July 30, 2008

Muriel Anderson

By Ginger Schmidt, Picayune Item, Miss.

Jul. 30--PICAYUNE -- Picayune was privileged to play host to the first woman to ever win the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship, Muriel Anderson. Partners for Pearl River County, Greater Picayune Arts Council and Pratt & Whitney, all joined forces to bring the special concert to a local venue last Friday night.

While many gathered to have a pre-show dinner, the entertainment began promptly at its scheduled hour. Glade Woods of Partners introduced Anderson. "This is something we've been looking for, for a long time," he said.

Woods said members of Partners showed guitarist Anderson around Pearl River County hoping she would want to come back. They took her to Stennis where she asked the hard hitting questions. "She became a rocket scientist today," said Woods.

He added that Anderson plays the Harp Guitar, she tours and plays internationally, and she has been composing since the age of six. "She doesn't look much older than that now," he joked.

A portion of the proceeds from the evening's concert, held at PJ's Coffee of New Orleans in downtown Picayune, went towards Anderson's charity -- The Music for Life Alliance -- which supports music education for children. Anderson is the director and founder of the organization.

After the introduction Anderson took the stage and quickly began to prove her guitar playing prowess. With fingers working like mini-pistons on the strings, she picked, massaged and coerced the melodies from her warm guitar -- a new guitar which supported her just fine. The audience seemed to collectively hold its breath, afraid to miss a single note.

Like the colors of her music, the colors of her personality quickly infused with her set. Her playful and lighthearted transitional banter created a relaxed and breezy atmosphere for the evening. It was the perfect Friday night, date night.

While it was clear from the beginning why Anderson has earned her acclaim, perhaps the defining moment was when she became an entire bluegrass band. Her right hand added each instrument line individually, and on at least one occasion, it was the only hand she needed to "be" the band.

As a member of a small yet elite group of performers to play the Harp Guitar, Anderson did not disappoint on an instrument largely unfamiliar to most.

The first song she shared on the instrument "El Noi de la Mare," which will also be featured in the upcoming Woody Allen movie "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" was absolutely breathtaking. One could imagine gently rocking a child to sleep with music that would undoubtedly give him/her the most glittery fairy tale dreams. When she finished, a collective "Wow" could be heard.

She also played one of her original recordings for the Harp Guitar called "View from Space." The gentle, haunting quality of the melody was reminiscent of the patter of a summer rain on a tin roof. It had the ability to comfort the soul like a warm blanket and a bowl of soup. The applause at the end of the piece said it all.

Anderson easily transitioned in and out of songs either by playing or by sharing personal, introspective moments from her life. Anderson talked about her rigorous tour schedule and the inspiration behind some of her songs. She danced in and out of her original scores peppered with a few old favorites.

She also provided vocals to some of her music. Her voice was colored with dulcet tones and a folksy quality. She didn't embellish her singing -- her playing did most of the work. The simple vocal was a nice accompaniment to the lavish sounds of her guitar.

After a standing ovation, Anderson came back out to dedicate a song to Ron Fine of Partners for Pearl River County. She credited Fine with bringing her to Picayune for the event.

To learn more about Muriel Anderson, visit www.murielanderson.com.


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