Website Update June 2014
The snow has finally melted in our back yard, and we look forward to the arrival of the actual springtime that is so lovely in our little town of Shelburne Falls. These past six months have focused on tours and concerts honoring Charlie’s career milestone of 50 years of performing and 40 years of songwriting. In late June, he will be honored by the Labor Heritage Foundation with the Joe Hill Award, a lifetime achievement award for excellence in the field of labor culture. While there we will present our historic performance piece about the civil rights movement for African Americans. Then we head into a period of relative ease and various personal travels through the summer.
In October we traveled through Indiana with the Journey of Hope from Violence to Healing to support speakers who shared their personal stories in order to encourage the general public to oppose the death penalty. We have been traveling with this group since its founding in 1993, and are consistently inspired by the words of murder victim family members, death row exonerees and people who have family on death row.
We offer music, drive vans and carry boxes for this amazing collection of people from around the country. Since Indiana shares a border with Louisville Kentucky we were able to get in 2 visits with our granddaughter Viviana Jo.
In November we made our way down the east coast to Georgia for the annual vigil at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning.
This gathering continues to bring together students and activists from many social movements who are uniting to close this military training school whose graduates are responsible for so many deaths in the hemisphere. This marks Charlie’s 15th consecutive year singing with the SOA Watch Musicians’ Collective.
Charlie’s mystery guest at Haley House this year was his old friend and musical colleague from Bright Morning Star, Tex La Mountain. Tex helped to produce our Higher Ground CD, and it was great to share the stage with him.
For the first time in many years, Charlie did solo tours to the Southwest and the Midwest, promoting the retrospective CD that came out last year, So Far So Good, and sharing songs from his prolific musical career. He also used these occasions to celebrate and share the music of Pete Seeger, who died in early January. How we miss him!
Instead of our annual Duopalooza concert which we have offered for the past decade, Karen produced a local concert focused on Charlie’s career milestone, and an enthusiastic crowd turned out to sing along and shower him with love, a wonderful evening.
Karen’s Personal News
Having determined that I can care for myself better at home than on the road, I have opted to stop touring and only participate in performances that involve less than two days of travel. This has allowed me to expand my counseling work both locally and with a peace organization that has teams in various countries. I had the honor of participating in a training for four people in Iraqi Kurdistan via Skype! From 6-9am my time, I led a session about self-care and trauma for potential new team members. In July I will travel to Chicago for an in-person training on that same topic, helping people explore how we can carry out this work in a sustainable way, and in August I will offer emotional and spiritual support to team members from around the world who will gather in Quito, Ecuador for a week. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity to be of service in this way. I completed an online course in Somatic Experiencing, a special therapeutic technique for dealing with trauma, and I hope to incorporate that into my counseling work.
In December I paid another visit to Omar Blanco, my long time pen pal on death row in Florida. He is on the governor’s list of people who are eligible to receive an execution date at any time, but his case has been taken on by a devoted legal team who hope to avoid that outcome. While other states are stopping or slowing down their executions, Florida’s governor signed the “Timely Justice Act” (sic) to speed up the pace of executions, and has promised to execute at least two people a month for the next year. Omar does his best to remain hopeful despite these circumstances.
In January I joined a local group that is sponsoring monthly events on issues of race and racism, helping to organize and promote the events. I have loved being part of this team and continuing to reflect on these issues in my own life.
My spiritual practice remains central to my life. I am an active member of my sangha (meditation group) and have attended retreats during these months with wonderful Buddhist teachers Larry Yang and Joanne Friday.
My part-time self-employed status allows me to achieve more balance in my life, including regular sessions of acupuncture and massage, spiritual direction and time with friends.
Charlie and I had a perfect vacation: we spent a week in stunning Vieques, Puerto Rico in early January. We rented a remote house, (here’s the view from the front yard)
went to the beach daily,
and even did an interview on the local progressive radio station. We had such a great time that we are scheming to have another vacation in the fall, the location of which has yet to be determined.
I have finally done something I’ve wanted to do for a decade – I went through all of my possessions and threw out or gave away about 80% of what a friend called “the documentary of my life,” meaning the photos, papers, books and journals that documented my past but had little bearing on my present. It has been freeing and wonderful! It has also resulted in some lovely connections with people who have been important to me, including a first ever visit from my brother for a long weekend, lunch with my first long term partner after not having seen each other for 36 years, and a visit to a Guatemalan friend who I helped obtain political asylum in Canada in 1988, who invited us up to Quebec for a weekend.
Since 1986 I have waited for some kind of reason (a.k.a. job) to bring me to Guatemala, even long after it was clear that this was not going to occur. So I changed my mind and went down as a tourist for six days to visit my artist, musician and activist friends.
It was bittersweet and wonderful to see everyone again, to attend the annual May Day march, and to hear how people have fared with the continued economic and political hard times. I loved speaking Spanish and singing with my friends. The last day I gifted the guitar I made in 1978 to my dear friend, Otto Argueta, who accompanied me on my guitar when I lived there and was too nervous to play and sing at the same time.
Four days before my departure for Guatemala I responded to a request made of me by several friends, to give a solo concert of Spanish songs. The idea kept growing, and ended up including vignettes I’d written years ago about my eight years in Guatemala, photos from my time there, and raising funds to give to two organizations I worked with there, Peace Brigades International and FAMDEGUA, the Families of the Disappeared of Guatemala. About 45 people attended and though I was incredibly nervous, they appreciated what I shared during the evening.
