Category Archives: Song

American Week, Pinewoods 2014

by Chuck Abell

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Photo by Garrett Fondoules

When I first heard about the Country Dancers of Rochester (CDR) scholarship program for CDSS camps, I developed an immediate interest. As a new caller—and as an experienced musician—I was looking for any opportunities to hone my skills in both areas, and just to collaborate with other callers and musicians.

Having never been to Pinewoods before, I was initially struck by the mellow, woodsy environment, along with the two beautiful lakes/ponds situated next to the camp. Pinewoods is truly a New England paradise. The next revelation was the outdoor dance pavilion, again tucked back in the woods. There really is nothing like dancing outdoors in a covered pavilion in mid-August. From the first night it was evident that magical things would happen in the pavilion over the course of the week—in many ways, it was really the center of the camp. The final thing that struck me right from the start was the diversity and the energy of the campers. I confess, I was bracing for something perhaps a little more on the stuffy side when I first registered, but that notion was well wide of the mark —teenagers, college students, young couples, middle-agers, and more “seasoned” dancers all converged at the camp for a week of creativity and true rejuvenation.

Some snapshots of the next six days:

  • Gathering at 10 am every morning for Phil Jamison’s Southern Squares class. What a great tradition, and a great teacher. Having no sense of what distinguished a Southern Square from a New England or Western square, I quickly came to understand that Southern Squares are about improvisation, about calling to the beat of the music, not to the phrasing. What a liberation! For the rest of the week, we took turns inventing—and calling—squares to the great old time music of Julie Metcalf and company, always under the skillful guidance of Phil, who really seems to me to be David Kaynor’s long-lost Southern brother! Well, brothers in spirit at least….
  • David Cantieni’s “tunes by ear” class which became a virtual playground of ideas and genres. Being one of the few instrumental “ensemble” classes, we were charged with preparing each evening’s “processional”—a joyous musical march through the darkening woods just before the evening dance. (“When the Saints Go Marching In” never sounded so good!)
  • The daily camp gathering that followed morning classes, but preceded swimming and lunch. A time for jokes, songs, stories, contests, and other spontaneous acts of generosity by staff and campers alike. It was the one time of the day when we really came together as a single camp, and it was an honor to see otherwise taciturn campers get up and perform in front of 150 audience members.
  • The Roadhouse after-dance party, midweek. Okay, I’m biased here—being one-third of the nominal “house band” charged with backing up a small parade of crooners, blues singers, and jazz soloists—with a room full of enthusiastic swing, blues, and bossa nova dancers—is right where it’s at for me. They pretty much had to drag us off the stage at 1:30 am.
  • Emily Troll’s music ensemble class—that is, band class for musicians. Okay, I confess, some of the “touchy/feely” interpersonal games at the start of each class reminded me a little too much of the upcoming school year (not an image I wanted to entertain), but once we got past those, the class was really useful and helped spawn several small instrumental ensembles that took the stage at Camper’s Night (see below).
  • Gaye Fifer’s “Dutch Crossing”—hard to really put this into words, but definitely a highlight of the week. Look it up on YouTube if you want. Basically, a dance that requires 16 couples, takes 55 (intense) minutes to teach, and five minutes to actually dance. A great teamwork activity.
  • Swimming Squares. Yes, real Southern square dances, performed while swimming in the lake. Not only hilarious but a great form of exercise. Just be careful when “ducking for the oyster.”
  • Camper’s Night—a true highlight. A chance for (very talented) campers to run the evening dance. Somehow, I ended up in five to six music ensembles, so I never got to dance until the second half, but it was well worth it. A memorable, and somewhat revolutionary, segment: David Cantieni’s entire ear training class joined by Ann Percival’s entire chorus class performing “Wimoweh” as a contra dance set. It actually works!

And the list of highlights goes on: the food, the lodges, the pre-dinner parties, the after-dance parties, the midnight swimming, the networking, the afternoon old time jam sessions led by Larry Unger, the not-so impromptu marshmallow fight at dinner one night, the full moon over the lake as I drifted to sleep in my bunkhouse…

Looking back, both my calling and my playing have improved as a result of being at American Week—not only do I have an expanded repertoire of dances and tunes, but my skills have sharpened considerably. Had it not been for the CDR grant, and matching CDSS scholarship, I most certainly would have missed out on an invaluable experience.

