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The Roeder Home is a beautifully appointed old mansion in Bellingham, WA, the site of many a marvelous live acoustic concert in its present incarnation as a public space for rent. The dedication of local musicians and music-lovers are keeping the live concert tradition alive.

We especially enjoyed the “Green Room” –one of the cozy bedrooms upstairs complete with private bath. Very elegant to drift down the wide staircase and appear at the appointed hour to sing and play in front of the massive fireplace in the main drawing room. We debuted a couple of new pieces, or new to us anyway — Libby Roderick’s “Dig Down Deep” and Si Kahn’s “Gone, Gonna Rise Again” — both performed a cappella.  A modest-sized, but enthusiastic audience graced us with their presence and their pleasure.  Several were regular attenders and a few were there for the first time. We hope they enjoyed it enough to continue supporting live acoustic music in Bellingham.

Bellingham Concert

Hank and I will be at the Roeder Home in Bellingham Wednesday, March 10 at 7:30 for a 2-hour gig.  Hosted by the Whatcom County Homemade Music Society. Address: 2600 Sunset Drive, Bellingham, WA and phone number for information: 360-734-7872. It will be great fun to see our northern-ish music buddies again — Bellingham has a thriving folk music community and many Bellingham musicians attended the New Year’s Retreat we’re still savoring. 

Hosting House Concerts

Think of a house concert as a rare gift for everyone involved.  The musicians have an audience without booking venues or dealing with agents, the host enjoys their choice of performers right in their own home, and invited guests experience a musical treat.  This is all in the tradition of live music for small groups of appreciative listeners, a type of community music making that stretches back to the beginnings of human culture.  Your house may glow with delight for days afterward.

Hosting a house concert can be as simple or complex as you wish. Performers like Hank and me–and of course we’re up for doing house concerts pretty much any time–don’t need much space in your living room (or on your deck or back yard if it’s nice weather).  A space of about 5 feet deep by about 8 feet wide would suffice. Figure a little more if it’s outside and we need to set up our sound system but that doesn’t add much to what we need. If you are intending to host only one or two of these and you have people in mind for your invitation list, here are the basics:

  1. Schedule date/time with performers and estimate number of audience members you can accommodate.
  2. Include a “space limited” note in your invitation…get reservations by email or phone if you like.
  3. Arrange decent lighting for the performers, whether it creates a spotlight effect or not.
  4. Put signage on bathroom door open to your guests.
  5. Have beverages for the break–water at least. Snacks or finger foods are optional – maybe ask friends to bring some.
  6. Set up table for taking donations and selling performers’ CDs, etc. Position this close to the entry to encourage financial support for the performers. They’ve worked hard to learn all those words!
  7. Have a great time!
  8. PS…hosts usually get a free CD for their efforts. What a great way to build a music collection!

Tips:

  • Suggested donations are usually $10-15 for the performers. This is a private party so there is no admission fee, but folksingers have to eat, too!
  • To be fair to the performers, it’s a good idea to be able to comfortably seat at least 15 people . The upper limit would depend on your space and whether a sound system is involved.
  • Parking needs to be considered – keep your neighbors happy.
  • Schedule the performance so that all is quiet again by 10-ish. Although the actual music will most likely not be heard beyond your house, the coming and going of  appreciative listeners can be joyfully noisy.

If you are in the mood to hold multiple house concerts as a dedicated patron of live music, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • You will run out of your personal friend list eventually and need to do some publicity.  Friends we know in Seattle who host many house concerts post their concert information (minus their actual address) at Dusty Strings, Seattle’s premier folk music shop.  If you’re not in Seattle, then find a similarly likely location for potential audience members.   Include the performers’ contact information as well as your own and indicate the general location of your home.
  • Ensure that people coming late do not need to tromp through the performance area.
  • If possible, prepare the beverages and snacks someplace where the noise will not “leak” into the concert area.
  • Develop great rapport with your neighbors.

Our concert January 17 was very well attended – standing room only in a space intended for about 80 people. We had to pare our playlist down to fit the hour slot but made sure to include a few pretty duets, some a cappella mountain-style songs, a couple of cowboy tunes, and Hank’s song about healthcare reform, which we had deeply hoped would be irrelevant by now, but apparently we all need to sing LOUDER!

guitar singing duo

Claire and Hank in Everett January 17, 2010

 Hank gave me a wonderful CD for Valentine’s Day of a new project that singer/songwriter Linda Allen has just produced, called “Here’s to the Women.” It’s a tribute to the courage and persistence of the women involved in the suffrage movement with a focus on the people and events here in Washington State. You can get more information about this fascinating project and the songs themselves on Linda’s website, www.Lindasongs.com.

