July 2020: A Report from Voluntary Isolation
July has just dawned, muggy and sunlit – and there’s not a festival, outdoor concert, or porch sing in sight. After three years in the folktrad community, and even with months to prepare, it feels strange to me. But as you know from the update on my homepage, all in-person performances, festivals, and community gatherings in my schedule, the larger tradfolk community, and beyond have been cancelled or postponed at least through 2020. The heartache and financial impact are undeniable for all of us, and I’m no exception. But as I said, especially as states reopen and the virus surges in response, I’m also deeply proud and relieved to be part of a community that loves each other enough to give up doing what we love (and what many of us live by) in the usual way until who-knows-when, because we believe that keeping each other safe and healthy is more important.
I boarded the virtual house concert train a few months ago, livestreaming the occasional set on my Facebook Page. They were all solo concerts until last month, when I virtually joined forces with my friend the astonishingly clever and funny lyricist, master of recitation, and singer of deliciously rare songs April Grant to raise money for the Folk Music Society of Greater Boston. We’d been scheming to make this collaboration for a while, and it was exactly as delightful as I’d expected – with the added bonus that we raised $275 for FSSGB! We’re thrilled to have helped make sure that they stay robust through the pandemic, and are still pinching ourselves over the audience’s generosity. We’re planning a concert of recitations and poetry (set to music and not) in September, so stay tuned for more details on that! I’m also planning another solo show in August.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve also participated in virtual sings and attended livestream concerts that I couldn’t have hoped to get to live because of distance, and left each one with a fuller heart (and song book). And so it is that we continue to sing together, in the ways that we can.
When I’m not singing, I’m been listening and learning, in more ways than one. Listening through the glorious pile of CDs that I haven’t yet found time to hear, one at a time, without screens to distract me as the music plays. Learning songs found in that treasure trove, and others that I’ve been meaning to commit to memory for months or longer. Since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black people at the hands of police spurred the most recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests, I’ve begun a long-overdue crash-course in history I should have always known, as well as a lifelong course on allyship, advocacy, and anti-racism, neither of which I can graduate from. I’ve also been listening to and learning about oft-ignored, oft-forgotten BIPOC musicians who built and perpetuate the musical traditions I love and engage with, such as Robert Johnson, Son House, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Albert King. As a white woman, I’ve been talking far too loudly, far too often, for far too long. It is my job as a human being – also as a maker of traditional music, and a social justice activist – to listen, learn, embrace being uncomfortable, and act. Black lives matter. I’ll continue doing all of that, as well as posting educational resources for those wishing to be allies, ways to support BIPOC and the Black Lives Matter movement, and other relevant info on my Facebook page.
Finally, I am delighted to announce that after years of increasingly wishing I could just hole up and learn everything there is to know about the kinds of songs I sing, I’m about to (sort of) get that chance! Fabulous singer, interpreter of traditional songs and friend Debra Cowan and I are applying for The Connecticut Historical Society’s Southern New England Apprenticeship Grant, with Debra serving as my master teacher in traditional ballads! Y’all, “stoked” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’ve always admired Deb’s deep grounding in source material and knowledge of ballad traditions, sensitive interpretation of songs, and stereotype-busting enthusiasm for ballads with choruses, and I’m honored that she invited me to apply as her apprentice. Plus, the opportunity to spend months learning about the form, history, cornerstone collections and collectors, how to research different versions, interpretation, and more has me giddy. Cross your fingers for us!
That’s all for now. Like my Facebook page for real-time updates on all this and whatever else comes up if you wish to, stay home as much as you possibly can and wear your masks while staying at least six feet apart when you must go out in public, wash your hands, and take care of yourselves as fully as you can, one day at a time. Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions – I’d love to hear from you. Sing you soon!
January 2020: Halfway through January…
January began with a square dance at midnight, and seeds being sown for musical and artistic and personal goals and opportunities to come. I am just now back from Youth Traditional Song Weekend 2020, where I learned about harmony, source singers, and how to continue making our communities spaces inclusive and more, led the now-traditional Sunday session on Non-Religious Songs of Community, Hope and Solidarity workshop, heard countless fantastic songs and harmonic explorations, and generally filled my mind, my heart and my inspirational coffers. Pretty on par for my experience of that particular festival.
Now that I’m home, it’s time to get ready for Flipp Salon with The Vox Hunters on January 31st! I’m so excited for this one, y’all. Ben and Armand are two of my favorite humans, and two of my very favorite people to sing/play/harmonize with in the world, and I’m so looking forward to the merriment we’re cooking up. Join us on the East Side, and keep your ears peeled for some pretty epic collaborations!