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Nora's News

 

July/August 2001


The Road to the Idea, and the Beer

Tanz & Folk Fest program coverI'm gonna stuff these summer months together into one newsletter. I'm also gonna stuff my suitcase. Yea, I'm heading out, packin' up my dirndls.... I'm off for Germany.
   
One of my favorite annual adventures is to go to Rudolstadt, Germany where I get a 3 day, world music education at the Tanz & FolkFest held there each year on the first weekend of July. 
   
Rudolstadt is a small, medieval town situated about one hour south of Weimar which hosts the largest world music festival in Germany. The streets are winding and cobble stoned with colorful shops and cafes along every street. The bright green town hall and outdoor restaurants frame the main square. A castle sits up on the hilltop. 
   
I first went to Rudolstadt in 1997. I returned in 1998 with the Vanaver Caravan when we were invited to come and do a variety of performances and workshops on Woody. I've been going back ever since. 
   
The most strikingly different aspect of this three day World Dance and Music festival is that it actually takes place right smack dab in the middle of this lovely town. Musicians and their audiences are not herded off to some far off meadow to have their private (is music immoral?) fun. Quite the opposite. The festival takes place within the main square and branches off to other indoor and outdoor stages located throughout and
beyond the town center. Every available space is used; the schools, the parks, the halls, even the old church. The castle is set up with a large stage for some of the "bigger" acts.  About 20 stages with performances are going on simultaneously throughout the day and night. You can walk around, stopping along the way for a bratwurst and beer, and catch something you've never seen or heard before in your life. Both the town's inhabitants and government officials alike, welcome it! Everyone seems to love the idea that it's there. I'm struck by this unfamiliar sensation of feeling.... welcomed!!!!

My next impression is that the music really is world music!  Artists are chosen based on where they stand, in their culture. In other words, it's not based on likability, palatability or dance-beat-ability. For an American, that's really something new. More often than not, you'll hear voices and instruments that are really weird to our ears, languages we don't understand, rhythms we don't get and don't even know how to dance to!!!  It takes some patience and perserverence to learn how to listen. They don't always make it easy for us. No spoon-feeding here! 
   
Speaking of spoon-feeding, that takes me to my next impression, the food.  Or, rather more precisely, the beer!!!
   
Surprising to us Americans, good beers and wines are equally part of a festival experience. The local dark beer, Kostritzer, is sold in carts throughout the streets in real beer glasses! (How come they don't have insurance issues about glass mugs?) So are plenty of local wines, cheeses, foods and handicrafts. You might easily find yourself sitting at a restaurant with the town's mayor and his family, sharing a couple of mugs while enjoying the music of a Rumanian gypsy band, a Korean orchestra, a Polish diva, an Indian raga, a Senegalese blues master, a Cuban dance band or musicians from Denmark, Alaska, Siberia. With all this alcohol around, how come there are no wild orgies of drunkenness or disorderly conduct here? Just grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, students, hippies and officials, all out together enjoying a refreshing, tall glass while the youngsters lick their ice cream cones. About 60,000 of them come to Rudolstadt for this festival. (60,000?? How come there's no policemen patrolling the streets or lining the stages?)
   
Okay, okay..... So I didn't just start going to Rudolstadt for the love of music! I confess. I went there because my husband, Michael Kleff, was one of the co-founders of the festival and works there as MC hosting many of the stages as well as doing radio broadcasts of the shows. He dragged me there the first time. But now I'm hooked. And I might also admit, humbled by what I hear and see there. It's not just the music. It's the whole package. The music, the dance, the town, the people, the politics, the beer.... it all fits together seamlessly.
   
For an American, that's what's so new to me. I'm used to being torn into pieces. Music vs. morality vs. government vs. alcohol vs. religion vs. authenticity vs. popularity, etc. etc. etc. Here, I feel whole. All of me enjoys all of this.
   
Additionally, our national music industry makes us believe that there's only one place where it's "happening". Here! And we begin to define talent by what's "happening". And we confuse having the largest music industry with having the largest pool of talent.

I've learned that this equation doesn't add up. And if we fall for this, we could actually lose our talents. We could stop growing, creatively.  Occasionally, we must be adventurous and leave our shores, or we'll never realize how huge this world of music really is. How much creativity and talent is out there. And we'll never even just begin to wonder how we fit in.
   
"So," you might be wondering, "What the hell does this have to do with Woody Guthrie?"  Actually, a lot. 
   
Woody learned everything by traveling the roads. He wrote down what he saw along the highways, the train ways, the sea ways and the air ways. Like troubadours from all times, the road was the way; to learn, to tell, to meet, to connect ideas. Now more than ever, our roads reach out globally to carry the news, the stories, the ideas, the message. But all those stories, all that news, all those messages depend on who's traveling those roads.  (McDonalds? IBM? You?)
   
I've also learned that to many people throughout the world, Woody Guthrie is not only a man. He is an Idea. A big Idea. There are a lot of similar souls that link up with Woody's ideas all around the world. There are "Woody Guthries" and "Bob Dylans" and "Bruce Springsteens" in every language, in every color and nationality. Each country has its beloved musicians and songwriters who represent the exact ideas and excite the same passions that Woody and Bob and Bruce might do to us, as Americans. I"ve been to concerts where musicians from all over the world are honored as their cultural icons.  I've felt and heard the sounds of passionate screams and applause from audiences who love their music, their musicians and what they stand for. More often than not, I'm the odd man out, the only one in the audience who doesn't know how revered the performer is nor why. I've had to have things explained to me very patiently
   
(".... you see, there's this country...."),
Spelled out for me,
("..... and they play this instrument called the...."),
Taught to me,
(".... and this singer is considered the finest....").
   
