Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Camp Woodland Presentation

Last Saturday, August 14, Sue Rosenberg and I presented our Camp Woodland show for the third time. This time it was at the Woodstock Historical Society. With us were Joe Hickerson, Mickey Vandow, and Eric Weissberg. Eric is one of the leading banjo players in the country, perhaps in the world. Joe Hickerson was the Director of the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress for 35 years and has been collecting and performing folk songs for much longer than that. He brought many great songs to Woodland as its music counselor in 1959 and 1960, including the last three verses of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

What a privilege it was to perform the old Woodland songs with these three distinguished gentlemen! Eric and Mickey did a hilarious version of "Lather and Shave," as well as other great songs. Joe did "I Walked the Road Again." We sang many beloved Woodland favorites together. Sue as always did a great job describing the history, philosophy and spirit of the camp, weaving the words of its Director, Norman Studer, with pictures, quotes from campers and visitors to the camp, and stories.

A couple of weeks before the presentation I took it upon myself to send a letter to every one of the 240+ people on the list that had been compiled at the reunion in 1997. I knew many letters would be returned, but I felt it was worth the money and effort to reconnect with even a few campers. Sue and I spent a morning folding, stuffing, and stamping, and I brought them all to (of all places) the post office in Phoenicia, New York, the town where Camp Woodland had been. I've been going there every Wednesday in the summers to sing with the children at the Catskill Woodland Camp, a day camp directed by Cara Cruikshank, a young woman who lives on the Camp Woodland property and was inspired to start a day camp in the same spirit.

I did get a lot of returns, but I also got many emails thanking me for contacting them. Many couldn't make it but were glad to reconnect and are now on my email list. And about a dozen actually were able to make it to the event, and had a great time!

Following the presentation we were invited to the home of a member of the board of the Woodstock Historical Society, where we ate, talked, and sang and sang! If you go to the web site I provided the link to above, click on "Spirit of Camp Woodland" and then, on the left side, "Camp Woodland celebrates," you can see pictures of both the events, as well as pictures from the next day's concert by Joe Hickerson, sponsored by Heritage Folk Music. I opened for him with my song "Full Circle," appropriately enough since it's about my reminiscences of Camp Woodland. Following that, another great music jam at the home of the Director of HFM.

Another wonderful weekend, and hopefully more will follow, as we have ideas for future get-togethers, possibly a book and/or a movie about the camp, and more!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Peace Pilgrim, Visited

Back on February 27, I wrote about how Pete suggested I write a new verse to my song, "Peace Pilgrim." He also really, really liked the song, and asked me to sing it every time we were at the peace vigil together, and also every first Friday at the song circle at the Beacon Sloop Club. He tweaked it in another way, suggesting that I drop the second "She said" from the chorus. Others agreed, and I do too, so I now sing it differently from the way it's sung on the recording, but that's the folk process!

Pete's enthusiasm and support gave me the courage to send the song to the Peace Pilgrim web site, where there are already a few songs about her. I was so gratified to receive a handwritten letter from the web master, thanking me for the song and inviting me to perform it at the third annual celebration of Peace Pilgrim's birthday, July 16-18. There was to be a concert on Friday evening, a peace walk, educational program and picnic on Saturday, and an interfaith service on Sunday morning.

This will be a long post, because so much happened that weekend and it was all so magical. I met Bruce Nichols, web master and Board member of Friends of Peace Pilgrim, and we carpooled down to Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, Peace Pilgrim's birthplace. We stayed at the home of Peace's sister, Helene Young, who at 95 lives up to her name. She still rides her bike every day, and she has every one of her marbles; more than I can say for myself! She loved to reminisce about Peace and their lives as children, how for the 28 years that Peace was walking, Helene picked up her mail at the little post office just down the road (it's still there), how after Peace died and the letters came pouring in from people whose lives she'd touched and changed forever, she decided to continue Peace's work by speaking about her.

