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Bluegrass Jammin': Marcellus Legion hosts jam sessions Friday nights

By Abbey Woodcock

The instruments were as diverse as the musicians holding them.

There were the casual players, learning as they went along by whichever friendly face happened to be sitting beside them. There were the quieter ones, who sat in the back, blending in with the audience but creating beautiful sounds just the same. And then there were those that even if you were a newcomer, you could tell they were veterans. They seemed to lead every song, even if it was one they had never heard.

This was the scene at the American Legion on Friday night, and every Friday night for the past nine and a half years (except on Christmas, I've been told).

On these nights, the legion hosts "Jammin' at the Legion," a bluegrass "jam session" that is open to anyone and everyone that can play an instrument, sing, or simply enjoys the sound of the banjos, mandolins, guitars, fiddles, accordions, autoharps, and whatever else may come in the door.

The musicians, who at some points in the night number more than 30, sit in a circle and take turns picking a song that the others play along with.

For the most part, the group follows along in turn, but once in awhile, someone will begin strumming during a break and the others join in. Or, a singer will hum a tune that comes to mind and will soon be accompanied by a choir and a band like it had all been by design.

As a song progresses, more instruments join in as they pick up the melodies and harmonies. The effect is a dramatic crescendo of diverse and impromptu music.

Solos emerge as one player or another gets on a roll and instinctively, the other instruments fade into the background.

On my first night at the legion, I stood out even among the diverse audience and players. I was the only on walking around with a camera. It didn't take long for those that were regulars to fill me in on who everyone was. One constant no matter who I talked to was, "That's Maurice, he's in his 90's."

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