Club News

Musical Meetings

Musical meetings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club are held every other Friday at 885 Clayton Street, between Carl & Parnassus Streets in San Francisco. Singing and jamming in three separate rooms start at 8:00 p.m. Snacks are provided through $1 food kitty donations or finger food contributions. Guests are always welcome, no one is expected to “perform” and there is no charge.

There is a tree beyond this world
In its ancient roots a song lies curled
I am the fool whose life’s been spent
Between what’s said and what is meant.

—Carrie Newcomer
Date November 5 November 19 December 3 December 17 December 31
Setup Bob Allen Debbie Klein Susan Wilde Susan Wilde TBA on Harmony List
Bulletin Board Debbie Klein Rick Myers Yvette Tannenbaum Tes Welborne TBA on Harmony List
Host/ess Al Goodwin Jean O. Yvette Tannenbaum Al Goodwin TBA on Harmony List
Host/ess Joe Lavelle Joe Lavelle Forest McDonald Tes Welborne TBA on Harmony List
Singing Room Yvette Tannenbaum Estelle Freedman Tom Sleckman Dave Sahn TBA on Harmony List
Theme Irish/Scottish Young and Old Heroes & Villains Places, Geography TBA on Harmony List
Cleanup Faith Morgan Cowin David Vasquez Ken Hayes TBA on Harmony List

Board Meetings

The SFFMC board meets on the second Tuesday of each month — potluck at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 8:00 p.m. All Club members are welcome to attend the potluck dinner and the Board meeting.

NEXT FOLKNIK FOLD-IN/FOLK SING: 2:00 p.m. Saturday, December 11 at the home of Joan Hall and Abe Feinberg,

Warren Argo

Warren Argo, long-time board member of Northwest Folklife, suffered a heart attack and passed away on September 27. A fine musician, magnificent dance caller, discerning sound engineer, canny thinker, big bear-hugger, and kind, kind man, Warren was a key member of music and dance communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Warren Argo was one of the constants of Northwest Folklife Festival, attending the first festival in 1972 and each of the succeeding 38 festivals, and serving as a board member for over 25 years. A man of many talents, he organized the schedule in the dance venue, played in several dance bands (banjo, fiddle, guitar), and called dances with considerable élan. More than once he supplied the sound system for the Roadhouse, then took his turn at the board to relieve the sound engineer. Warren was one of the seven founding members of the Northwest FolkFloor Coalition, which raised money for the Roadhouse dance floor that has been laid down and taken up for each Festival since 1987.

Warren’s generous spirit was always evident. He gave of his time to Northwest Folklife for much of the past 40 years. A former board member commented, “I can’t think of anyone who has consistently done more for the folk arts community, at every level, over such a long period of time.”

Warren’s partner, Thelma Leuba, explained his philosophy: “He wanted to do whatever he could to increase the general grooviness of the planet.” We think he succeeded. We at Northwest Folklife will miss Warren very, very much. We mourn his death and celebrate his wonderful life.

Derek Sivers websites

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, which allows musicians to sell their music directly to the public, has some great non-commercial websites of interest to musicians:

Irwin Silber

Another central figure in folk music has left us. Irwin Silber, folklorist, author, political activist, and co-founder and longtime editor of Sing Out! magazine, died September 8, at age 84, of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.

In a life full of accomplishments, Silber was perhaps best known for his writing on American folk music and musicians. After graduating from college in 1945, he became executive director of People’s Songs, an organization created by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger and others, and whose magazine promoted music as a force for workers in their labor struggles. People’s Songs folded in the late 1940s.

Irwin founded Sing Out! in 1950 with Pete Seeger and musicologist Alan Lomax, and was its editor from 1951 to 1967. The magazine’s name comes from the lyrics of “If I Had a Hammer,” a tune co-written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays that became a universal protest anthem. Irwin built Sing Out! into a bible of American folk music, reporting on such seminal figures as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. As a result, when a new generation of folk singers burst onto the music scene in the early 1960s, he was perfectly positioned to cover them. Sing Out! carried some of the earliest reports on Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and others. Folk Alliance honored Sing Out! with a lifetime achievement award early in this decade. Irwin Silber, Happy Traum, Bob Norman and Mark Moss accepted the award together.

Sing Out! also served as a voice of dissent against Sen. Joseph McCarthy and others leading a witch hunt into alleged Communist subversion in politics and entertainment. Because of his ties to left-wing causes and his association with the Communist Party in the 1950s, Irwin was called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1958.

In 1968, Irwin left Sing Out! to become cultural editor and film critic for the independent radical newsweekly, the Guardian. There, he wrote on more directly political topics, analyzed national and international developments, and developed a large and appreciative readership. He became the Guardian’s executive editor in 1972, but disagreements led to a split within the staff, and Irwin left the newspaper in 1979, moving to California to join the leadership of a current within US Marxism known as the “rectification movement.”