Helene's home, where she has lived for 60 years, is a lovely little ranch on a main highway in this South Jersey community, with a large backyard including a small grove of trees, where Bruce hung his hammock, and a fenced-in garden, where she grows all sorts of vegetables and some flowers too. Besides Bruce and myself, she hosted Mayte (pronounced MY-teh) Picco-Kline, another Board member, and Maurice Hoover, a volunteer from Oklahoma City. If you order Peace Pilgrim pamphlets, books, or DVDs, it's his crew that generally packs them up and ships them to you. In a front parlor there was a huge scrapbook that Helene's husband, who died a few years ago, put together about Peace Pilgrim, with photos, newspaper clippings, letters, and all sorts of memorabilia. There are peace signs everywhere, as well as pictures and statues of cats -- my two favorite things!

Friday evening was the concert. I opened for the featured performer with four songs: Malvina Reynolds' "Sing Along;" my own "Peace Pilgrim;" a new one about the peace vigil where Pete and I jam, called "The Foot of the South Hills Mall," that will find its way to my MySpace page eventually; and "We Will Survive." The featured performer was Pamela Whitman, an amazing flute player who played world music on an array of flutes, spoke of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and just gave a magical performance.

Next morning we assembled at Peace Pilgrim Park for a one-mile walk from the park to the house where Peace Pilgrim was born. The park is a most appropriate tribute to Peace Pilgrim, with a statue of her surrounded by tiles made by the schoolchildren of the town, an herb garden in the shape of a peace sign, and a grove of trees with small signs for each of her "steps toward inner peace" written on them. At the house, Helene told us about Peace Pilgrim's early life and took questions. Then we planted a Peace Pilgrim pole. This looks something like your standard Peace Pole, except that instead of the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in different languages, it has Peace's words: "This is the way to peace: overcome evil with good, overcome falsehood with truth, overcome hatred with love." From there we walked back to the City Hall, just beside the park, for an educational program about Peace Pilgrim presented by Mayte.

After a nap, which we all needed after the walk in the heat, we returned to the park for a picnic. But just before the picnic, we were all invited to join in a commitment ceremony for a man and woman who had met planning the first Peace Pilgrim celebration two years ago. When it was my turn to sing, I opened with "Give Yourself to Love," dedicated to this lovely couple who were dressed in tie-dyed t-shirts and bellbottoms with peace signs. I then led a singalong of peace and justice songs. The featured band were faculty from nearby Stockton College, and they were great! Later on there was a drumming circle. Reflecting on the afternoon, I realized, "If this little town, with its variety of political opinions, can gather together peacefully and joyfully for this one day, perhaps someday the whole world will learn to live like this -- maybe not all the time, but most of it."

Helene took a group of us to see Peace Pilgrim's gravesite. It's near the graves of her three maiden aunts who lived with the family and helped to raise her and her sister. Someone had made peace signs out of pine cones with a big heart shaped out of pine cones in front of the stone.

Sunday morning was a service at the local Unitarian Universalist church. It had been organized jointly by the UUs and the Quakers. I sang three songs, Bruce gave an uplifting sermon, and there was a Quaker meeting-style silence, as well as singing and readings. After lunch at Helene's the weekend was over and Bruce and I drove home, listening on the way to Pamela Whitman's glorious CD.

I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this weekend. I met so many wonderful people, learned so much more about Peace Pilgrim, and got an extra little "boost" along my spiritual journey. I recommend anyone who can, to come to this festival next year.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Joined ASCAP

Well, I took a big step today -- even the ASCAP site told me that after I joined. The decision followed a conversation with Anne Feeney, who's been singing my song "If I Could Have Beer With the President" (which she renamed, with good reason, "The Man I Voted For," and that is its new title) all around the country. You can view and listen here. If you listen to my version on
MySpace, you'll see she took a few liberties with the tune and words: "Look what they've done to my song, Ma, look what they've done to my song..." Maybe some would consider them improvements, but at first it was disconcerting nonetheless. But then when I think of what Peter, Paul and Mary did to "If I Had a Hammer," or what the Byrds did to "Turn, Turn, Turn," I realize I should be (and am!) grateful that she liked it enough to cover it and record it! She recorded it at the Kerrville Folk Festival, and called me to tell me that they may be making a commercial recording of the performance, so she wanted to know, am I with BMI or ASCAP? I had to admit -- neither. I almost joined BMI once, then freaked out when I saw all the legal language and chickened out. She convinced me that I'd better do it.