Chuck Abell is a contra dance caller and musician from Rochester, NY. His band, Tempest, featuring fiddler Tim Ball and several other great western NY musicians, just released its first full-length CD, Equilibrium, and will be touring extensively over the next year to promote the release. Keep an eye out for them, or visit www.chuckabell.com for more info on the band.

Come to American Dance and Music Week at Pinewoods, August 8-15, http://www.cdss.org/american.html. Or the equally fine Harmony of Song and Dance, July 25-August 1, http://www.cdss.org/harmony.html. Space is available, and so are scholarship funds until we run out. To read about all our programs at Pinewoods (MA), Ogontz (NH) and Timber Ridge (WV), see https://view.publitas.com/country-dance-and-song-society/country-dance-song-society-2015-camps/page/1. Questions? Call Country Dance and Song Society, 413-203-5467 x 2.

 

Spread The Joy—It’s a slogan, it’s a song!

by Jonathan Jensen

Musician, songwriter and longtime CDSS member Jonathan Jensen, of Baltimore, sent us this lovely gift of his song in honor of our Centennial in 2015. It debuted on March 24, during Celebration Week. Download a PDF of the sheet music or listen to Jonathan and friends sing the song here. Or hear the song and watch the video here.

MuseScore_ Spread The JoyIn the CDSS world, I’m most active playing piano for English country dance, contra dance and couple dancing, as well as writing tunes in all these genres. Lately, though, I’ve become increasingly busy writing songs ranging from goofy parodies like The Tea Chantey to rounds and serious ballads. So as the 100th anniversary of CDSS approached I had a mind to write some kind of tribute in words and music. It was hard to get a handle on this project until I noticed the slogan “Spread The Joy” on one of the organization’s mailings. Once I decided on those three words as the title and the theme, the song all but wrote itself. There are so many ways we all spread the joy of music, dance, story and song in our various communities that I probably could have come up with dozens of verses (although the requirements of rhyme and meter do impose certain limitations).

Once the song was written, I e-mailed a quick demo to CDSS headquarters, where it was well received. There was a thought of posting it on the website and Facebook page right away, but on reflection it was decided to make a professional recording with multiple voices that could be used as the basis of a video. There followed an e-mail and phone barrage to many likely participants and the inevitable poring over schedules to decide who the final cast would be and when we could all get together. I was very fortunate to have Charlie Pilzer offer his services and studio (Airshow Mastering) for free. Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, who make up the celebrated duo Magpie are friends of the Pilzers, and kindly volunteered to take part. Veteran dance musicians Steve Hickman and John Devine signed on to sing and play. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Oorts offered to round out the texture on mandolin. And when I decided we should have a teenage singer to represent the next generation, Steve got his daughter Maren to come along—and his wife DeLaura Padovan joined in for good measure.

On the evening of February 15 we all met at Charlie’s studio in Takoma Park. After a few run-throughs we worked out an arrangement that suited all the voices and made a number of takes, with me handling string bass duties. None of our readings were perfect all the way through, but we got to see Charlie work his wizardry as he swiftly replaced a faulty note or phrase from one take with a better version from another. We look forward to sharing the song with our friends across the nation as we join in celebrating the first 100 years of the Country Dance and Song Society.

CDSS is delighted to have its own song for the Centennial—we look forward to singing it with friends and humming it as we work. Thank you, Jonathan, for writing it; thanks to Charlie, Terry, Greg, Steve, John, Paul, Maren and DeLaura for the audio recording; and thanks to Mary Wesley for the video.

Storytelling at Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend

The 2015 Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend was a special one for CDSS.  Each year the weekend hosts a “retrospective session;” several hours of the dance weekend dedicated to honoring and exploring some component of dance/music traditions and history.  This year the session was focused on our Centennial: “100 Years of CDSS: The Country Dance and Song Society.”

