Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4Day 5 / Day 6 / Day 7

Dear Ely Friends,

We are feeling all the feels right now. This is the week when we were going to be together for a superlatively epic hang.

The view up

When we close our eyes, we can walk near the shadow of the Cathedral and into the King’s School and onto the perfect dance floor…. and we know that we’re going to able to close our eyes in a year, open them, and really be able to walk into that magical space with you.

We’re saving our real hugs and dances for then, but in the meantime we are giving you hugs from afar, and (below) an audio postcard a day for the week. We’re thinking about you and missing you dearly!

Much love from the Rays,

Rod-ray, Sam-ray, Max-ray, Stu-ray, and Mark “Pokey” Hellenberg-ray

p.s. Of course we’d love to hear from you. Say hi in the comments section at the bottom or drop us a note.



Day 1: The Irish Mist / The Walkalator

To start off, two tunes by Rodney to check your pulse. Anyone who backed our last album on Kickstarter got to hear a sneak peek of this, but otherwise it is TOP SECRET.

Keep an eye out for a forthcoming Stringrays album that might, just might feature music like this.


And a memory from 2019:

Be well. And keep those toes tappin’. More tomorrow….



Day 2: Swamp Haggis

View from the West Tower in 2017. Ahoy, an octagon!

Thanks for all the lovely comments below and via e-mail! Keep ’em coming. Do you have any photos or videos we should share? Let us know.

But press play on this first….

Sam says:

Sam at the London Barn Dance after Ely 2017.

Here’s a moment from back in the 1990s in Louisiana, when Stuart and I played with musicians from the cast of Riverdance and world famous slide guitar player Sonny Landreth. The tune is called The Haggis, but we recorded it in the swamps of Louisiana …hence the name….

Obviously, we’re all eagerly awaiting getting back together to play some music. Recalling Ely jams certainly wets one’s whistle.

Jam 2019. Can’t recall how late this one went. Suppose that’s the point.



Day 3: Trip to Ely

If you are one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been to Ely yet, you have a lot of magic to look forward to. Whether you have been or not, we hope we are bringing you a bit of the experience. And the magic.

Stuart in the Ely cemetery.

Of course, the Cathedral, full of wonder, intrigue, comfort, majesty, and surprises. But also tea with friends. And rambles along the river, seeing the boats. The market, which hasn’t missed a week since approximately the thirteenth century. (Lattes were cheaper back then, too.)

Speaking of magic, Stuart has some for us. He sends a tune and an introduction. The hall you hear his voice resonating in is the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, MA where he was teaching lessons today. It’s also where the track was recorded.

And the tunes, which would sound pretty amazing in the Cathedral.

Lisa Greenray (née Greenleaf) reminds us the magic of Ely’s smaller spaces, including the kitchen.

Cribbage after hours, any one? (That’s not tea in the BunMug.)

More tomorrow, friends. Share some magical memories in the comments if any come to you.

Day 4: Hurry Home

The northwest side (2019)

Pokey says he is looking forward to seeing everyone — even his bandmates. He sends on a little song from Jimmie Rodgers circa 1931, “Sweet Mama Hurry Home or I’ll Be Gone.”

There is some risk to not making it back soon enough: Dave and Maggie report (Oh No!) the photographer is so used to coming by to take the group photo that he showed up to find this.

Ely non-group photo

Gwyn points out that April 1st was actually last week. Dave replies he never was very good with dates.

Speaking of missing things, Pokey assures us that he has checked: The Drayman’s Son is alive and kicking. And they deliver. Probably not stateside.

No tears. More good stuff tomorrow.

Day 5: Contrasaurus

One tower to another (photo by Rima Forrest, 2017)

Wow! Guests!

One of the highlights of a week of dancing at Ely is being joined by the Brits and their enviable lack of jetlag. Our Brit band next year is Contrasaurus, a rambunctious and charming quartet whose playing is only outdone by their expanding use of stage props. We saw them at the Chippenham Folk Festival playing to a seriously packed, enthusiastic hall of humans and dinosaurs — coexisting, despite the claims of modern paleontologists.

They left us a message…

… and some lovely jigs.

Contrasaurus Contradansus discovered playing three of our favorite claw-tappin’ tunes at the London Barndance.

Guitar player Adam snapped a quick shot on a ramble to show how lovely it is in England right now.

Spring in England (right now)

Thanks Contrasaurus. See you soon!

The top photo of today’s post was from Rima Forrest. Here are a few more she shared.

Thanks Rima!

Something interesting in store for tomorrow? Oh yes, most certainly.

Day 6: Rainy Days

Lovely in the rain (2019)

We’ve all learned something about making the best of a rainy day, haven’t we?

The band has learned a lot about recording at home and sending music around. Rodney has published his epic new tunebook and is putting out equally epic play-along tracks. Max has been helping mix those, as well as recording tracks for Audrey Knuth’s Tunes N Stuff class. Max sent Rodney one of those tracks for the tune Hunting the Buffalo and this is what happened:

Kind of like a nice coffee or tea on a rainy day.

Jennifer sends some lovely photos of day trips involving a bit of water, as well as dry land.

Here’s to our forthcoming adventures….

Day 7: Lantern Tower

Looking up into the Lantern Tower (photo: Rodney Miller)

Well folks, what a week. There’s so much more to share that we haven’t even gotten to! Maybe we’ll have to find some other excuses.

Our final piece is a waltz by Rodney, Lantern Tower. He gives us an introduction:

Here it is, specially recorded for all of you.

While you listen, here are a few faces who have been looking out for a long time. Photos by Rodney.

