Garth Hudson Honored in Woodstock
The Woodstock Library Fair is in its 84th year. For a holiday Saturday in the handsome little hamlet of Woodstock, people convene every summer to celebrate books, reading, and the love of both. This year, the Fair was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it before, as town councilman Jay Wenk and Garth Hudson were honored for their contributions to the Library and to learning.
Hudson, who will be 78 on August 2, was set to be at the stage by the library at 12:30. An old friend grinned, “We’ll see him when we see him. He’s on Garth time.” No one was impatient; it’s Woodstock, and there was so much to do. The day had begun early, with a children’s parade — everyone in costume — and a maypole dance in the library’s front yard. At lunchtime the kids were still full of energy and fun. They rode a little carousel under the trees, painted their faces into animal masks and clowns, splashed in a wading pool full of toys to be fished out, and made fantastical hats under a tent filled with every kind of flower and frond and twig you could ever imagine wearing on your head. Food was plentiful and local. I enjoyed corn on the cob, fresh salad, and pulled pork from the Lekker Cafe food truck under the trees, while music wafted over the massage tent and through the racks of vintage clothing for sale.
Behind the library are two rooms full of used books — the best-kept secret bookstore in town. I bought an armful of first editions of plays, an old Irish history book, and two Lovin’ Spoonful records (John Sebastian has lived in Woodstock for many years) before I emerged to see how Garth Time was running.
Hudson arrived around 1:15, to appropriate warmth from everyone. Bent, now, but unbowed, he made his way to the front of the stage with the help of Michael Hunt, vice president of the Friends of the Library. Hunt introduced Hudson and handed him his award, and then Hudson spoke about the importance of archives to a musician.
“The term archivism is not a deadly disease, it’s a life-sustaining project,” Hudson said gently. He urged people to collect, to preserve — as he and his wife, Sister Maud Hudson, have done with music for many decades. Reaching into a messenger bag he’d brought with him, Hudson drew out a sheaf of sheet music from early in the last century, and before. At home in Canada, at home in the Woodstock area, and on the road, the Hudsons have amassed a major collection of music.
“We’re starting a museum,” Hudson announced. Then he began, slowly, to read off the titles of songs. The rhythm built up as the words, some archaic, some sentimental, many dealing with home and love, were spoken. Maybe, I thought, there’s only one copy left of some of these songs. Without the Hudsons, I’d never hear those names. I wondered what the songs sounded like as he read from the papers in his hands. In answer, Hudson stopped, and asked that the music system he’d brought be turned on to some of the songs he has collected. As the sound of bygone times spilled into a sunny July afternoon in 2015, he stood up, adjusted his broad-brimmed hat, waved to us all, and headed for his car. In Garth’s wake, we listened, and learned.
Photographs by author and via Garth Hudson on Facebook