Mudcat Café message #1124588 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #67121   Message #1124588
Posted By: Don Firth
26-Feb-04 - 03:30 PM
Thread Name: BS: GET A JOB...
Subject: RE: BS: GET A JOB...
Right, Jerry. And thanks. I'm actually doing both these days—looking back and looking forward.

Oh, what the hell! This thread has already gone gunnysack (even started out that way!) so I may as well go ahead and post this. I seem to be on a writing binge today.

My current projects include trying to finish up the book I've been working on for the past few years. It sounds a bit pretentious to call it a "memoir," but it's a collection of personal reminiscences of my experiences in and around the folk music scene. I confer a lot with Bob Nelson (Deckman) about what happened when and who did what to whom. I have over 100,000 words written so far and I'm only into the early Sixties (I have a hunch it's going to take a bit of editing, but I'm not going to get bogged down in that until I finish the first draft). I have grandiose visions of sitting at a table at a Northwest Folklife Festival with a pen in my hand, surrounded by huge stacks of my newly published book, and with a six-block long line of people waiting for me to autograph their copy for them. Anybody have an idea of a publisher who'd be interested in something like this?

I'm also doing a bit of performing with a group called "Miscellany." It consists of Nancy Quensé (voice, guitar, banjo, Celtic harp, and hurdy-gurdy), Isla Ross (violin and viola in general, but she specializes in Celtic music, Scottish in particular), Barbara Palecek (my wife, who sings and also plays an old reed pump organ that folds up into a foot-locker—the sort of thing that came West in covered wagons and was used a lot at camp-meetings), and me (voice and guitar). Our main ongoing gig within the past couple of years is to provide incidental music for readings by poet Jana Harris. Jana (pronounced "YAH-nah") researched a lot of the diaries, letters, and journals of people who settled in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s and she bases her poems on their experiences. Her books of poems include The Dust of Everyday Life: An Epic Poem of the Pacific Northwest; Oh, How Can I Keep On Singing?: Voices of Pioneer Women; We Never Speak of It: Idaho-Wyoming Poems, 1889-1890; and several others. She also teaches writing at the University of Washington.

Nancy has done some amazing in-depth research into folk, popular, parlor songs, and hymns that were probably sung during the times portrayed (the hymns sound fantastic on Barbara's wheezy old reed organ!), and Jana has amassed a collection of slides of wonderful old photographs. Our presentations consist of Jana at a podium doing most of the readings while unobtrusively changing slides with a little switch in her hand, and the rest of us filling in appropriate music and song beneath and between Jana's readings. Jana does most of the readings, but we all read. Isla has a kind of "little girl" voice, so she reads the children's and young girls' poems, and since I'm the only guy, I get to do the guy poems ("Every Time Rory Shaughnessy Goes Underground" and "Broomshop Regulations"). Between the readings, the slides, and the music, the whole presentation has a sort of Ken Burns' Civil War flavor to it.

We have a presentation coming up on March 12th at North Seattle Community College, and another one soon at the Washington State Museum. There's been some talk about a television show on our local PBS affiliate and possibly a CD. If it all comes off, I'll keep people posted.

More than anybody wants to know. But I just finished a tough chapter I was working on, I have a head of steam, and I can't stop writing. Sorry to bore the crap out of you, GUEST, Martin Gibson, but you see, even though I'm officially retired, I've taken on a couple of jobs that I really love doing. I'm also as actively involved in politics as I'm able to be, with letters to the editor and op-ed stuff among other things. Life is real. Life is good.

Don Firth