And I haven't mentioned yet that Cindy Mangsen has covered my song, "Stories," at a Unitarian Universalist service in Bennington, VT. So I knew the time might come when I'd want to join a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) eventually, and I wasn't sure if I wanted that time to come or not. But come it did, and who knows what amazing things may come after?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I *am* on TV!

So I was singing a song at the first Friday song circle at the Beacon Sloop Club and this guy comes bounding over and says, "I want to put you on my TV show! You can have an hour to do whatever you want!" And I was pretty intimidated, because I've never really been on TV and the idea of a whole hour of just me scared me a lot. I asked my pal and co-producer, Vito Petroccitto Jr., if he could do it with me, but he has a lot on his plate right now, and no one else is available days. So I arranged to go yesterday at 2 p.m., since I'm off this week.

It was a small studio. There was Ed Pell, the man who invited me, an engineer named Walter, another guy named Joe, three cameras, and me. The cameras were set up to focus on different parts of me: one, from about the waist up; one, a close-up of my face; and one, a close-up of my right hand. I tried to explain to Ed that guitarists would be more interested in seeing what my left hand was doing, if we had to choose, but Ed picked the right hand.

The cameras did not move, therefore, I could not move. I was instructed to look into whatever camera had a light over it. Then Walter proceeded to turn so many lights on that I could hardly tell which light was on over which camera. There was a TV monitor set up but I was told not to look at it. This turned out to be a bad idea because every time the face close-up camera was turned on me, I turned to face it and wound up moving out of its range. I couldn't really see the monitor anyway when I was facing that camera (I think that was camera 3), because it was on the other side of the studio. So, aside from that and a few awful guitar or lyric mistakes, it went pretty well. I kept thinking about how Jon Stewart asks people to "meet me at camera 3" when he wants to say something "serious."

I got a DVD of the thing right away, and then Ed took me out for a delicious bowl of soup at a nearby pizza place. All in all, it wasn't too painful, but I can't say it was painless either. I'd practiced about an hour or more per day for a few weeks for this. That was great -- definitely improved my guitar and vocal technique. I can make as many copies of the DVD as I want, but I don't think I'll make too many. I'm chalking this up as more of learning experience than a finished product. Nonetheless, a very productive learning experience.

It turned out that every time

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New verse to Peace Pilgrim

So I'm at the weekly peace vigil at the corner of Routes 9 and 9D, and Pete is there, and it's about 1:40. Generally our practice has been that we vigil from noon to 2 p.m., then sing a couple of songs, then break down all the signs and banners and flags and so forth and leave. But it was 1:40 and Pete said, "Pat, go get your guitar!" So I did, and the first song we sang, at my request, was "My Rainbow Race." Then I think we did a couple of others, and then I did "Peace Pilgrim," which Pete always asks for. When we finished it, Pete said, "You know, you could write another verse to that song. Something like...though Peace Pilgrim ate her last meal thirty four years ago, her spirit is standing with us on this corner...something like that."

Well, I was going to play that song that very evening, February 20, at the Hudson Valley Folk Guild, so I thought I'd better make up another verse pretty quick. By the time I got home, I had it. I tweaked it a tiny bit since then, but here's the new version:

As we stand here on this corner, in sun and rain and snow,
We remember Peace Pilgrim and her words of long ago.
Though her spirit flew to freedom in 1981,
She's standing here beside us as our prayers for peace are sung.