I often feel terribly embarrassed. And I suppose, that's why I go. That,and the beer....Thankfully, at the Rudolstadt Tanz & FolkFest you can drink your embarrassment down with some really good, dark Kostritzer beer. And you'll not only be sitting with a great beer, you'll be sitting with a great Idea.
   
Woody was one of many people who had it.

Now, just because I had to marry a German guy to find all this out, doesn't mean you have to! You can stay single and go there! Or you can go with your spouse or soul mate. Oh hell, just visit their web site with last night's lover! But one way or another, one day or another, with or without anyone, you should try to get there. I know of at least two other Americans who will be there this year, Taj Mahal and Matt Darriau (Klezmatics).

So, one last push and my bag's closed....umph!!!! (Man, those dirndls take up room....). I sure hope you get to hit a few roads this summer, too.
Prost!

Nora Frau Kleff Guthrie

*** If you want to know more about this Idea, read "Voice" in Pastures of Plenty by WG.
*** If you're going to be traveling in Europe this summer and want to get info on the festival check out: www.rudolstadt.de - Tanz & Folkfest


Other News from Germany:

There's a recent surge of interest and activity in Germany these days regarding Woody Guthrie. Seems a lot of people want to know more about him.  Joe Klein's biography Woody Guthrie: A Life is bing published in German to be release very soon.  One aspect of my work will be spending some time there this summer doing book signings, attending show, film festivals, etc.   If you're going to be traveling in Germany this summer and you would like to attend some of these events, here's a listing:

"Bound for Glory" was recently released under the title, Dies Land ist Mein Land.  The publisher, Edition Nautilus, is setting up a number of book signings in July and August.

Two man show - "A Musical Dust Bowl Story." Bert Drexler and Michael Hohnloser perform a two man musical show based on Joe Klein's biography, Woody Guthrie: A Life.

Stuttgart Premier - Wednesday, July 25th at 8:15 p.m.
Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Halle 3
Ulmerstrasse 241
Additional shows July 26 - 28th
Information: 011-49-711-402070

Frankfurt/Main Premier - Saturday, September 1st at 8:00 p.m.
Stalburg-Theater
Glauburgstrasse 80
Additional performances September 13 - 15th
Information: 011-49-69-2562744

Guthrie Film Night - Tuesday, July 31st (To Be Confirmed)
Cinema "Eiszeit"
Berlin-Kreuzberg

LOTS MORE SUMMER XTRAS:

In the USA...
OKEMAH, OKLAHOMA holds 4th Annual FREE WOODY GUTHRIE FESTIVAL!!! - JULY 11 - 15th
Okemah takes back it's son for five days of celebration.  Lots of the Guthrie family will once again be out there with many others performing. For details and schedules check their website:  www.woodyguthrie.com

S.O.S. (Save Our Sloop) Woody Guthrie
If you're in the Tri State area....
The Beacon Sloop Club is fixing up the Woody Guthrie Sloop so that you can get out on the Hudson River for a ride this summer.  The Sloop Club has lots of fun activities scheduled throughout the summer including some fund raising activities to help pay for the necessary renovations needed to get the Woody back on water.  These are a great bunch of people and could easily turn out to be your best friends.  If you've never
worked on a ship before and would like to get your hands involved in learning, volunteers are not only welcomed, but also taught!  To find out about sailing scedules, volunteering, answering the Woody S.O.S., contact them at: P.O. Box 527, Beacon, New York  12508.

Portland, OREGON - The Woody Guthrie Circle Garden dedication took place in May.

Looky here!!!   Here's what the new circle garden at the Bonneville Power Administration Headquarters in Portland, OR looks like.  Thanks to our dear friend Bill Murlin for the photos!  And a special thanks to the brilliant designers and artists who created this special place.

Woody Guthrie Circle Garden - photo by Bill Murlin
Woody Guthrie Circle Garden - photo by Bill Murlin
Woody Guthrie Circle Garden - photo by Bill Murlin
Woody Guthrie Circle Garden - photo by Bill Murlin   Woody Guthrie Circle Garden - photo by Bill Murlin

Daddy-O Daddy!!!
Rounder Records 8087
Frank Fuchs, Producer

Yeah man! Daddy-O is ready to come out this fall.  It's done... recorded... ba da beem ba da bum.  Here's the line up, 2 cuts each from eight of the hippest musicians around: Taj Mahal, Cissy Houston, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Billy Bragg and the Blokes, Syd Straw, Kim Wilson and Uncle Ramblin' Jack Elliott.  Includes a special bonus track from the Archives: a never before heard track of the original daddy-o himself,
Woody Guthrie reciting the lyrics to a new song he was working on in 1951, "Howdy Little Newlycome."

UNION LOVE JUICE Session with Rob Wasserman and Blues guitarist Chris Whitely.... "On the High Lonesome"

Chris Whitely just recorded a previously unreleased lyric with Rob Wasserman for Rob's upcoming CD Union Love Juice, Woody's diary writings.  Chris's take of "On the High Lonesome" is wild, impulsive, pissed, howling and sweaty.  Just perfect for the lyrics.  Seems we caught him just in time.  He said he was leaving the country the next day to live abroad!  Ruben Blades is scheduled to record the poem "I Say To You Woman and Man" with Rob in September for the same project.  (Let's hope he doesn't leave the next day.)

You got any Woody news?  Let us know!

 

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