From Hank:  I had the opportunity to see Linda Allen at a house concert on February 7 in Everett.  Bob Nelson opened the concert with some commentary and ballads.  Bob has a wonderful bag of songs from years of collecting and it’s always interesting to see what he will pull out.  I particularly liked the the Mary Garvey song Steamboat Slough (“…build a boat, find a crew, and bring those salmon home…”), which is representative of her songwriting about charming, yet determined folks, whose livelihoods depend on fisheries, the economy, or other less than predictable factors.   

Linda Allen presented her songs in an oral history format. Did you know women’s voting rights in Washington State preceded the 19th ammendment by a decade?  You can learn about this and more by attending one of Linda’s upcoming “Here’s to the Women” programs, which occur throughout the State between now and April.  You will also have the priviledge of hearing Linda’s heartfelt singing up close and personal in intimate venues including public libraries and colleges auditoriums.  Check Linda’s web site for details on dates and locations. 

Our next post will be a how-to on hosting house concerts and a reminder of our own upcoming musical events.

The new year is here, and we were very happy to sing in our first New Year together, with friends old and new at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop (PSGW) New Year’s retreat. This is such a good deal I want everyone to know about it; food and lodging for four days and nights, and singing/playing  till the wee hours every morning.

These camps attract musicians at all levels, from beginner to professional. There were many guitars along with basses, fiddles, banjos, dulcimers, and the like. There was even a double-strung harp played by a very accomplished musician. The most unique instrument, however, was the “banjo-bass.” It was constructed by Peter Jones of Port Townsend, who is also known for his racing kinetic sculptures. The bass has a good thump to it and was used for a fiddle jam Saturday night. If you don’t want to drag an upright bass to the parking lot jam, I’d recommend it over a washtub for its volume and portability.

bass banjo, guitar and mandolin players

Jammin' at PSGW New Year's Retreat 2009-2010: Hank Payne, Larry Leggett, and Zeke Hoskin

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Claire’s four bits: I have often wondered what it would be like to be part of a community where music-making is almost more important than eating, and over New Year’s I got my answer.  This community was not the rarefied environment of a music school where everyone is about the same age and the focus in on preparing to make a living or take the world by storm. It was also not the music theory-oriented environment I knew as the daughter of a college music professor.

This was a rag-tag, pick-up band kind of gang, with kids (and grown-up kids) playing Ping-Pong, Boggle, and Catan when they were not themselves wowing the rest of us with their fiddle or guitar playing.  No planned activities at this camp, beyond a fancy dinner and Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve, and a concert we gave ourselves on Friday night. Oh, and there was that whistle choir!

About 40 people total, we convened in groups of 2, 5, 8 or more, scattered throughout the roomy spaces available.  At any one time, except during meals, there were 4-5 separate clusters of music-makers.  Someone would sit down and begin playing: swing, jazz, blues, folk. I was pulled into one group of 6 people who were determined to get the harmonies right in the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tune Helplessly Hoping. We did, too.  Within a few minutes of someone settling down to play, others gravitated like iron filings to a magnet, adding their unique musical gifts and exploring one piece after another, sometimes in the manner of a song circle, and sometimes with no particular protocol. No one was in charge of the music we made.  Someone would get up to stretch or find something to eat, and the dynamic shifted.  All day long, the energy shifted again, and again, and again, until everyone had reluctantly gone to bed, only long enough to rest fingers and shoulders and backs so they could work their marvelous magic again the next day.

So, I like the answer I got about community music-making. I’ll do my small part (with Hank’s help) to carry it on every New Year’s and keep it alive from January to December every year.

This New Year’s retreat is surprisingly affordable as far as New Year extravaganzas go.  PSGW sponsors two more weekend retreats in February and May, as well as three weeklong workshops in July/August. If you have any interest at all in playing, singing, or learning, check them out on-line at  http://www.langston.com/PSGW/.

The Wayward Coffee House was a great gig, and gave Claire and me an opportunity to spread our wings and ruffle our feathers. It felt Sooo good! Thanks to those who dropped in to listen. And many thanks to Stewart Hendrickson and Bob Nelson of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society (pnwfolklore.org), and the pleasant folks at the Wayward for opening this door. If you haven’t taken a look at the PNWFS web site, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s full of historical and contemporary information on local acoustic and roots music. And don’t forget to check out the Events page, and the NWHoot which is an online periodical published bi-monthly.

