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Blues signer translates for blues singers

June 05, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN

Blues Fest regulars who attend the show year after year probably would recognize Nancy Verdier if she passed them on the street, but they might not immediately be able to place her.

Unless, that is, she was moving her hands.

For 10 years, Verdier has been using sign language to interpret the musical acts at the Western Maryland Blues Fest, which ends today.

A sign language interpreter uses his or her hands to convey what is being said to the hearing-impaired, but facial expressions and body language also play a role, Verdier said.

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"In music, it's even easier because I can feel the music," she said.

Organizers of the Blues Fest decided to have interpreters present to make the festival accessible to everyone.

"There's a very large deaf population in Washington County and Frederick County and, of course, Blues Fest now draws visitors from farther away," Verdier said.

Sometimes, she will see a person in the crowd or outside of the festival's fence communicating with her via sign language.

"They usually say thank you and we're really enjoying ourselves," Verdier said.

Verdier has been a sign language interpreter since 1964.

During Blues Fest, Verdier interprets with Cindy Mease - or her "Blues Sis," as they sign their e-mails to each other. On Saturday, Mease worked one of the festival's stages, while Verdier worked the other.

The interpreters wore headphones as they stood on the stages to the side of the performers.

Verdier also is a blues musician.

Certain patterns make up blues music, and once a budding musician learns those, it's possible to "jam" with just about anyone, said Verdier, who sings and plays keyboards.

"There is just a tremendous kinship," Verdier said. "You can take three total strangers or five total strangers, and everyone shows up with their instruments and you can play together."

Nancy Verdier signs to the crowd Saturday evening at the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

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