A Hard Act to Follow
by Ryan Thomson
In the late 70's I played fiddle in the Last Chance String Band, an old timey group. We were
involved in organizing the annual White Mountains Old Time and Bluegrass Festival. The
weekend event went on for 4 years, and we were featured performers along with Joe Val,
and other popular New England acts.
The festival was held in the summer at the site of the former Mount Whittier ski area, near
Ossipee, New Hampshire. The stage was set at the base of the slope, and the audience
would arrange themselves in the natural amptheater formed by the ski run.
During a particular Saturday night concert we were waiting back stage for the start of our
performance set. On the stage stood an english professor from the University of New
Hampshire. He had a passionate interest in story telling, and was performing one of his
favorite pieces. Just as he reached a dramatic point in his recitation, he suddenly fell
straight forward on his face.
There was a collective gasp from the audience. Everyone waited a few seconds to see what
would happen next, and as he remained motionless several people rushed to the stage,
examined him and called out for medical assistance. He had suffered a fatal heart attack
and died instantly, doing what he loved to do the most. The ambulance arrived quickly,
We were on next! We huddled in quick consultation and decided that the show must go on!
We did our regular performance of hot old time fiddle tunes and songs, and everyone
agreed later that we had done the right thing. Still, it was a hard act to follow.
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1996