Milton Hall

Bill Lauf at Milton Hall

Bill Lauf at Milton Hall

Milton, Connecticut. Our good friend and neighbor Bill Lauf has a “day” job that pays the bill and keeps him on the road more than he’d like. He’s also a fine musician/songwriter and every fall for the past 37 years he’s been doing a concert at Milton Hall, a small gathering place in a small town near Litchfield, Connecticut.

My wife Anne was at the very first one in 1976. I didn’t start attending until I met her in 1989 but I’ve been going every year since and Bill has become a good friend of mine.

In the past I’ve been tasked with getting some decent shots of Bill playing for album covers and liner note photographs and I’ve brought bags of DSLR gear to this concert. This year I was free but brought the Ricoh GR (my only camera aside from my iPhone) to see what it might do in the tough lighting conditions of Milton Hall. I had to get close (no zoom, 28mm lens) but was able to get a few decent shots where the audio mic wasn’t covering his face. I love this camera, it’s a masterpiece of simple design and high usability, a nearly perfect balance of form and function.

There are many things that are great about Bill’s concerts: certainly his music is at the top of the list, it’s superb and he’s continued to grow as both a songwriter and musician over the many years I’ve known him. But, the cast of characters in the audience, some of them our neighbors, some of them familiar faces to us only from this yearly event, is fine as well, and as word spreads about Bill’s concerts more people come and he now has to book the hall for both Friday and Saturday nights. The other “character” that’s in the background but an important part of the mix is Milton Hall and the town of Milton. There’s a reason Bill chooses this venue year after year: the hall has a warmth (heated by a big old wood stove that we had fired up last night) both visually and acoustically that adds character to a folk concert like this and last night there was light snow and it was cold so the place to be was inside the hall, listening to Bill.

Bill Lauf tuning before concert

Bill Lauf tuning before concert

Milton, Connecticut. My good friend Bill Lauf did a concert last night at Milton Hall and as always, it was a great time. Bill has a full time job and is on the road for work quite a bit yet he manages to write and record a lot of great music in his (little) spare time. He plays tenor guitar and he has a large collection of them, all present at the show last night. He has them tuned differently and he uses them selectively on different songs.

I missed having a DSLR in the low light of Milton Hall at night. The G15 did fine at 1600 ISO and my old 5D would have choked on it but the newer bodies can easily handle 1600 and above with little problem.

Bill Lauf and Gordon Titcomb Play Milton Hall, 2008

Bill Lauf and Gordon Titcomb

Bill Lauf and Gordon Titcomb

Milton Hall, Milton, Connecticut. Bill and Gordon warming up before the show. Bill is a part time song writer and folk musician and a neighbor of ours here in Warren. Gordon is a professional studio musician who plays sessions and on tour with the big boys who’s been a friend of Bill’s for years. He’s also local (when he’s not touring).

Anne and I have been going to hear Bill at Milton Hall for twenty years (Anne for another ten) and this was the second time Gordon joined him.

Milton Hall holds about 75 people comfortably and this show had close to 100 packed in. The audience energy was fantastic and many of us were long time attendees. It was quite an evening and the guys played their hearts out, mostly their own music as well as some covers: Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman, Paul McCartney and more.

Both Bill and Gordon are solid musicians with depth and breadth and humor and energy and many in the audience thought it was one of the best concerts ever. That’s saying something.

The photography was tougher for me this time: more people, tough lighting, two musicians, more microphones, and I got pinned in a corner up front once the music started. I decided to take fewer shots and enjoy the music more. I’m glad I did.

Bill Lauf on four string tenor guitar

Bill Lauf

Bill Lauf, in his groove playing his own music. I consider Bill a good friend and I have to say, it’s wonderful to see someone you know perform well.

He told a story about this small four sting tenor guitar but I can’t remember it. I think the instrument came down to him from his father. It has a great, warm sound.

Gordon Titcomb on banjo

Gordon Titcomb

Gordon picking out Auld Lang Syne. You haven’t heard this song until you’ve heard it on a bluegrass banjo. Fantastic. He retuned the banjo multiple times on the fly. Incredible picking.

Gordon Titcomb on pedal steel guitar

Gordon Titcomb

Gordon really knows how to make the pedal steel guitar sing.

Chris Brown, sound engineer

Chris Brown

No good concert can happen without good engineering and Chris Brown, a jazz musician (trumpet) and sound engineer filled the space with great sound, not too hot, perfectly balanced, and just enough so we heard all the string and fret sounds. Note the Mac Mini and small board he takes to gigs with him.

I’ve known Chris for twenty years as well, as an engineer for Paul Winter and David Darling and a fellow Mac user.

We’re hoping that he got enough tracks between both evenings Bill and Gordon played to make a live CD. Maybe they’ll use one of my images on the cover.