2021 Year End

We’re still working on returning to live shows as we move into 2022.  No concerts scheduled yet.

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Our most recent mailing sent December 14, 2021:

We hope you continue to persevere in these difficult times.  Regrettably, the Pasadena Folk Music Society’s plans for a January 2022 concert did not work out, and there are a few significant issues that will have to be resolved before we can offer shows.  We are delighted that some other venues have returned to live shows and there continues to be online performances from far-flung places.  There is a wealth of archived materials available as well.  We hope to do our part in bringing great musicians to Pasadena to play for you, which also allows them to make a living at what they do so well.  Please be patient.  When we figure these things out, you will be the first to know.  We miss hearing this great music, too!

Fortunately, you don’t need to wait until the next Pasadena Folk Music Society concert to hear folk music locally.  Check out the performance schedule for Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.  At the bottom of that page, you can subscribe to Bob Stane’s emails so that you won’t miss updates to the schedule.  All attendees at Coffee Gallery performances these days must be masked and have proof of vaccination.

FolkWorks posts a schedule of events including live performances in southern California.  That page, too, offers an email signup at the bottom enabling you to stay notified when performance schedules rebound.

A relatively new venue near Pasadena for some live acoustic music is Wingwalker Brewery in Monrovia.  Beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, The Sleeping O’Possums provide Celtic and roots music there.  To check details or pandemic protocols, call Wingwalker at 626-720-1983.  Similarly, the taproom of RT Rogers Brewing Co. in Sierra Madre offers frequent live music, including Irish songs by Couch Party on Saturdays.  For schedules a few days ahead and other information check rtrbrew’s Instagram.

Public health concerns amid repeated new waves and variants of COVID continue to affect when and how all types of live concerts can be presented.  McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica has postponed into 2022 any performances on its legendary stage.  Even at a Pasadena Master Chorale concert last weekend, the 40-plus singers performed through face masks, to standing ovation by the masked and vaccinated audience.

While the pandemic’s persistence continues to lessen opportunities for hearing folk music in person, radio and online opportunities are going strong. KPFK, at 90.7 FM and KPFK.org, provides Roots Music and Beyond on Saturday mornings from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. plus FolkScene on Sunday evenings from 6 p.m to 8 p.m.

Folk Alley isn’t local, but its programming comes in just as clearly in southern California as anywhere. Listeners can choose from multiple flavors of folk music on different streams, including holiday songs this month.

BBC Sounds Folk Music is free of charge through BBC Radio online. Listeners can choose from a variety of folk music  programs, which are typically available for a month at a time.

Folk Alliance International, best known for organizing performer showcases for concert-planners, has posted 10 performances online that resulted from a pandemic-influenced “Artists in (Their) Residence” initiative. The project pairs artists across countries and cultures to speak to the universality of issues raised by the pandemic, such as isolation, connection, loss and time. The songwriters’ performances of these new songs can be heard and seen for no charge, but one goal is fundraising for The Village Fund, a grant program for folk artists and independent music industry professionals experiencing financial hardship. One of the “Artists in (Their) Residence” participants known to many Pasadena folk-music fans is Eliza Gilkyson. We hosted a 2010 concert by her at Caltech, where she noted that she grew up locally and attended Polytechnic School across the street. For this Folk Alliance project, she teamed with Lynn Miles to create “What If We,” reminiscent of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.”

Folk Alliance International also provides a Livestream Concert Calendar. Prices range from free to pay what you want. Currently events are posted through February 2022. Some artists have a weekly lunchtime series; others are one time only events.

Three Women and the Truth” is planned as a live-streamed performance on New Year’s Eve, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, by Eliza GilkysonMary Gauthier (“We all could use a little mercy now”) and Gretchen Peters (When all you got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”).

For interesting reading about folk musicians, such as Stan Rogers and many others, visit Folkworks.org and check out some of the diverse content they have.  We discovered a great half-hour TV broadcast from 1965 called “The Creative Person,” from National Education Television (NET), which features songs and interviews with Phil OchsPete SeegerTom Paxton, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. It is so great hearing them speak and sing back in that vital era.  If you have not heard of them, or if you are already an admirer and want to learn more, definitely check this out!

The unsteady progress in returning to live shows is ironically curtailing some online listening opportunities.  We heard from Robin and Linda Williams recently that they were interested in playing in our series in February as part of a West Coast tour, but we had to decline.  Last year we got to hear them do a few live shows online during the COVID shutdown, including an outstanding annual Hank Williams tribute from Baltimore’s Creative Alliance.  This year’s Hank tribute will be in-person only, so you have to go to Baltimore to hear it.  Robin and Linda are doing well, with a new album out, and if you like them, we suggest you visit their website and get their monthly newsletter.

The Arhoolie Foundation, a roots-music nonprofit, marked the 90th birthday of founder Chris Strachwitz this year with an online playlist (on Spotify) of songs he selected.  They include “Hungry Hash House” by Charlie Poole and “Farewell Blues” by Sol Ho’opi’i.

All God’s Critters Have a Place in the Choir
The world lost singer-songwriter Bill Staines this month, but his songs will long be shared and treasured. He sang some memorable ones at our October 2018 concert at Caltech. Among his best-known are “River,” “Roseville Fair,” “Child of Mine” and “A Place in the Choir.”  Into his 70s, he was still performing more than 175 shows a year. He drove about 70,000 miles a year getting to them from his New Hampshire home. (“The First Million Miles,” one of his 26 albums, is from the first half of his career.)  The travels strengthened his prolific songwriting, which often used details of diverse places in lyrics hitting universal themes.  Nanci Griffith, another great songwriter we lost this year, called Bill Staines her hero and said, “He carries on where Woody left off.”  Composer David Amram compared Staines to Stephen Foster, predicting that “his songs will be around 100 years from now.”

You can hear an archived FolkScene interview and live performance with Bill Staines to hear more about just how good this guy was! Allen Larman and Kat Griffin played this on the Sunday, December 12, show (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.), and the entire show is available at KPFK.org/archives for two weeks. Find it by date and time. The Bill Staines segment originally aired years ago. You can hear it, along with many other fine guests who have appeared on the show, at both Folkscene Apple Podcasts and FolkScene Soundcloud.  And we’d like you to hear Bill singing backup vocal on his song Music to Me  with Priscilla Herdman, who also has done a number of shows with us.  We got the idea for this one from Mary Katherine Aldin’s “Roots Music and Beyond/Alive and Picking” show on KPFK last Saturday, also available on the KPFK.org/archives (12/11/2021, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.).  We wish Priscilla Herdman was still touring…

Volver, Volver
As we were finishing up this missive, news came of the loss of another master of song, Vicente “Chente” Fernández. The self-taught troubadour born near Guadalajara became the icon — “El Rey,” The King — of traditional Mexican ranchera music. He held and celebrated that role for decades of public performances and more than 50 albums. As his obituary by NPR notes, “He sang about honor and courtship, cockfights and rodeos, love and heartbreak — all while dressed in the elegantly embroidered costume of the charro, Mexico’s chivalrous cowboy, and accompanied by a full mariachi ensemble.”  He considered “El Hijo del Pueblo” (by José Alfredo Jiménez) the story of his own humble start. He made an international hit of “Volver, Volver” (by Fernando Z. Maldonado) in 1972, sang it at countless sold-out concerts, and at a 2014 performance commented, “I think the day they bury me, everyone around the world will be singing this song…”

In year-end charitable giving, fans of folk music might want to consider including some pertinent nonprofits, such as KPFKFolkWorksFolk AlleyFolk Alliance and Arhoolie.