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Immeasurable losses. Disruptions. Introspections. Lonelinesses. And many have been lucky to find a few silver linings.

We have had the chance to appreciate the value of the people we love and what brings us joy and meaning. We aren’t taking that for granted. Here’s to seeing each other and all of you, in Ely and in all of our travels.

Thank you all for joining us. See you soon.

– The Rays (Rodney, Sam, Max, Stuart, and Pokey)

Lantern Tower at night (photo: Rodney Miller)


36 thoughts on “Ely Postcards 2021

    • Susan Amato says:

      I haven’t let myself really recall the wonder and joy of dancing during this time of no-dancing but hearing Irish Mist and Walkalator I couldn’t help but envision the whole room of dancers moving en masse, smiling to the point of pleasure-pain, with the music coursing out from the band and through us all like a common heartbeat. To think we did that! And will do it again! And the postcards from Lisa, Sam, Stuart and Pokey (awwww!) – photos of jams, jams & scones, castles, cathedrals, pubs, and hills. A year is long but, as we know, we get through it. A horizon with Ely on it. I can do that! Thanks, Max, for all your work putting this together! And, still more to come!

  1. Judy McDowell says:

    SO great to hear from the Rays! What a treat to look forward to every day of what should have been Ely Week! Thanks, guys!
    Judy McDowell

  2. Maureen Knight says:

    Today has been cold and dull in UK. Stringray’s e-postcard lifted my heart, and gave me hope for 2022!

  3. Melissa Coffey says:

    And Hur-ray! Can’t wait for Ely in 2022. Thanks for the tunes, and the video of Lisa Green-ray making everyone smile.

  4. Jennifer Williams says:

    Thank you all SO MUCH!!! This is very special. I’m looking forward to my daily audio postcard. So very nice of you. Next year will be awesome!

  5. Gwyn Williams says:

    Rodney, Max, Sam, Stuart, Pokey, you guys are amazing, this is just totally fantastic!! I LOVE today’s tunes, and can’t wait for the days to unfold!

  6. Bob Gingrich says:

    This music brings Rays of sunshine and light and jofulness into the world. Thanks so much and keep doing exactly what y’all are doing. Y’alldabest! :)

  7. sharon a schenkel says:

    Thanks for the postcards and music …. missing the (String) Rays, Lisa, Gwyn, Q ….. and well …. yes everyone and missing Ely … the town and shops and coffee and rambles and the towers …… stay well everyone … hoping for 2022 !!!

    sharon schenkel

    • Gwyn P. Williams says:

      I know, Sharon, and you and John are a big part of it supporting us over the years!! I have my fingers crossed!

  8. Gwyn Philip Williams says:

    What a special postcard for me today from Stuart. Wow. Thank you so much for this wonderfully personal tribute to my home town and to the town we will all enjoy again in 2022!!

  9. These are such a brilliant idea. I was missing you all so came here for a listen…. Now I REALLY miss you all! Looking forward to 2022 :-)

  10. Becky Eggleston says:

    Hi Everyone,
    This was going to be my first Ely week. So what a surprise to hear the great tunes, see photos and hear fun memories! Thank you so much for putting all this together! I definitely look forward to 2022!!!

    • Yay! Glad to give you a taste of your future, and perhaps a sense of the kinds of adventures that await. We’re excited for next year, ESPECIALLY with the folks coming to Ely for their first time. There is so much to do. Always something new to discover and fresh fun to be had.

  11. Maureen Knight says:

    Sunday lunch…eating soup outside in the sunshine near Alcester and catching up on postcards and messages. What an amazing
    taster of Ely contra holiday. See you all in 2022

    • Gwyn P. Williams says:

      That all sounds delightful. I know England is opening up tomorrow, so the path to normality is starting.

  12. Gwyn Philip Williams says:

    A big thank you to Contrasaurus for joining in – on the day you were originally going to play for us live, but this is a sweet alternative!

  13. Dave Harrison says:

    Just caught up with DAY 3 – I love the banjo playing on Trip to Ely – look forward to hearing it played live in the Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral………

  14. Ros & John Batchelor says:

    Greatly enjoying the cheering daily postcards. Thanks to everyone for compiling them.
    Looking forward very much to next year but just hoping the dancing muscles will be able to cope.

  15. Jennifer Williams says:

    These daily postcards have been a lovely way to enjoy the memories and to anticipate new ones in 2022. Thank you! Dancing, music, and reuniting with friends is the #1 activity at the camp. And my favorite excursions are punting on the River Cam in Cambridge and exploring the castle and priory at Castle Acre.

  16. Jennifer Williams says:

    What a lovely waltz to end the week with. VERY SPECIAL. How appropriate. Can’t wait to hear it played in Ely. I loved all the daily postcards full of beautiful music and memories. Looking forward to seeing everyone on the dance floor once again. Thank you so much.

  17. Gwyn Philip Williams says:

    What a wonderful special tribute to the lantern tower, so moving, thank you Rodney and Max.

  18. Patrick and Ginger Sullivan says:

    Enjoyed this so much! A collective work of art! Many memories. Looking forward to next time.

  19. Liz Sturgen says:

    Thank you for this wonderful look back, and forward! We are full of anticipation for returning in 2022.
    Liz and Ralph

  20. Maureen Knight says:

    I loved the tune “Lantern Tower” and enjoyed playing along… Ruth, can we put it in the “tunes” folder for 2022?

  21. Jean Sumner says:

    What an inspiration. Each day something new, something to get me moving, and dreaming. I haven’t been to Ely yet, but can’t wait. See you all there in a year. Yay!!

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