The last hurrah: Ironweed banjo player reflects on time in China

Friday, August 24, 2007 | 12:08 p.m. CDT; updated 4:26 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
The fascinated little girl tried to come close to us.

Ironweed, a Columbia bluegrass band, returned this week from a tour of China. Banjo-player Dierik Leonhard remains haunted by the face of one of his last fans.

While we were doing a sound check for our last performance in Laiyang, I noticed this little girl staring at the band. She had walked into an area in front of the stage that had been roped off to keep the audience at a distance from the stage but somehow managed to elude her parents and the stage directors.

Unnoticed for a few minutes in this forbidden area, she stood motionless, oblivious to all of her surroundings except the band. One can only imagine what was going through her mind when she saw us foreigners trying out our microphones.

Somehow this little girl struck my heartstrings and became the symbol of why we came to China. To me she represented the roots of the Chinese people, the common people, the same people that made Bluegrass music popular in the United States.

After those few minutes of staring, the girl was moved out of that area by one of the stage directors. She then stood in the front of the crowd watching the performance with many other children and their parents who were equally perplexed by what they saw.

During the first half of our performance the audience remained somewhat quiet, but by the time we finished the show everyone had fallen in love with the music.

We have been so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to come here and share this music.

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