My life is pretty wonderful. I am aware that having been diagnosed with cancer two years ago my future remains uncertain, so I am grateful for the richness of my life, my loving partner and community, meaningful work and my continued good health.
Charlie’s Personal News
It’s been a bittersweet time marked by the passing of wonderful friends. Shortly after we returned from the Journey of Hope a great crowd gathered in New York City for Toshi Seeger’s Memorial service. At the same time, a mile or so away, we were setting up for a concert to remember & honor Jon Fromer
Jon’s wife, Mary, flew in from San Francisco and Pat & sandy of emma’s revolution welcomed her with open arms.
Other performers there to remember Jon and sing his songs were Anne Feeney, Colleen Kattau, Bev Grant, Steve Deasy and, in the striped tunics, the Washington DC Labor Chorus.
Not shown is Rick Burkhardt, who once again joined me for my annual People’s Voice Café Concert in December:
It wasn’t long before we had to mourn the passing of the musical father of us all, Pete Seeger.
In the months that followed I’ve never been more aware of Pete’s presence. People are so eager to sing his songs, organizers so generous in creating commemorative events, always singing, always singing. At a tribute to Pete in New York City I was asked to sing and wrote a song for the occasion:
SPOON OF SAND © 2014 Charlie King, Pied Asp Music, BMI
CHORUS: Spoon of sand can tip the balance
Drops of water turn a mill
Way out here over the rainbow
Someone’s standing, singing still
You weathered the storm, you finished the race
We see by the weary smile upon your face
You’ve stumbled and risen, you sang up the dawn
You kindled the fire, you carried the torch, you’re passing it on.
Dark clouds on the mountain, dead fish on the shore
The bottom line butchers The vultures of war
You turn & you face them, and when push comes to shove
Somehow you believe hate has to surrender surrounded by love.
You charted the waters, saw the river run clear
You raised the sail when we thought the journey would end in despair
At the darkest hour, on the edge of the dawn
You caught the first light and gave us the vision to carry it on
Pete Seeger Presente!
Karen mentioned our trip to Vieques. It was quite the adventure! We had heard of Vieques for years and of their struggle (from 1941 to 2003) to stop the U.S. Navy from using their beautiful island as a target for bombing, strafing and amphibious assaults. Although the Navy has left the island, the ordinance remains
Still we were able to enjoy so many things there. Beautiful sunsets on Esperanza Beach
which was marked each day by the arrival of a fine local busker.
We sang duet harmonies to old standards while she played cello and sang scat!
When the sun set and the moon waned we went out in kayaks onto the bioluminescent bay
to glide along amidst eerily glowing micro-organisms.
We found a spot on the beach to head to each morning that was perfect for us – sun on the beach for Karen and shade beneath the palms for me.
Here’s a shot of the happy couple in front of the 300 year old Tree of Life:
The big event for February was the birth of our second granddaughter, Serafina Sofia. I had been touring in Arizona and Karen had been working from home but we met in Louisville the day after Serafina was born. Here she is, enjoying the attentions of her big sister and loving mom:
As mentioned above, Karen organized a terrific gathering of Western Mass. folks for a concert to celebrate my 50 years performing and 40 writing songs. One of the wonderful parts was looking out and seeing so many singers I’ve been performing with over the years – Bright Morning Star members, Duopalooza partners, Haley House mystery guests , folk festival fellow travelers and Peace Vigil partners.
Court Dorsey, Cheryl Fox, Rick Burkhardt, Sue Kranz, Ben Tousley, Karen, Annie Hassett, Pat & Tex LaMountain, Tom Juravich and Teresa Healy all joined me on stage for an encore.
I’m a lucky guy - Karen lets me tag along on some of her international adventures. On our Quebec jaunt not only did I get to meet Fernando & his partner Christine but we made two new friends, Louis and Elise. They are a writer/singer partnership and the most gracious of hosts. Our first night in Quebec, sight unseen, they invited us to their home for a lavish dinner and an evening of song and conversation.
Louis & Elise sing in the choir on the Abenaki Indian Reserve and invited us to do a guest song so we led all in singing Pete’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”
It worked surprisingly well in a French-speaking congregation.
One more occasion for remembering Pete was the annual retreat of AFM Local 1000. John McCutcheon, Spook Handy and me were invited to share our stories about Pete & sing some of his songs to our fellow unionists. A couple dozen made it out to the Highlander Center in New Market TN for the event, a chance to see old friends and make some new ones.
And finally, a chance to brag on the women in my family. While Jamie & Jessica were expanding their family & preparing to move into a new home in Louisville, Nell has been dancing up a storm in New Haven CT.
She is very active in the “ambidancetrous” swing & blues dance community, an avid dancer, instructor & DJ. She’ll be presenting a dance workshop at the Summer Gathering of the People’s Music Network, an event she’s been attending all her life. Like her brother Jamie, she’s about to become a first time home owner. Go Nell!
Nell’s cousin Cassie King is no slouch in the dance department
and has added competitive ball room dancing to her theatrical performances, all on top of a demanding job in fashion design. Last but not least, Cassie’s sister Marissa, graduating this year from SUNY New Paltz has delighted us for four years with her outstanding play on the varsity volleyball team. She holds several school records ion her position as setter and was selected this year as the Female Athlete of the Year for SUNY New Paltz. We’re very proud!
Posted: to General News on Mon, Jun 2, 2014
Updated: Wed, Jun 4, 2014
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