Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Baritone, Banjo, Belief

As a kid growing up in Windsor, Connecticut, my favorite place to go was Mystic Seaport. Something about the place spoke of legend, of mystery, of the great power of the ocean and all that lives within it, and of the great power of the banjo.

My Uncle Don Sineti's banjo, that is.

Don isn't really a complete, exact-meaning-of-the-word-uncle Uncle. Don is my mom's sister-in-law's brother. And yet, growing up, Don was always playing songs on his banjo for us--in a voice as booming and folksy and resonant and full of base (and soul) as any that I have ever heard. Whenever my parents and my four brothers and I drove the hour in our overflowing Ford Taurus station wagon to Mystic, we could always count on Don to amaze us with his renditions of old seamen's songs, or that great spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

When Christmas rolled around, and my mom's massively extensive Italian & Irish family gathered at my Grandpa and Grandma's house in Bloomfield, Don was there to, yes, raise high the roof with his lower-than-low baritone voice. The thing was an instrument itself--but add the banjo and the duo became a superhero for a kid like me.


So a few days ago, after a year and a half here in York, I felt the sudden, inexplicable craving for Don. That baritone, that banjo. That soulful singing that vibrates floorboards and arm hairs. So I was downright delighted when I found some videos of Uncle Don Sineti singing online. Watching them brings me back to Mystic, back to Bloomfield, back to the times when five strings could so overpower all the fear and worry that life can gather and allow only Belief to pass through.