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Adina Gordon, the organizer and emcee of the session, speakers and performers from far and wide gathered to speak about the multi-faceted history of CDSS and how the organization has touched their lives.  We heard from our current Executive Director, Rima Dael, as well as current Board President David Millstone (of course David called a few dances as well.)  Fred Breunig called an English Country Dance and shared memories of dancing with May Gadd at Pinewoods.  We heard from Tom Kruskal about leading the first morris tour of the Pinewoods Morris Men in Harvard Yard and then he grabbed his concertina and jumped down to accompany Jacqueline and Dudley Laufman as they played Highland Mary for the Canterbury morris side (Dudley will tell you this is the largest morris team in the world whose entire membership lives in the same town!) Dudley Laufman also spoke about dancing Money Musk and bringing his ever rebellious spirit to CDSS camps.  Carol Ormand, one of the weekend’s staff callers, shared memories of learning to call squares from Ted Sannella at camp and then of course she called one.  The session closed with a big circle mixer with great tunes from Rodney Miller, David Surette and Gordon Peery.

The Weekend was a Passport to Joy event and Passport stickers were flying off their sheets; for many this was the first stamp they’d received.  CDSS had a small selection from our store set up as well as some historical materials shared from the timeline on the new Centennial website.  During the weekend Pat MacPherson and I were also collecting stories for the CDSS Story Project.  Dancers answered three questions:

      1. I started dancing in: ____(year)____.
      2. I was ____ years old.
      3. I went dancing because: _________.

You can view all the wonderful responses here on our Flickr photostream.  I also loved seeing people reading the stories, which we posted on the wall and talking with each other about their memories and experiences.  It was nice to see first hand the kind of sharing and bonding we hope will emerge by giving people the opportunity to share stories about the traditions we all love.  Visit the story project home page to learn about collecting stories in your own community.

CDSS thanks the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend and all who attended for being part of our Centennial celebration!

 

Trad Dance & Music Exhibit Opens in New Hampshire

by Lisa Sieverts

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Image: mid-1850s Dance Prompter’s Notebook

Interested in the history of contra and square dance? Come to Peterborough, New Hampshire, to view an exhibit opening on January 24, 2015:  “Gents Bow, Ladies Know How: Traditional Dance and Music in the Monadnock Region 1750-2015.”

“Gents Bow, Ladies Know How” traces the long history of traditional dance and music in southwestern New Hampshire from Colonial times to the present, with an emphasis on the 18th and 19th centuries. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire is one of the few places in the country where these dances have been done continuously since the mid-1700s.

The exhibit features artifacts, documents, instruments, photographs and audio recordings.  In addition to the on-going exhibit, there will be a series of presentations scheduled monthly beginning in February.

“Gents Bow, Ladies Know How” will be open to the public through May 23, 2015. The Monadnock Center’s regular hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM, and admission is $3.00 (free for Monadnock Center and Country Dance and Song Society members). The exhibit takes place in the historic Monadnock Center building in Peterborough, New Hampshire at 19 Grove Street.

Two local organizations, the Monadnock Center for History and Culture and the Monadnock Folklore Society, have partnered to develop this exhibit. Generous grant funding was received from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. In addition, the Animal Care Clinic-Monadnock has sponsored the exhibit—the owner is the grandson of the caller Duke Miller.

The Country Dance and Song Society was the inspiration for this exhibit—the idea arose as the Monadnock Folklore Society brainstormed how to participate in the celebration of the CDSS Centennial.

For more information call 603-924-3235 or visit http://www.MonadnockCenter.org.

The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is a community museum that has been dedicated to preserving and celebrating local history and culture since its founding in 1902. The Monadnock Folklore Society was founded in 1980 to increase the visibility of folk dance and music events in southern New Hampshire and provide educational services in the folk arts to the community.

Lisa Sieverts is an experienced project manager and facilitator, and owner of Facilitated Change. She is a longtime contra dancer and caller, and a regular caller at Nelson, NH’s Monday night dances. Lisa is a CDSS member and a member of the Monadnock Folklore Society’s board.

