One sunny autumn day in 1989, I was walking through the UC Berkeley campus. I was a sophomore in college, coming from a class in Dwinelle Hall, heading back to my student co-op on the south side of campus. There’s a small brick-paved bridge just before Sather Gate, with low concrete parapets. The trees growing in the stream bed by Strawberry Creek created a mass of green behind the sunlit bridge.
Standing on the bridge, bright against this backdrop, was a group of three men. Two were playing hammer dulcimers, one a guitar. They were busking, as musicians so often do on campus. Drifting across the light, warm breeze, I heard a song like sunlight transformed into music. The lead hammer dulcimer led the way through a rhythmic melody, punctuated with sycopated notes in bright counterpoint to the basic tune. The second hammer dulcimer added complexity, the guitar lent depth to the thin brightness of the tune.
I was filled with a senseless joy. I can’t explain it; it’s not a song that creates this effect for anyone else I know.
The song was called Miranda’s Dream, written by Lawrence Huntley and performed by the Whamadiddle Dingbats. It is on their instrumental album, Saturday at the Market.
I bought a couple of tapes by the group (Saturday at the Market and Lucky!), but shed them over time. Once, I wrote to Lawrence Huntley and managed to convince him to send me the sheet music for the melody. That I still have, and I used to be able to do a respectable rendition on the guitar. But the place the song has played, faultlessly, for years, is in my head. It’s stuck with me for eighteen years, vivid as the first day I heard it, delightful as sunshine.
Over the last two or three years, I’ve been putting some time and effort into getting that track again. I tried the direct approach, tracking down two different emails for Lawrence Huntley on the web and emailing him directly. All attempts either bounced or vanished. I found a more recent version with steel drums, but it loses the crispness of the original dulcimer and guitar piece.
So finally, I found it on ebay (purest luck!) and bought it. It arrived last week, and once again I can hear the bright, intricate and glorious piece, just as I heard it that warm fall day in Berkeley.
Why am I posting this? Several reasons.
- We have some Googlejuice. If the members of the Whamadiddle Dingbats (Lawrence Huntley, Mick Doherty and Keven Shay Johnson) Google themselves, they may find this entry. If you do, guys, thank you for making some lovely, memorable music. Leave a comment, if you like.
- I’m after another of their albums, Lucky!. Anyone reading this have a copy?
- It’s what’s batting around my head right now. This, is, after all, a blog.