sauna most days, and I meditated on average for about ten hours a day.
I learned a lot. For example, I don’t identify as an introvert or extrovert. I had a few short-lived moments of loneliness and I was also very glad to be alone. The number one biggest distraction for me during meditation was the nonstop music in my head, which sometimes made me laugh out loud. Possibly the most valuable lesson is that we can’t always choose our external circumstances but we do get to choose how we respond to them.
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. I’ll be back at the end of October. I hope you enjoy a lovely autumnal season, warm days and cool nights, fall foliage, the smells of fall, the days getting shorter, mmm it’s my favorite time of year!
Until next time x