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Monadnock region of New Hampshire, named after Mount Monadnock

 

 

Math, Music and Contra Dance

by Lena Erickson

lena ericksonI first heard about contra dance at a small math conference in Northfield, Minnesota during the summer of 2013 when a graduate student described the connection between contra dance and permutation groups. Contra dance, a type of partnered folk dance, involves people dancing in two lines facing each other or in groups of four. If the participants of a contra dance are each labeled with a number, with n being the total number of dancers, then their most basic interactions during the contra dance can be represented as permutations on the set of numbers one through n.

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Norman, OK, contra dance, December 2014 (Miranda Arana)

 

A permutation, put simply, means a reordering of members of a set, so a permutation of the dancers is a function that moves the dancers to other dancers’ positions, like two people swapping places (e.g. gents’ allemande), a group of four people circularly moving in a full rotation (e.g. circle left), or no one changing position (i.e. the identity permutation). If you combine these functions, adding one small dance step to another, you’re composing permutations, which is the operation that defines the algebraic structure known as a permutation group.

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Norman, OK, contra dance, December 2014 (Miranda Arana)

This link to mathematics brings something special to contra dance: it evokes a feeling of connection to the universe at large. Permutation groups themselves are only yet a subset of the set of reflection symmetries, which has applications anywhere symmetry is present: in the structure of a snowflake, in the arrangement of atoms in a molecule, and even in the transpositions and inversions in Bach’s Art of Fugue, which are precisely the symmetries of a dodecagon. Math is deeply and richly tied to music and dance, and my knowing that the movement of our bodies in dance symbolized a greater relationship between elements brought an almost spiritual aspect to my experience of contra dance.While the mechanics of the dance were explainable by the mathematical structures I’d previously come to understand, the experience itself involved so much more: a sense of community, an interaction with people normally distanced, and the exhilarating act of applying these abstract concepts I’d learned to movement in the physical world, with music playing and bodies moving all around me.

Lena Erickson is a senior at Oklahoma University in Norman, OK, majoring in math.

Our thanks to CDSS member Miranda Arana who sent us Lena’s essay. She teaches Introduction to World Music for non-music majors at OU.

To dance, to sing, perhaps to play music

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photo by Jeff Bary

Can you make difficult class choices? Say, from an enticing menu of contras, squares and waltz? Are you up for a strong program of Appalachian, American Southern and Irish traditions? Can you take contras morning, noon and night? If your answer is “Just try me!” then CDSS’s American Dance and Music Week, August 9-16, 2014, at Pinewoods Camp is for you, whether you do it ALL or take a more leisurely approach.

We’ll have two daily stretching sessions to keep you loose and limber, morning contras and waltz to wake you up, and afternoon squares and more challenging contras to spice up the mix. And more dancing in the evening too. Can’t dance all day? Not a problem. Bring your instruments and your voices because this week promises a full program of music classes and more, and you’ll be able to play and sing with your heart and soul. Want even more choices? How about getting messy and creative with paper, paint, glue and who-knows-what else in the daily community art class? Or sit on the porch or swim, jam or nap. Hmmm.

There will be a wealth of talent to inspire and encourage you, and there will be friends, old and new, all under the pine trees in a beautiful wooded setting near Plymouth, MA. Join Program Director Sue Rosen, and experience American Dance and Music Week.

See the class schedule, class descriptions or staff list, learn about Pinewoods Camp or about our other summer weeks. And here’s info about fees and scholarships.

This is an amazing week—vibrant and relaxing, both. Not a bad choice, huh? See you there!

Sue Rosen has been dancing all of her life and attended her first callers workshop at Campers’ Week at Pinewoods in 1989. Since then she’s become one of New England’s favorite callers and has written contras that have become part of the standard repertoire of dance callers across the country and overseas.

Pinewoods Camp, near Plymouth, MA, and home to the Country Dance and Song Society’s programs since 1933, is a beautiful setting, creating a retreat where you can immerse yourself in nature, music and dance; see a slideshow of the facility.

The Country Dance and Song Society is a traditional dance and music organization, celebrating its Centennial in 2015.

