Why don’t you come on in, grab a cup of something hot, and read about what it is like to go on vacation if you are a member of The Johnson Strings family? The mishaps we experienced along the way are ones we wouldn’t wish on any of our friends, but they were certainly entertaining!
That is right! Yankee Doodle, our latest music video, is now up on YouTube at https://youtu.be/5TCVr_SOUFM and our website for you to enjoy! Each music video has a story behind it, and this was a roller coaster ride! We have so many people ask us for the behind the scenes stories that we thought we would include this one for you here! So grab a cup of tea, sit back, and read on…
The problems began even before the video shoot started! My location idea fell through two days before the video shoot. With just two days before filming, how would I possibly find “the perfect location”? After praying about it and doing tons of research late that evening, I had my dream spot! I messaged the owner, and Heather from Weddings at the Homestead called the next morning. (Talk about a quick response!) Just a few hours later, Heather was showing me their Century farm - better than I had wished for PLUS everything was in tip-top shape. AND she was happy to let us film there (the NEXT DAY) on Valentines Day! (If any of you need a great location for a reunion, wedding, or party, keep Weddings at the Homestead in mind! They are amazing to work with and their location is steeped in history, vintage charm, and cool-factor!)
Uh oh. What would you do if your movie shoot outfit did not show up in the mail as promised? And you had no notice in advance? And it needs to be a dress in a very specific style and color of red? It is not a good feeling. But at least you would still have until midnight to do something about it, right?
So, after my visit to Weddings at the Homestead, I start the search, eventually heading to Springfield to find a dress that matched the look and style we were creating. The dress alterations were finally finished after midnight, and we all got a few hours sleep before loading up and driving over to the video location. Who needs much sleep when you are running on adrenaline while filming the next day?
The big FALL: Many of you know that our brother Luke had several major surgeries last year on his ribs. In the movie, Luke jumps off a hay bale with a stunt violin and lands close to the camera. The only problem was that when he jumped off, he landed TOO close to the camera! In order to miss smashing it, Luke went flying and everyone’s heart stopped!!! I have never been so close to such an impressive fall! Thankfully, Luke was totally fine and the violin did not even have a scratch! On the bad side, his clothes were a MESS and we still had half of the movie to film! Abigail to the rescue! Under her capable hands, many mud and grass stains magically disappeared off of his suit coat and WHITE pants. Betcha can’t even tell! Luke even rigged up a way to wire his broken button back onto his suit coat!
Filming can make people hungry - very hungry! So when Heather from Weddings at the Homestead drove in with pizza, cookies, and drinks it was cause for celebration! (Thanks, Heather!)
Picture above: The Johnson Strings with Jeff and Heather from www.weddingsatthehomestead.com (They are the best and were super sweet!)
Special thanks also goes to Mark for his sound expertise! Click here to watch our new music video! https://youtu.be/5TCVr_SOUFM
After a long day of filming, what would you do? How about celebrating with ice cream, of course!
Now when you head over to watch “Yankee Doodle”, keep an eye out for the outdoor fireplace and chimney. It used to be owned by the original Sheriff of Branson - a baldknobber! How cool is that? Also, if my memory serves me correctly, the old cabin, circa 1888, used to be a two room cabin that housed 14 children! Talk about a lack of personal space! And for the guys out there, I would be remiss if I did not mention the 1950s Chevy 2 ton flatbed truck - it is a beauty!
With that, I better sign off for now. Keep your eyes peeled for the next update and hopefully we will see you soon!
Laura for The Johnson Strings
Shooting video in the rain.....or at least shooting between downpours! What fun. NOT! It was discouraging to get all the paperwork done, logistics worked out, and time spent to drive all the way to MO, only to be met with BAD weather! But, God worked out everything for the best and we came away with a video that has more weather features than we had originally planned on! His ways are always best, even though while you’re going through them, it can be easy to wonder.
As you can see above, we did all sorts of things to keep the rain off the instruments as much as possible!
Umbrellas were our best friends.
The details: We arrived at the location only to have the skies pour and drizzle. Even though the rain lasted all day, we were able to shoot video now and then when the skies let up. The canopy we brought along at the last minute was invaluable - we were able run under it when it poured and also do some closeups under it during the rain. I would be almost out from under the canopy on one side while the soloist would be as far away from me as possible while still remaining under the canopy. Crowded! Have you ever tried to get 8 people, 8 instruments (including a piano), a generator, umbrellas, and camera equipment all under 1 ten by ten foot canopy? It was tough to keep stuff dry! Beth (a very nice runner) brought us towels to use in drying off our instruments and even opened up her home in case we needed a place to warm up/dry off - thanks Beth!
