Since I last posted, I’ve been to WoMaMu (Women Making Music) and FAR-West Folk Alliance. I’ll report on the Folk Alliance Regional West Conference first, while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a conference on folk and acoustic music as a profession, with workshops during the day and showcases nearly all night. The juried showcases run from 6:45 p.m. to 10:30, the guerilla showcases run till 2 a.m. and then the jamming starts. Actually, there was jamming in the halls most of the time. The YouTube workshop turned out to be for PC, not Mac, so it was only moderately useful, and I missed the one on Appalachian music, but I really enjoyed the one where two friends who had never written a song with each other before, and with no preplanning, collaborated on writing a song before our very eyes. They noodled around and let ideas for music and words float to the surface and caught the ones they liked and fit them together, re-shuffled, re-wrote, and came up with a song. I suppose that’s the way I work inside my head on lyrics, but then I send them semi-finished to a tune-writing friend and we work together usually by email to adjust lyrics and tune to each other. They were doing it all at once and in public.
                                      Faith Petric
I’d never been to any Folk Alliance before. I was there at FAR-West’s invitation, to help present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Faith Petric, and here’s a part of my introduction of Faith:
My mother used to say she had the mark on her door—the one that let people carrying guitars know they were welcome. Faith Petric has that same mark on her door but she has something else—an easy hospitality that has made her big house on Clayton the center of the Bay Area folk community since forever. But I am old enough to remember a time before the SFFMC settled in at Faith’s house for their every-other-Friday meetings. I was an undergraduate at Cal, and sometimes I’d go with my mom, or without, to somebody’s place, whoever was hosting the gathering, and I must have seen Faith at one or another of those, but the first time I remember talking to her was in 1957, just after I’d graduated. I know the date because that was my year of exile from the Bay Area. I was living in Sacramento and coming down to Berkeley every other weekend for some cool—both literal and figurative. I ran into Faith at some event and she invited us to stay at her house anytime. Well, we always stayed with my folks, but the thing is, that was not just one of those “Oh, you must come over sometime” invitations. She meant it and we knew it. . . .
Faith’s is not just a place where you try out your new licks and your new songs, it’s a place where you meet people who change your life. It happened to me. I went to a house concert Guy Carawan was giving at Faith’s house around 1974. Guy heard I was telling stories and he said I should come down to Highlander, where he lived and worked, and go with him and his family to Jonesboro, farther east in Tennessee, to the National Storytelling Festival. I accepted. And at that festival, the scales fell from my eyes, and I knew that I was not meant to be a librarian telling stories, but a storyteller. I came home, quit my job, bought a van and hit the road. We might have had that conversation in a concert hall or a club, but it was more likely at Faith’s.
I wrote a song for Faith’s birthday, I think it was her 75th, but I didn’t date the lead sheet. The last line of each verse repeats, so please join in.
She has a heart as big as a house and a house that’s bigger than most.
So fill up your glass with whatever you like and prepare to drink a toast
To the Faith that keeps us going, we hope for a long, long time,
And the love she gives with cups of tea and hugs and rhythm and rhyme.
She’s got a house and a dog and a cat and a bed and a pretty good car.
She’s got some records and a record machine and of course she’s got a guitar,
So she told us not to bring presents, and I don’t want to do it wrong,
But I didn’t think she’d yell and scream too much if I gave her a pretty good song
By the time of Faith’s 90th birthday, so many people had written songs about her that Laurie Vela put together a whole CD of them. Just goes to show how many lives Faith has affected, and how deeply. . . .
I finished by leading Malvina’s “Bring Flowers,” which Faith has sung for lots of people.
One of the sponsors of the conference gathered a bunch of us for dinner Saturday night. I sat next to him part of the time, and that was a treat in itself because he tells good stories. I sat near the recipients of two of the three awards, Faith and Joe Craven (who got the performer’s award, but he is totally an educator too, and mad maker of musical instruments out of junk). I sat across from two members of Calaveras, so I went to their showcase. One of their songs knocked me out: “Ready to Fly.” It’s the title song of one of their albums (I’ve ordered it!) and you can hear a bit of it on their website. They told us it came out of performing at a facility for people who need total care but not treatment, so it’s not a hospital. A lot of the patients will only leave the place feet first. After the trio sang there, they talked to some of the people, and a year later they put together this song from the stories they heard. It reminded me of being in Threshold Choir. Actually I’m ordering two CDs, one for Kate Munger.