Soul to Soul and Heart to Heart

Filling up a two-hour engagement took some planning. Especially after many years of open mikes where your mind can spin out of control when an opportunity arises to do three songs and you only planned two. In addition to learning and practicing a bunch of songs there are other things to think about such as wardrobe, chit-chat between songs, and breathing. Claire even put a big sign at my feet that said, “BREATHE!” Apparently I look at my feet a lot when I’m concentrating on guitar work and hold my breath till I get to the end of a phrase. I guess that’s why I don’t play 12 bar blues; 8 bars is a long enough time to hold your breath.

All that said, the most confusing thing in preparation is arranging the set list. How does one arrange a set? Thematically? Dynamically? Chronologically? Alpabetically? Or do we use some other adverb that’s in the dictionary, but not in my spell checker? Do you put all your best stuff in the first set where those who come late won’t hear it, or in the second set where those who leave early won’t hear it? Maybe the shotgun approach is best; just write down all your favorite stuff and start singing? I know Claire is gritting her teeth now, because she put a lot of thought into organizing the set list and it flowed very well.

Regardless of the order, the important thing is to give each song its moment to exist in the space between the singer and those who hear. That is the moment when the song does what only it can do. Off the printed page of words and notation, songs carry packets of emotion like photons carry light. These packets burst in our hearts and bellies. They make us feel who we are and what we are about. I’m not a physicist or a neuropsychologist, but I’m sure there is more healing power in a song than we can ever know.

You can check out some of the videos from the concert on YouTube. Just go to YouTube.com and search “Hank Payne” or “Claire Favro” and they should pop up on the screen. Just remember that the video titled “Claire’s Dog Hank” has nothing to do with us. Thanks to Stewart for doing such a nice job on the recording and making the videos available.

YouTube Adventure

Time for an update.  Claire and I have been wading through the digital ether, attempting to get our stuff on the air.  In addition to the hatlc.com website, we now have a video on YouTube.

two singers with their guitars

Prepping for the video

We’re also setting up a Googlegroups site for emailing updates and information.  You can opt out (i.e. unsubscribe) from the group mailing site, but just remember that it will be used for our Christmas/Holiday card mailing as well… just kidding… well maybe…

We were looking forward to needing a “roadie” someday to lug gear, tune guitars, and run for a grande drip and decaf mocha. Looks like we need a computer techie instead.  Too bad for my brother Skip… I know he’d like to drive the tour bus.

The video on YouTube is the Do-Re-Mi Healthcare Blues. Google the title or either of our names and look for the song or type http://www.youtube.com/user/hanknclaire  in your browser.  It has been well received, going from 305 hits Tuesday night to 1360 hits Wednesday morning.  The comments have been very supportive of the need for healthcare reform.  One commenter plans to air the song on a community radio program in Moab, Utah, and the video has already been embedded in other blogs; all this before we even notified our friends and family.  Claire and I are both looking forward to performing the song with the original lyrics by Woody Guthrie when the healthcare issue is settled.  Let’s hope our Representatives get the message and and do the right thing for We the People… the ones who voted them into office.

Where to go from here?  Building repertoire, playing music, and having fun in the process.

photo of boy with camera blocking his face

Tobin at play

My three year-old grandson, Tobin, is crazy about Jack Johnson (and cameras). When I pick up a guitar he wants to turn on the Jack Johnson CD, so I’m planning on adding Better Together, or Banana Pancakes to our song list.  I’m open to other suggestions as well.  It will be a good discipline for me to stretch my rhythm skills on the guitar.  I like that stuff… Better when we’re together… hmmm…

Thanks to Toby’s dad Phil, for capturing us on video.

Have a great Holiday Season, and we hope to see you at the Wayward Coffee House on December 11.

Hank and I had the opportunity to perform this past Saturday at the Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bremerton, and we have a few photos (taken by Jean – thank you!) to show for it. One here and more on our photo page.

Have you wondered about the orange icons that say “Posts” and “Comments”? Well, ok, I haven’t really wondered about them either, until we got this site going and I started poking at them. Then I asked more savvy folks at work, and then didn’t know either, so we all learned about it.

If you click on the orange icon next to either “Posts” or “Comments” at the upper right of the blog page, you will be asked whether you want to subscribe to a “feed.”  No free bagels or chocolate unfortunately, but the next best thing, if you like reading blogs and stuff on the internet.  When you click “Subscribe Now” pretty much nothing happens, except it tells you about subscribing (no charge incidentally).  But when you next visit our site you don’t have to scroll around looking for new posts or comments – you click the orange icon (look for it on your own browser window frame), and it will display only the  content posted since the last time you visited.  You’re welcome.

Claire and Hank emoting November 21, 2009

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