During his life, Irwin published more than a dozen books, including Socialism; What Went Wrong, an examination of the events in the USSR that led to its collapse. His only non-political book in the last 20 years, A Patient’s Guide to Hip and Knee Replacement, was based on his own experience with these operations. Silber’s most recent book, Press Box Red, tells the story of sports editor Lester Rodney, whose decade-long campaign in the pages of the Daily Worker helped pave the way for the racial integration of major league baseball.

His creation of Oak Publications was responsible for a large portion of the folk music material available in print during the growth of the folk music revival.

Irwin and his partner, blues/folk singer/fellow activist Barbara Dane, established the independent recording company Paredon to distribute and document the music created by domestic and international political movements in the 1970s. To ensure availability of the material, in the mid-1980s they donated the label to Smithsonian Folkways, which distributes the collection on CD and digitally.

Among other collaborations, Barbara produced nearly 50 LPs, and Irwin handled the promotion and distribution. In 1969, Irwin and Barbara also published The Vietnam Songbook, a comprehensive collection of more than 100 protest songs concerning the Vietnam War.

Irwin was also the editor, in 1973, of the Folksinger’s Wordbook, which gave lyrics to more than 1,000 folk songs and inspired the publication of Rise Up Singing.

Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Barbara Dane of Oakland; three children from his second marriage, Frederic Silber of Redmond, Wash.; Joshua Silber of New York and Nina Silber of Needham, Mass.; three stepchildren, Jesse Cahn of Luther, Okla., Pablo Menendez of Havana and Nina Menendez of Oakland; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

The Music of History

by Robert Rodriquez

In 1241, during a Tartar invasion of Poland, the ancient city of Cracow was besieged by an enemy host. A resourceful local watchman on the city walls helped save the city from capture. He roused the city by playing a musical fanfare on his trumpet, a melody known as the hejnal. He was killed in the battle, but his alertness roused the population and eventually the Tartars were repulsed. In time his bravery was memorialized and became deeply embedded in Polish folklore and tradition, and the story of the hejnal became part of Polish culture and legend. Even today, the melody is played daily in Cracow by fire fighters and police.

Not only has music been interwoven with story across the world and through the centuries, it has been interwoven with actual and legendary events. Biblical texts in the Old Testament often mention music, whether it be the powerful Song of Miriam as told in the early verses of Exodus, the miraculous story of the fall of Jericho when Joshua ordered the trumpets blown seven times around the walled city, the composition of the Psalms by King David, or the songs of his son and successor, King Solomon.

Most historians tell us that Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors of ancient Rome, fiddled while Rome burned to the ground. In truth, his instrument of choice was the Roman bagpipe, the tibia utricularis, upon which he was a most accomplished player to the delight of the Roman crowds who heard him play daily before the palace. Oh well, there seems to be no accounting for taste. And speaking of bagpipes, Richard the Lionheart once had to invade Sicily to save his sister from a luckless nuptial to a local tyrant. He made short work of the offending monarch, brought his sister safely back to England, and in the process, managed to find half a dozen local Sicilian pipers, known as zampognari. He introduced them to the royal court where they soon became the toast of the town, especially to the ladies of the court who found them utterly delightful and enchanting.

An Irish wit once quipped that the Irish did indeed give the bagpipes to the Scots but they have not yet figured it out. Be that as it may, the highland pipes have become as ingrained a part of Scottish culture and tradition as has heather, haggis, and whiskey. In 1314 the English and Scots fought the momentous Battle of Bannockburn; the Scottish host defeated the Brits soundly, but in the end, they lost the war. The night before the battle, the English were treated to an all-night bagpipe serenade, and the chroniclers state that to the English host, the very sound of the pipes was as if all the dark legions of hell had been loosed upon them and demons were out for the very blood and souls of the frightened English forces.

After Henry the Fifth smashed the very flower of French chivalry at Agincourt in 1415, he issued a royal decree that no secular songs be composed commemorating the English victory, but a local composer, John Dunstable, got around the decree by composing a piece that in time would become known as the Agincourt Carol, a memorable piece of medieval music honoring a momentous event that occurred at a pivotal moment in the Hundred Years War.

There is of course more to be said about the link between history and legendry, and the music it has engendered, but perhaps the best way to end this section, is with another event involving a trumpet player. In 1664, during a maritime conflict between the English and the Dutch, a modest British fleet entered the harbor of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. The fiery and irate governor, Pegleg Peter Stuyvesant, had a trumpeter named Anthony, whose job it was to warn the good Dutch berghers of impending attack from land or sea by blowing his trumpet. Unlike the hero of Cracow, at the moment of truth, friend Anthony was nowhere to be found. He was occupied with other matters, chiefly involving an aquatic race across a treacherous body of water with the very devil himself. In the end, he not only lost the race, but also his immortal soul, and, according to legend, at the very moment Old Nick whisked him off to his eternal reward in the infernal regions below, into the harbor sailed the British fleet, and history was changed, and New Amsterdam became New York. It goes to show what can happen when a gig goes wrong.

Edited by Marlene McCall,