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Noel Sayre Made Sweet Memories

#367 / Flood Time Capsule 2002-08

The love affair began on a summer night down by the riverside.

It was June 2002 and The Flood was already there to make a memory, having been invited to perform as the guest artists with the Huntington Symphony Orchestra as part of its “Picnic with the Pops” series.

Listening that night from the orchestra’s string section was a 30-year-old violinist named Noel Sayre, who was making memories of his own.

Tickled that night by The Flood’s eclectic mix of folk, swing and hokum tunes, Noel took pains after the show — that ended with fireworks over the Ohio — to seek out Floodsters and compliment the band’s two sets.

Later Noel even confessed he still had one of the kazoos that The Flood handed out that night for its weird/wonderful sing/hum-along orchestrated by our kazoo guru, Dave Peyton. (Click the button below to relive that particular moment of Floodishness:)

Kazooing with the Orchestra

Fast Forward

Now flash forward 15 months to the autumn of 2003. Noel ran into harmonicat Sam St. Clair somewhere and Sam invited him to The Flood’s next get-together at the Bowen House.

“Noel call here and asked for directions,” Charlie Bowen told his mom in an email the next day, “and then came on by. What an outstanding musician! He was able to improvise right along with us. His fiddling and Joe's complimented each other so well.”

A Huntington native, Noel lived in Columbus during his college days when he earned his degree in music, and still he played with a band there called The Black Swans.

Before that, Noel also was celebrated for his work as a member of Pretty Mighty Mighty, one of Columbus’s best-known indie rock act, which toured throughout the United States in the 1990s. He also played locally with a group called Good Ol’ Boys and A Girl.

"Well, he must have had a good time with The Flood," Charlie told his mom, "because he was the last guy to leave last night. We're hoping he comes back regularly. Fun!”

Shocking News

Noel did come back regularly. He jammed with The Flood dozens of times over the next five years, right up until the time of shocking death on July 3, 2008.

Sixteen years ago tomorrow, Noel Sayre passed away in a Portsmouth hospital a day after almost drowning in a community pool in nearby Wheelersburg, Ohio. He was 37.

Lifeguards discovered Sayre's body on the bottom of the deep end of the Porter Township Community Pool, according to a report from the Scioto County Sheriff's Department.

Two young lifeguards dove into the pool, recovered him and performed CPR before he was transported to the Southern Ohio Medical Center.

“It appeared to be a massive heart attack,” detective Jodi Conkel of the sheriff's department told The Columbus Dispatch.

Tributes and Memorials

A few days after Noel’s death, columnist Dave Lavender published a tribute in Huntington’s Herald-Dispatch, calling Sayre a “top-shelf fiddler/violinist and Grade A human being.”

Recalling the last time he saw Noel, Dave wrote, “Both of us, running late to go see The Bing Brothers on Marshall University’s campus a couple of months back, stood outside for a good half hour getting updates on this beautiful, crazy thing called life.

“Sayre was fresh back from a West Coast tour with The Black Swans,” Dave added, “and was filled with the joy of discovery and music and seeing this great country and its splendor.”

Later that month, the Bowens attended Noel’s memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church, highlighted by a display of the young man’s violin and by the performance of a trio of musicians from the Huntington Symphony.

"It was sad and sweet," Charlie wrote in an email to his mom.

Noel, son of the late Paul A. and Genevieve Darden Sayre, had no immediate family left. In fact, the only family there were two out-of-town cousins, one of whom admitted she'd never met him. Noel’s obituary listed among his survivors his loving girlfriend, Christy Turvey, and her children.

“What was especially touching,” Charlie’s note continued, “was the presence all the young friends who had come, some from as far away as New York. Many — most, even — were musicians who had played with Noel in various groups. Others were some of his young violin students and their parents.”

About Today’s Video

One of The Flood’s lasting regrets is that all of Noel's jams with the band pre-dated the guys’ starting to regularly record the sessions for its weekly podcasts, so there is no audio or video of his visits to the Floodisphere.

However, we did locate a September 2006 video of Noel playing with The Black Swans in a radio station studio in Portland, Maine. Here you see him accompanying his long-time friend and bandmate Jerry DeClicca, whom he had performed with since a 1995 New Year’s Eve show they played together in Columbus.

We're pleased to use a portion of that video in today’s memory of this dear old friend.

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The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at:
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Charles Bowen