Coffee House Fun
By Brigitte Marsden
This area is full of surprises.
Last weekend I experienced another one when I attended my first coffee house in Houlton, ME. I’d heard about it a while
ago, but I must admit I didn’t really know what to expect.
Two reasons in particular
motivated me to cross the border with a friend to spend Saturday evening in a church basement: one was to hear the drumming
circle workshop participants perform, as I’d missed the workshops due to a bout of the flu; and the other was to check
out the open mic opportunities for our writers’ group, Beyond Words.
Once we’d located
the correct church – there are three very close together on Military Street – we found ourselves in a cosy, spacious,
and I have to say surprisingly warm, space. As the evening unfolded, musicians of all ages took to the stage, reflecting the
informal family atmosphere, and leading up to the freestyle drumming segment.
First came Rick and Judy
Cormier’s performances, a spell-binding combination of drum and flute: Rick’s freestyle drumming was the perfect
compliment to the haunting sounds of the native American wooden drone flute and buffalo horn played by Judy.
They were then joined by
Rick’s workshop students for a freestyle drumming circle experience, and the audience were encouraged to join in the
second piece with clapping and any other way of keeping rhythm. The enthusiasm and skill of the drummers was so infectious,
it was hard to believe that their performances were unrehearsed.
Afterwards I took the opportunity
to catch up with Rick and find out more about the whole drumming circle concept. The founder of Maine’s largest drumming
circle, Different Drummers Drum Circle in Yarmouth, had his book on the subject published this year. Rick explained that “Freestyle
Community Drum Circles” was written in response to the many questions he is asked as he travels around spreading the
It was actually through
his book that Rick came to Houlton to provide two workshops, at the invitation of John Lloyd, who had read it as part of his
quest to start a drumming circle in the area.
Rick highlighted a number
of reasons why people join a drumming circle: for some it is a spiritual experience, while others particularly enjoy the social
dimension, in a group that is very inclusive in terms of nationalities and ages, and where there is no room for politics,
religion or gender issues.
“We have singles,
married couples, entire families,” he added. “A 13 month old girl drummed with us and actually kept a beat, and
our oldest drummer just turned 92. It builds a real colourful sense of community.”
Creativity is another draw,
with musicians, dancers and hula hoopers participating in the Yarmouth-based group, as well as a poet – Portland, Maine’s
first Poet Laureate Martin Steingesser. I liked the sound of poetry readings over a background of drumming and music, for
a uniquely enhanced performance.
As a psychotherapist, Rick
also sees benefits in people with anxiety disorders and depression, and people who have experienced trauma. He added that
drum circles provide a safe, welcoming place for people from all walks of life to drum together and “have a blast”.
That will definitely not
be my last visit to the Houlton coffee house, and I’m keen to find out more about the new drumming circle starting up
in our area.