Here, you can see the canopy when it was only filled with 4 people and part of the equipment - we weren't even shooting footage under it!
Because of all the rain, we weren't able to capture all the footage we were hoping for, so we were able to schedule a return to the park (on our way home from Texas) to finish the video. The only problem was it poured Monday morning when we were again scheduled to shoot video - thankfully, the rain dried up mid-morning, and were were able to grab a few shots before heading home!
I forgot to mention: the hill here was treacherous for filmmakers trying to get a smooth shot without stepping in holes and slipping a bit on rocks!
Take a listen here and see what you think! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8LsbYpw-2w
In case you’re interested, here’s the backstory behind this unique burned out castle:
According to local folklore, Ha Ha Tonka is an Osage Indian word for laughing waters, alluding to the springs in the gorge far below the castle. This American mansion was built by Robert M. Snyder, a wealthy Kansas City businessman, on more than 5,000 acres. Construction began in 1905 only to be halted a year later with the untimely death of Snyder in one of the state's first automobile accidents. Snyder's sons finished building their father's dream, eventually leasing the property out for use as a hotel, until tragedy struck in 1942. The entire interior was consumed by fire when sparks from a chimney ignited the roof. Today only ruins remain of one man’s dream.
It must have been gorgeous before, but I love the feel it has now!
Check it out on YouTube!
We were all dead tired after 11 straight hours of filming! I'll share some fun behind-the-scenes pictures and stories later!
We finally have our Schindler's List video up on YouTube! I know some of you have found it by yourselves, but now after working through some technicalities, we're excited to have it up! Have fun watching - and don't forget to subscribe to our channel - our next video will be coming out soon! In the music video below we perform Theme from Schindler's List, a sad movie about the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, about 11 million people (many of them Jews) were exterminated, which is why we chose the somber settings and graveyard scenes.
Here's the link to view it on YouTube! http://youtu.be/eUigOhTXUNg
The six sibs minutes before the party began...
Thank you for coming and celebrating Abigail's high school graduation with us in our barn! We had an amazing time.
On the menu: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Maple dipping sauce, Cheddar Chile Bread Twists with butter sauce, Strawberry Walnut Salad, Chocolate-Glazed Peanut Butter Mini Cheesecakes, Lemon candy sticks, and Raspberry candy sticks!
The premier showing of our first music video was to a packed crowd of 250+ people!!! The video will be released on our YouTube channel on Friday, July 11th! (We'll post a link here on the blog.)
Volleyball! With two nets and four teams, we had a blast!
Thanks to everyone that helped make this graduation a success! Your help is GREATLY appreciated!
P.S. Thanks, Hannah, for taking almost all of these pictures! It was one less thing to think about during the party!
Finally. Our first family vacation in a VERY long time. Ten whole days away from all of our instruments. We were ready to relax and have the time of our lives!
I had a marvelous time photographing Historic Colonial Williamsburg. All over town, there were ancient buildings and people in period costume ready for my camera! The people in Colonial Williamsburg knew all their historical stuff - and talked it, dressed it, acted it, and had fun living it! Williamsburg was very impressive and we all learned a lot.
Our carriage ride around Colonial Williamsburg rounded out our experience.
Sailing!!! Our first time ever! Each of us got a turn at the wheel. Captain Bill was full of tips for us on the art of sailing, took the two photos on the left for us, and kept us entertained with war stories about the places we passed on our trip.
More shopping, exploring, visiting historical sites at Jamestown and Yorktown, eating out at a wonderful restaurant (Thanks Daddy!) going mini golfing...
The resort we stayed at was incredible! How'd you like to try out playing a mammoth game of chess or checkers? We also played Settlers of Catan, tennis, shuffleboard, basketball, and horse shoes! Swimming at night in a heated pool with underwater lights that are constantly changing color was beautiful. It was the first time in my life that I could float on my back in neon pink water and gaze at the stars!
Yeah, that thing Karen is holding is a crab, freshly caught. Ya gotta cook and eat fresh seafood at the coast! Soft shell crabs were the family favorite: the hard shell crabs were a pain to dismantle, at least they were the way we were doing it.
Well, all good things come to an end at some time or other and our vacation was no exception! We packed up, got on the road, drove to a farm (also in Virginia) where Silas was picking up a couple goats. Yup. They rode home with us. Thankfully we had a large dog crate for the small goats to ride in and an air freshening machine for us! (Thanks Charlotte!)
Uh oh. We've got problems.