The other song I fell in love with was Tracy Newman’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” about driving a gaggle of teenage girls to school mornings. She didn’t write it till her daughter was twenty-six, and the Wordsworth quote, “Art is great emotion reflected in tranquility,” comes to mind. You can hear the whole song here, but you’ll have to imagine Tracy’s smile.
I skipped the contra-dancing, but maybe next year in San Jose—if I go—my wrist tendonitis will be over and I’ll do some. The hotel had a pool that opened at five a.m., so I got a swim in on Sunday before anything started. I hate it when a hotel pool doesn’t open till nine, which is when meetings usually start. This place (the Hyatt near the Orange County airport) also provided pens in the meeting rooms, so I was able to pick them up faster than I lost them.
The weekend before, I went to WoMaMu at Bishop’s Ranch retreat center west of Healdsburg with my daughter. Claudia was supposed to go, but caught a bad cold at the last minute. I managed to get a little of everything in, uke workshop, improv, chorus, naps, Bananagrams. I walked the labyrinth and in the middle found what I thought was a piece of trash. Being a good Camp Fire Girl, I picked it up, only to find it was a piece of what holds the universe together,* so I put it back.
                  Judy and me singing “I Think of a Dragon” at the Open No-Mike at WoMaMu in our Halloween costumes.
The Ranch House, where we stayed.
The Organic Women’s Chorus (local and seasonal music) acquitted itself well, and we learned a new song I didn’t know and now love: Bruce Cockburn’s “Mystery.” Here’s a photo taken by our chorus leader, Marianne Barlow, of three women’s choruses learning songs from each other:
Here’s Marianne’s photo of the mist lying in the valley. In the distance, the mountain (Mt. St. Helena) I used to lead campers up when I was a counselor at Kilowana Camp Fire Girls camp back in 1953-54.
We enjoyed this scene from the porch of the dining hall each morning when we lined up to go in to breakfast. The Dutch apple pancake the last morning was outstanding. If you are a woman and enjoy music, consider joining us. Doesn’t matter if you make music or not, you’ll love camp.
PS: Back to the International Climate Action Day (October 24)
Here’s an amazing set of photos calling for 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. The “3” was formed by Israelis in Israel, the “5” by Palestinians in Palestine, and the “0” by Jordanians in Jordan, all standing on the shores of the shrinking Dead Sea.
*duck tape
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I went to Tracy Newman's site to let her know I'd put her in my blog and found she'd blogged about FAR-West too, and here is her view:
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 01:59 PM
Nancy - You are a true blogger.  That's what I call a BLOG!  What a great read.  I would have gone to the song-writing on the spot workshop, too, if I had stayed later on Sunday.  I love Steven McClintock, and Dan Navarro... aren't they the ones who did it?  It was a thrill to meet you.  Thanks for including my song on your BLOG.  I will be in touch with you via regular email soon.  I haven't listened to the kid's CD yet, but I will before the week is out.  I will always think of you as Nancy, who doesn't like fries.  Unimaginable!


PS  I invited Michael McNevin (a wonderful singer/songwriter from Far-West) to stay in my home if he ever does an LA tour.  Inspired by Faith, of course.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 02:12 PM

I'm so glad we got a chance to visit at dinner after your great introduction of Faith Petric. I was very honored (and even more entertained) to be sitting with you, Faith, Joe Craven and company at dinner. Hearing about your journey which led you to storytelling was a great story in itself.

Thanks for your kind words about Ready to Fly, and let us know when your book is out--we're looking forward to it.

Hope to run into you in or about Berkeley one of these days.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 04:13 PM
I said you'd have to imagine Tracy's smile, but now you can see it on YouTube:
but hit HQ or it's raggedy. She and her daughter are singing a song they wrote together about Facebook.
Saturday, November 28, 2009 - 05:10 PM
Tracy Newman (center) and the Reinforcements. I reconnected with Tracy at FAR-West Folk Alliance. We’d met a loooooooo0ong time ago in LA through friends of my mother’s.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009