They’re cheering or crying in living rooms and sports bars across the country; leaning forward on easy chair or bar stool, praising or cursing the flat screen icon.  That’s how March Madness is experienced by millions who may or may not have game tickets.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and some of my best friends don’t, let me clue you in…it’s the national college basketball tournament.

The anticipation and excitement of March Madness give rise to an emotional intensity we don’t usually access in our normal daily lives.  In that way, it’s a lot like LIVE MUSIC!

Claire and I experienced our own March madness in a whirlwind of  emotionally exhilirating music-making events.   In addition to performing three times as Hankster and the Lovely Claire this month, we attended five concerts and a music jam.  But it’s not over yet; this weekend we are headed to Portland for three days of music camp.  We didn’t set out to break a record for the most music crammed into a 31-day period, but we wound up setting the bar quite high for a future attempt.

Here are the highlights of our MARCH MUSIC MADNESS!

March 5th – Joe Hickerson in a house concert.  Joe was singing for audiences in the 1950’s as a member of the singing group The Folksmiths. He shared lots of personal stories weaving in well-known names from the folk revival.  From 1963 to1998, Joe was Librarian and Director of the Archive of Folk Song at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.  Now he’s back on the road keeping the songs and history of roots music alive.

March 8 – Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Many friends and co-workers don’t recognize Ladysmith, even though they do remember their singing on the 1986 Graceland album.  This a capella group from South Africa was started by Joseph Shabalala in 1960.  They came to international attention in the mid 1980’s when Paul Simon incorporated their traditional African sound in the Graceland album.  Claire said she can’t help smile and weep when she hears the richly resonant singing of these men.  Twenty-minute-long songs are accompanied by high-stepping athletic dance moves.  The founder of the group, Joseph Shabalala, is now turning leadership over to his sons but still sings, jumps, and kicks his foot over his head.  His distinctive tremolo will be much missed.

March 10 – HATLC in Bellingham.  This Roeder Home concert was more like a house concert with lots of group singing, participation, and interaction with friends old and new.  It was fun to learn that many of the songwriters whose songs we performed, had sung at the Roeder Home in past months or years.  We did bring a few original songs which added to the Roeder Home collection.

March 11 – HATLC at Hearthstone.  Singing and connecting with this retirement community on Green Lake was a blessing.  Seeing the heart-to-heart connection reflected in someone’s face as we sing to them is what this is all about.   And a retired music teacher came from the audience to say how much he liked “that a capella song with the open fourths and fifths.” We knew we had connected.

March 12th – Unpaid Bills & Cruzers at the Wayward.  Bill Murlin, Bill Rose and Jim Portillo.  When Jim plays bass they are the Unpaid Bills.  When Bill Rose plays bass they are the Cruzers… aptly named due to their preference for Santa Cruz guitars.  Great harmonies, guitar playing, and just enough banjo flavor to make it tasty. We had a very enjoyable evening in the audience, feeling the heart-to-heart connection their music inspired.  This Greenwood concert at the Wayward Coffee House is a regular third Saturday event sponsored by the Pacific NW Folklore Society.  Keep tabs on upcoming events at their website http://pnwfolklore.org/.

March 13th – Music Jam at the Couth Buzzard.  This bookstore in the Greenwood District hosts a music jam on Saturday mornings at 11 AM.  Playing is almost as much fun as seeing the smiles on shoppers’ faces when they come through the door and discover live music-making in the middle of the day.  You can support the Pacific NW Folklore Society and the Couth Buzzard by dropping in to sing, play, or listen.

March 13th – Jake Shimabukuro.  Just go to YouTube and see what Jake is up to!  From Flamenco to the Beatles you wouldn’t believe what a lone ukulele can do.  There is no describing Jake or his music that is comprehensible for those who haven’t seen and heard him.  He toured with Bela Fleck, and Jimmy Buffett.  He went to England with Bette Midler and played for the Queen!  And he’s such a nice kid…

March 20th – HATLC at Family Promise.  It was an honor to entertain at this fundraising dinner for Family Promise.  Family Promise is a relatively young organization which is addressing the needs of the homeless in West Seattle.  Learn more at www.FamilyPromiseofSeattle.org.

March 20th – Si Kahn at Phinney Ridge.  Songwriter and activist.  Wonderful songs that can change a person’s life.  And if you think struggles for social reform are finished, check out this Founder and Director of Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization that advocates for several causes, including prison reform, improved immigration detention policies, and violence prevention.

March 26th to 28th – Singtime Frolics.  This is a great annual event sponsored by the Portland FolkMusic Society.  Three days of food, lodging, and all the music you can stay awake for.  Song circles, jamming, and workshops.  Guest artists this year are Steve Einhorn and Kate Power, a duo I’ve only heard on YouTube, but look forward to hearing from in person.

I could go on writing about all the music missed in the month of March… that would be “MARCH MISSED MUSIC MADNESS”… but even if you read this far down the column you would probably not have the time or inclination to continue.

Just remember there are a multitude of music experiences every month in the NW.  I hope you all take the opportunity to share some of them.

PS: We’re back from Singtime in Portland, OR.  Humming snatches of songs we just HAVE to add to our own repertoire.  But more importantly, we’re filled to overflowing with gratitude and humility in the face of so many (90+) creative, funny, joyful people making music and connecting in friendship together.  Everyone from rank beginner (not a value judgment!) to high-caliber professionals sharing gems we’ve discovered and learning from each other. Guest musicians were Kate Power and Steve Einhorn (www.qaulityfolk.com) — who proved yet again that the core of folk music is as much about being lovingly and fully engaged with our own lives and with each other as it is about excellence in our craft.

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