Van Gogh lost it. Power that is. We smelled diesel. LOTS of it. Thankfully, it wasn't raining anymore, and we were right by a truck stop.
Almost no cell phone reception and no internet access.
Oh dear. The fuel line is broken.
Oh dear #2: our vehicle is foreign-made and nobody has the parts to fix it. Metric parts.
At least a towing service is within walking distance. Daddy and the shop guy worked on it and got it running again with what we hoped would be quick fix until we arrived home.
We waited at the truck stop in the dog-walking area.
Yes!! The Sprinter is fixed! We packed back up and got on the road.
For a total of less than 1 mile.
Uh oh #3.
Time to call the tow truck. Again. The fuel line was broken worse than it was before. This time, it was unfix-ably broken. We would have to order a new part.
This time, we were towed to an area hotel. Praise the Lord - there was a pet-friendly one nearby!
They were OK with goats in our room as long as they stayed in the cage. So, the cage was carried up to the 3rd floor all the way down to the end of the hall. Oops! It didn't fit through the door. The whole thing had to be dismantled (which was quite the process since we had customized it for the goats)!
There are many more details about that stay that I am very happy we will not be repeating in the future!
The goats needed to get home. And, Daddy needed to get back to work. We rented a small vehicle, created a good place for the goats in back and crammed 5 of us in with only the luggage we could hold. It was a long, cramped 15 + hours straight home! But, we made it by around 4am!
Seth, Luke, and Mommy were still stranded in Virginia, waiting for parts. [Seth and Luke were chosen to stay behind because Seth is great at mechanical things (what if the van broke down again?) and Luke was a second driver to trade off with Mommy.] With almost nothing to do within walking distance, no internet, and nothing good on the few TV channels available, they had a relaxing, but long wait!
By Tuesday, after tow #3, a dealer was able to overnight the needed parts to Virginia, and 4 days after we had made it home, they joined us!
It was quite a trip! #letsdoitagain
...for a dog, that is!
Our dog Toby doesn't let us down when it comes to musical abilities! Toby is "rug-trained" to the door mat at the front door entrance (meaning that when he is allowed to come inside, he is required to stay on the little door mat). He greatly enjoys this privileged, and begs to take advantage of it whenever possible! Anyway, we practice together as a family almost every evening that we don't have a concert, and some times, Toby happens to be inside and on his little rug during those practices. On certain pieces, as the music gets more intense and emotional, Toby will start to howl. (I'm sorry to say that he hasn't learned how to hit the right pitches yet and, therefore, is ridiculously out of tune!) The howling will increase in volume and number of times per minute as we hit certain pitches on our instruments. (Have you seen a dog howl while he is lying down and his head is flat on its side on the floor? Toby's got talent.) Sooner or later, several of us will break down and start laughing, and the piece we are playing will suffer dreadfully! (It's worth it though to hear his wonderful voice and slightly out-of-tune notes!) Seriously. You gotta hear it sometime! Toby's favorite numbers to join us on are The Orange Blossom Special, The Nutcracker, and The Hallelujah Chorus. :)
Click on the image to enlarge it and view the details more easily.
We are so excited! These last several days and weeks have been a blur of work, practice, work, practice, etc! (Just normal Johnson family schedule, but vamped up to an even higher pitch!)
Come and enjoy a fun evening with us and see what surprises we have planned!!!
Yes! It is a very important occasion!
As you may know, buses need to have names. Especially those buses associated with musical groups.
The names range from bland and boring (how about "AAA Bus") to sort of ridiculous (like "Floral and Hardy" complete with a photo of shrubs cut to mimic the famous Laurel and Hardy!! The bushes even sported bowler hats!)
Soooo, since we now have a bus, we needed a special name! After all, this bus may travel with us over the next 600,000 + miles thanks to the great build of the Mercedes-Benz!
What would you name a bus?
A bus for an artistic musical group?
The name of our new bus is... "Van Gogh" - get it? Van Go!
- a take on the name of that famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh
You can thank Silas and Karen for coming up with this name!
a few fun photos - a not-so-normal look at what happens when we are setting up for a concert.
(Yes, I know! This post is a day late - sorry!)
After we finished recording at Brookwood Recording Studio in MI, we started driving east. Hour after hour, we drove through the night. In the dark, the hazy blue Appalachian Mountains were still beautiful: the view from the top of the ridges down to the city lights below in the valley was breathtaking.
We kept driving, enjoying (?) the ice-storm damaged scenery once we finally arrived in South Carolina. It was nice to see green grass! Once we reached the coast, the beautiful beach houses on stilts became a common sight.
Click on a photo to view it full screen, then use the arrows on the sides of the page...