 

Lifetime Contribution Award for 2014 goes to…

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Jim Morrison

 

Jim Morrison of Charlottesville, VA, will be this year’s recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Jim brought youthful enthusiasm and strong connections to emerging contra, morris and sword dance movements when he started work for CDSS in late 1970. Serving as National Director from 1975 to 1977, he then continued as part time Artistic Director after moving to Virginia. Jim & Marney MorrisonIf you have danced Jack’s Health, Young Widow, late night Kerry sets, or played Puncheon Floor or Buck Mountain, his influence was there. Jim wrote 24 Early American Country Dances (CDSS, 1976,) founded the Greenwich and Albemarle Morris Men, and has recorded five albums of traditional dance music. An early family week advocate, creator of American Week at Pinewoods, and multi-genre dance fiddler, Jim has continued throughout his half century career to teach and play for contra, square, English, morris, sword, flatfoot, and Irish set dancing all over North America. We are delighted to honor him this year. Details about the award presentation will be announced later this year.

Early Music is more than music before 9 a.m.

CDSS’s Early Music Week at Pinewoods—Fairest Isle: Music and Dance of Great Britain and Beyond

Beautiful music under the trees, June 26-July 3, 2014

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DSC_0511_EM 2010_lady in mask_michielsEnjoy the fun of playing rollicking English dance music, or the beautiful polyphony of composers like Byrd, Gibbons, Dowland, Jenkins, the lively rhythms of Holborne, the poignant harmonies of Purcell, pungent Scottish tunes, the intricacies of high Baroque composers like Handel, and so much more.

In this idyllic and restful setting, you’ll be treated to fabulous food, wonderful people, plenty of opportunity to carouse and have fun, as well as to play great music together, and to dance to the music of some of the best English country dance musicians around. The fun is what distinguishes this from a lot of other workshops. And yet the teachers are also highly accomplished renowned experts in the field of early music.

Come and feel the special magic of CDSS Early Music Week at Pinewoods, no matter your age or level of ability. Discover why people return year after year and why others wish they’d found out about it earlier!

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photo by John Sidtis

Our program offers musical challenges and opportunities to players and singers at every level, from highly experienced to those who are just beginning. From morning technique and consort classes to afternoon special topic ensembles, we will play and sing music from the vibrant Middle Ages to the virtuosic Baroque.

If you’ve never played a musical instrument (but wish you could) or if you studied music years ago (and fear you’ve forgotten everything), there are classes to get you started or to help brush off the rust. Introductory classes are offered in recorder, viol, and harp.

Advanced and intermediate players have a wide array of classes from which to choose. Singers of all abilities will benefit from singing class, chorus and mixed ensembles with instruments. EM 2010 Driving in-1_whoDancers and dance teachers can learn an instrument and participate in the nightly dance parties and the daily dance classes, including high-level technique classes, challenging ensembles and historical dance.

All classes are led by the outstanding and dedicated performing faculty. Our staff features active professionals and acclaimed teachers of early winds (recorders, reeds and brass), strings (viols and violin), harp, harpsichord, voice and dance.

This year, we are offering a class called What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body. This class (sometimes called Body Mapping) leads musicians to play and sing with greater ease, to avoid injury, and even heal from injury. It’s eye-opening, relaxing, practical and fun.

— Frances Fitch, Program Director

Comments from some recent participants:

  • Outstanding! Sang things I never knew I was capable of.
  • So amazing what we learned and accomplished.
  • This was the most I have ever learned in a dance class.
  • It was as close to perfect as I can think of.
  • Great positive energy. Had a great time!
  • Loved my week here. Will be back next year!

Scholarship Opportunities

In addition to the scholarships available through CDSS, summer scholarships are offered by Early Music America (deadline: April 15) and The Viola da Gamba Society of America(deadline: April 15).

Early Music Week is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We thank them for their support.

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Handing on the Tradition

by Zoë Madonna

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Outside the dance hall (Photo by Zoë Madonna )

The 2014 Ralph Page Legacy Weekend’s Saturday dance was buried in eight inches of wet, heavy snow that started falling at about ten in the morning and did not stop till late evening. Fortunately, the gym of the Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire was heated enough to keep everyone comfortable. The kind of vigorous dancing that makes dancers sweat through their shirts was nowhere to be found at Ralph Page; even after three hours of dancing, I was hardly tired. The tunes were played at a moderate pace, some dances didn’t have partner swings, and one of the staff callers tells me he’s never used a calling card in his life.

