The stage at Hotel Floyd.
Floyd, Va. is a musicians' town. Not in the same way Nashville is, or New York City, or Vienna, Austria, but in a quiet, neighborly sort of way, in my experience.
It's the kind of town where music is part of the everyday fabric. One afternoon my husband and I stopped for a cup of coffee, walked down the sidewalk past the country store, heard a window open somewhere above us and looked up to see Mike Mitchell hanging out of it, calling us upstairs to hear a new song he'd written. Maybe 20 minutes later, I'm playing a spinet piano in his teaching studio (he runs the Floyd Music School) and he and I and a bass player (Chris Luster) are playing waltzes (while my husband patiently listens).
Last Thursday evening I headed up the mountain to play a gig with Mike on the stage next to the Hotel Floyd. I hadn't been up there in a while, and hadn't seen the stage, which is a great little covered performance space tucked into the L created by the hotel, bordered on two sides by a terraced seating area. Guests can sit in the hotel rocking chairs at ground and second-floor levels. Every Thursday evening from May through October, it turns out, it's been the site of the Live After Five series (I'm hoping it picks up again next year).
And even with a little early fall chill in the air, and school the next day, a good crowd turned out to listen to us play Handel, Bach, Massanet and a few other composers not normally heard on fiddle in Floyd. We closed with "Danny Boy," Mike switching between fiddle and voice between verses, and having just lost my husband's mother, I felt a little like we were sending it up to her somewhere.
And Floyd being a music town and all, I could feel that audience listening close. Kids ran around, parents bought barbecue sandwiches, the bluegrass band following us unpacked their instruments.
I couldn't stay long (though, having arrived a little early, I stopped in Nancy's Candy Co. for the first time ever and picked up a full three-quarters of a pound of truffles and creams – I restrained myself, I really did – and called it research – see upcoming writing in this blog and in the magazine about regional chocolatiers). On my reluctant way out, after saying goodbye to some folks I knew and some I didn't, I listened to the band doing sound checks, reminded myself to stop by the Blackwater Loft for coffee the next time I came through, and was glad I wore layers. Autumn comes early up here in Floyd.
I wrote about Mike and our classical fiddle music in the May/June issue of Blue Ridge Country.