Our (new to us) Sprinter is tall enough for all of us to stand up in and will have much more space available to use on long trips!
Notice the short sleeves of one smart guy! It was 82 degrees in North Carolina - a far cry from the sub-zero temperatures we've been experiencing!
While test-driving the Sprinter, we stopped at the beach for an ultra quick 5 minute break before starting on the loooonnngggg drive home. At this beach on Sullivan's island, deadly currents and deep holes make it a requirement to stay out of water! It was posted that if you decide to disobey, you will be given a $1040 fine! We chose to stay out of the water.
On the way back home, we enjoyed seeing the Appalachians again, this time during the day. The rock layers showing evidence of the world wide flood are an amazing sight!
We drove for many more hours, with 4 of us in one vehicle and 4 in the other. This was one time we were thankful to have 5 drivers to share the driving responsibility! After driving for 26 hours straight, we finally stopped after dark at the Cumberland Inn (at Cumberland College) in Kentucky.
As you can see from the pictures, the hotel was gorgeous and we had an absolutely wonderful time! The hotel even had letters from George H. Bush and Jimmy Carter on their walls from the college's 100th anniversary celebration 24 years ago.
Next morning, it was back to driving again, past the black fences and black barns of Kentucky!
After getting many more hours down the road near Indianapolis, Daddy took us to the Boulder Creek Dining Company for a wonderful lunch/supper at 3pm.
Then the weather took a turn for the worse. First came strong, gusting winds around 60 mph, then torrential rain, and later a few ground level pink clouds! As we crossed the states, the rain turned to ice, and then freezing snowy stuff that sent both vans sliding around the road. Not fun. It makes for REALLY slow travel, especially with large vehicles that aren't weighed down. The last 80 miles took about 4 hours.
In the evening, we stopped at the largest truck stop in the world and purchased an ice cream cake which we split up between vans and then devoured.
South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and finally Iowa!
After almost 50 hours of driving time, we slid into our driveway at almost 3 AM Friday morning, very glad to be home. We were gone from Sunday afternoon until 3 AM Friday and that includes 2 days of recording to finish up the CD!
We had a marvelous time sharing about God's greatest Gift to mankind this last Christmas season.
Although with the weather, things always get interesting! It's beautiful as long as we are all safe and cozy inside, but while traveling across the vast open spaces in between Bemidji, MN and Karlstad, MN up near the Canadian border, we were thankful that we didn't have any vehicle troubles. The temperatures plummeted a great deal in anticipation of our arrival - a routine occurrence, I might add!!! It was their coldest spell yet that month.
Notice the frost! The trailer we pull isn't heated, so all of the stuff that doesn't need climate control gets kinda chilly! (We had to use gloves to set up the sound equipment!)
Enjoy the following photos! Click on an image to view it full screen and then use the arrows to navigate through them.
Have a wonderful winter day celebrating our Saviour!
I'm sorry you had to wait until THURSDAY for the regular Tuesday post! You see, we have a US Cellular Smart phone set up as our wireless hot spot and it goes with us on our trips. It's super handy to be able to update our website, work on business projects, and get emails sent while on the road.
BUT, ever since Monday, our wireless hot spot smart phone has not worked at all! Hence, no blog post or update. We finally figured out the problem after hours of phone calls. Anyway, we are now back up and running again!
Recording Update: On Monday, we recorded the first half of our new CD! The recording session went extremely well and our engineer at Brookwood Studios was a pleasure to work with. I'll post a full update next Tuesday! Thank you SO much for praying!!! There is still a huge amount of work to do before our next session.
Here are some images from a concert we did at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Waterloo, Iowa.
Just carrying stuff in before the concert... If you add up all our pack up, unloading, setting up, testing, packing back up, and unloading at home, it would come out to a lot more time than it actually takes to do the concert!
Don't worry! His clothes are still in one piece! (Sometimes we wonder if they will make it...) :)
Hope to see you at one (or more!) of our concerts this year!
Installment #3 in our recording saga...
Abigail found another studio where we can record our CD! (albeit over 8 hours away!) Praise the Lord! We were able to get a couple of dates in the near future that will work with our schedule!
One of the exciting points about this studio is that it specializes in classical recordings rather than rock, pop, and jazz. Our new sound engineer says he'll be able to get more depth in this recording than we've had in our other four CD's!
The studio is happy to work with us and it seems like it will be an amazing fit. We are looking forward to our trip to the Detroit area! Since this studio is so much farther away, we will have to consolidate everything into 2 trips instead of 3. Hmmm.... that sounds like more practicing coming up...