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The past into the future (Photo by Zoë Madonna)

The Ralph Page weekend is more of a celebration of social dancing history and tradition than it is a modern “dance weekend.” A loop of David Millstone’s documentaries on Dudley Laufman and the history of contra in New England played in one room, where dancers could rest their feet. Memory books about now-deceased Ralph Page mainstays were laid out on a table. Workshops and dance sessions were themed around the past; a retrospective of mentors (Bob McQuillen, Larry Jennings, Ralph Sweet, Marianne Taylor), a program themed around one of Ralph Page’s Tuesday night dances at the Boston YWCA, and a session of “contras and squares that folks think ‘Dudley doesn’t know.’” “Dudley” is Dudley Laufman, who made immeasurable contributions to getting youth involved in contra dancing in the 1960s. He still plays fiddle and accordion, calling while he plays.

I was there because I’d gotten a calling scholarship, so I was in attendance at Dudley’s workshop on the “dos and don’ts of calling.” He hadn’t come with any dos and don’ts past “don’t ask at the beginning how many people are there for their first time” and “don’t let the band boss you around,” but the other attendees had plenty of questions for him and he had plenty of stories to tell, like the time he and his wife Jacqueline played a gig on a Boston Harbor yacht for a convention of insurance salesmen, during which they had to wear full colonial dress and were  not allowed to speak to their fellow performers or the audience. Dudley is in his 80s and had heart surgery recently, but that isn’t stopping him from calling barn dances. These days, a Dudley set usually consists of a few chestnut contras, some circle dances, a New England style square, and a Sicilian circle or two. Moves that have become commonplace in modern contra, such as the hey for four and gypsy, cannot be found in Dudley’s sets.

Dudley also had plenty of questions for me, whipping around with surprising speed for someone his age every time he remembered something he wanted to ask. “If a bus full of Girl Scouts, no, if a bus full of people with Down’s Syndrome pulls up and everyone comes in, what are you going to call?” I puzzled that question over for a minute before saying I’d call the simplest circle mixer I know. “Would you have them change partners?” asked another caller. I didn’t know what to answer. I still have a long way to go.

The defining moment of Ralph Page for me happened during lunch on the final day. As I was walking through the cafeteria, the jam session that had been playing struck up Money Musk. Two couples set up at one end of the cafeteria aisle and called for a third; I grabbed a partner and we three couples started dancing. No calls were needed. We all knew this dance. By the time my partner and I were waiting at the top, the line was at least twelve couples long. By the time the dance ended, there were at least twenty couples on the line: a good quarter of the people at the weekend, dancing Money Musk in a cafeteria for fifteen minutes with unabashed joy.

The Ralph Page Legacy Weekend was created in 1988 to recognize the contributions that caller Ralph Page (1903-1985) made to contra and New England folk dancing. It’s held the weekend before the third Monday in January (MLK, Jr. Day), at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH and sponsored by the New England Folk Festival Association.

A singer, dancer, musician—and Oberlin junior―Zoë Madonna is interning with CDSS this month.

“Nobody remotely like him…”—Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Text and photos by Stewart Dean

576A3583 (Medium)Nobody remotely like him, and a towering example to us all of a life well led, decently, indomitably, with heart, conviction and a burning sense of fairness and compassion.

Attached are some pictures I took of him last summer at the Summer Hoot at Ashokan.  He was then so frail, but his spirit was still fierce.

When he wasn’t at the mic or talking to someone, he would look out into space as if gazing into eternity…with utter calm.  It seemed to me he could have, at any time, stepped into the void….utterly surrendered and unafraid

He has now turned and turned….which he wrote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbPl91kTFro

His voice has been faltering but him never.

“…in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.

In darkness, understanding.”

(“Dy Cabon’s Prayer to the Bastard,” by Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls)

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