Pete hasn't heard it yet. I'm looking forward to singing it for him, hopefully sometime soon. He told us he won't be at the peace vigil this Saturday (I guess today, that is), but maybe next week. Or maybe at the Beacon Sloop Club this Friday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"It Shoulda Been Pete" and "Too Big"

I just have to share what may have been the most amazing afternoon of my life. I went to the weekly peace vigil that's held in Wappingers Falls, that Pete Seeger often attends. He was there today, and asked me again to sing my song "Peace Pilgrim" (second song on my CD). I didn't bring my guitar, so he accompanied me on the banjo and joined in on the chorus, as did the dozen or so other demonstrators. I was so awed by the thought that Pete was playing and singing my song that to this minute I'm not sure I remembered to sing all the verses.

Then Caitlin O'Heaney, bless her heart, who lives in Beacon and is a good friend of Pete's, asked him if I could sing him my song about him, "It Shoulda Been Pete." I had sung this song at the last "Water Not Weapons" hootenanny at the Yippie Museum Cafe, which is where Caitlin heard it. Joel Landy's intrepid high school students recorded the entire hootenanny, which can be accessed in four parts at Joel's web site,
sing freedom


I was the first performer in part three, which you can view by going to

this site
The second song I did on the video was "It Shoulda Been Pete." I'll talk about the first one in a minute. Anyway, Pete somewhat reluctantly agreed to hear it, and couldn't help himself -- he played along on the banjo, with a broad smile on his face. When I finished, he said, "I have to admit it -- it's a good song!"

I had been reluctant to direct anyone to Joel's video previously because I had heard from

Paul Kaplan
that Pete had personally called him and asked him to take Paul's song praising Pete off of You Tube. But now I feel I can at least direct a few people to this; it's not like it's on You Tube...yet...hopefully Pete won't object.

Here are the words to "It Shoulda Been Pete":

It Shoulda Been Pete (c)2009 Pat Lamanna

I heard the news the other day, it took me by surprise.
They said Barack Obama had won the Nobel Prize!
But, isn't this the very same man who sent more troops to Afghanistan,
And tortured prisoners in Baghram, and threatened to invade Iran?
So all that I can say is...

Chorus: It shoulda been Pete, it shoulda been Pete,
Gettin' that call from Oslo, it shoulda been Pete. (Spoken): Re-peat!
It shoulda been Pete, it shoulda been Pete…

I was so happy on that night when he won the election.
But that was just a year ago; and what has he done since then?
Please don't think me coarse or rude, but isn't this the very same dude
Who watched as Palestine got screwed, and Bush's black sites continued?
And all that I can say is...

Chorus

I'm willing to keep an open mind, someday he might deserve this.
But why not give it to a guy with 90 years of service?
Who taught the whole wide world to sing "My Rainbow Race" & "Dr. King"
And "Sailing Down My Dirty Stream"? Each time I hear that banjo ring,
All that I can say is....

Chorus

The past is past, what's done is done, there is no turning back.
But now we know what we must do: put pressure on Barack!
With letters, phone calls, emails, tweets, and demonstrations in the streets,
We'll use the lessons learned from Pete, build victory out of defeat,
So we won't have to say...
Chorus

Now, as to the first song I sang at that hootenanny, it was called "Too Big," and here are the words:

TOO BIG
© 2009 Pat Lamanna

When you whine and you cry that you’re too big to fail
When your Board of Directors is carted to jail
When you don’t make a damn thing that anyone needs
That’s when you know you’re too big to succeed.

When you write all the bills that the Congressmen pass
When you’ve got the World Bank to cover your ass
Your profits and bonuses, all guaranteed,
That’s when you know you’re too big to succeed.

Bridge: How do you know you’re too big to succeed?
When your only value is unabashed greed
And you don’t know who suffers, and you don’t care who bleeds,
That’s when you know you’re too big to succeed.

When you don’t have to worry that the markets will crash
And you think the whole world is for dumping your trash
While plains turn to desert, and icecaps recede
That’s when you know you’re too big to succeed.

Bridge

When the people wake up and they open their eyes
And they look all around and they start to arise,
And they keep right on rising till everyone’s freed,
That’s when you’ll know you’re too big to succeed. (Repeat 3 times.)