Writing this blog was put off by my short but delightful trek to London to hold my new grandbaby girl Lieu Yen and to visit with my son Chris and his wife Phuong Thao for a few days. The short version of our experience at the festival (for those who want just a few facts) is followed by a version for the rest of us who love to read ALL the way to the bottom. Short Version:

  • Florence is a long drive away from our new home in Poulsbo, about 6 hours. http://www.winterfolkfestival.org/
  • The people of Florence love their town and love to have visitors; we loved them right back.
  • The festival staff is a terrific bunch of supportive and VERY skilled folks – and the sound guy was the best of the best.
  • We sang our hearts out (so did everyone else we heard) and the audience stood and clapped a lot.
  • We slept VERY well when we weren't jamming till the wee hours.
  • The Siuslaw News review says Hank and Claire “passed the music on with healing harmony.”  Sweet.


Waiting for Hank and Claire

Singing our hearts out


Backstage after our set 

Long Version:

We’ve been hearing glowing reviews of the folk festival in Florence, Oregon for a couple of years, most often from impresario and festival chair Hal Weiner, an enthusiastic promoter and scout for new acts.   Hank and I felt a little astonished to be included in the line-up especially given the format of the event: each act performing an hour set on a REAL stage throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, topped off with a headliner each evening. An arts and crafts fair ran concurrently just across the hall from the theater – all enclosed against the winds and rain outside. Festival goers have the luxury of tucking in to excellent food, browsing for one-of-a-kind treasures, and hearing nearly continuous music, all sheltered from the wind and rain outside.

Our slot was at 3pm Saturday – 3 acts before us, one after, and then Tom Chapin and Friends. Our 6-hour drive was a very small price to pay for this experience. Florence is famous for its dunes, but should be equally famous for its hospitality – we shared lovely accommodations in a lakeside cabin, then at the home of a major sponsor of the event.

At the artists’ reception Friday evening, we met and chatted with sponsors and other performers, including Tom Chapin and his wife Bonnie. Tom is carrying on the legacy of his brother Harry Chapin, both in music-making and work to end world hunger. A sincerely amiable man and a consummate musician, Tom had delighted scores of local children in two child-focused concerts earlier in the week. The colorful backdrops created for those events were left hanging for Saturday’s acts, which added a decided sparkle to the stage. It was an honor to appear on the same stage as Tom, and share the day with Daniel Boling, Coty Hogue, and others.

Our set included songs from our CD and a few newer pieces, and was very well received, as were all the acts. We even had several fans and friends who drove two hours to support us and experience the festival. The audience seemed ready to enjoy everything they heard – a delightful energy to feel onstage.

Musically the weekend ranged widely, from pretty straightforward folk to fusion of bluegrass and classical. One group on Sunday was a trio of home-schooled youth and, as they put it, “a pretty public school girl” – all of them in their early twenties. Hank and I were tickled to hear that Abby Mae and the Homeschool Boys are based in Port Angeles – we will be watching their star as it rises.

We had fun selling CDs and making new friends in the hallways between acts, and at the evening jams. Each night, from 30-50 hot local and visiting musicians traded songs and tunes as appreciative listener’s “fish-bowled” around us in a local hotel conference room.  Free tea, coffee, and just-baked cookies kept us picking and grinning till the wee hours. Fiddles, mandolins, bass, dobros, flutes, and guitars played by folks who really know their stuff and love it: nothing quite like it in the world. You never know what style, what tune, what lyric is coming next – pure joy in watching it unfold and it goes on until exhaustion wins.

Each act is also booked to play a community venue. Ours was a small trendy bar/restaurant (Kelly’s Cantina) on the waterfront. A few new fans booked a reservation to hear us perform a second time. One couple is planning a wedding in March, having met, as we did, in their “more mature” years. When they heard us do Tom Paxton’s “Home To Me Is Anywhere You Are” (a later-in-life love song), it captured their hearts as it had ours and will be part of their wedding celebration.

The review that appeared in the Siuslaw News on January 18, 2012 was an unqualified affirmation of the whole festival and noted:

On Saturday from 10a.m. to 5 p.m. five superb performances entertained crowds…Laid back Northwestern performers included Hank and Claire…Hank and Claire strummed guitars and sang gentle duets, passing the music on with healing harmony.

So, two days of superb music-making, three nights of joyful jamming, and one hour of our own peak experience – we’re riding the high and the humility at the same time. This musical adventure has already taken us down paths we only dreamed of; no matter what’s next, it will be a source of joy, awe, and a whole lot of gratitude! Thank you, all!

In between this blog entry and the ones below, Hank and Claire got married (May 2011), played (second year) at Tumbleweed, sold Claire's house, and bought one together in Poulsbo, Washington. So much going on there's been little time to reflect and catch it all in the blog. (January 27, 2012).

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