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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
lamarca Obit: Helen Schneyer, (1921-2005) (82* d) RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005 18 Jul 05


Helen's death leaves a hole in the fabric of our folk community that is hard to describe. She has been an integral part of so many groups of people in different parts of the US - the DC folk community (she was a founder of the FSGW), the Indian Neck Folk Festival, the February sings in Maine, and, of course, the web of friends and family that she wove together in her adopted home in Vermont. But her songs, her singing and her support of traditional music reached people all over. Martin Carthy and the Watersons were frequent guests in her home; Jim Boyes and Swan Arcade recorded exuberant versions of songs they learned from Helen. Even Garrison Keillor attempted to sing "Palms of Victory" a few weeks ago - a song he probably learned from Helen in one of her several appearances on Prairie Home Companion.

My first memory of Helen was attending a house concert by Lucy Simpson at her Chevy Chase home, and marvelling at the giant glass owl full of pennies(?) in the foyer. Later I learned that Helen's so-called friends would gift her with such "hideobilia" (her word); my favorite was the gaudy ceramic rose-encrusted clock in the shape of a mosque, that would emit the call to prayer at appropriate times. As a relatively late-comer to the DC folk community, I didn't actually get to know Helen until after she'd moved to Vermont. Like Jeri, I found her intimidating at first, but warm and encouraging of my singing when I got to know her better.

Helen's singing became even richer when she and her daughter, Riki, sang as a duo. Riki's clear, high, powerful voice blended with Helen's low one to give spine-chilling renditions of ballads like Sheath and Knife, and wonderfully textured hymns. The Library of Congress concert broadcast by Mary Cliff on Saturday had both Helen and Riki in wonderful harmony.

I'll miss Helen a lot. I hope there's a heaven; her soul and voice belong there.

Mary


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