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Memorial Day Weekend Folk Music Camp, 2011

For this year’s U. Utah Phillips Memorial Camp Out, we return to Mark Levy’s place at Waterman Creek. This is a lovely site among the redwoods in Santa Cruz County on the way to Big Basin State Park—about an hour and a half from the Bay Area. We can have the usual campfire sings and jams— without the usual 10:00 p.m. curfew imposed by state parks. And this year we are eliminating advance registrations. Come make music and simply register when you arrive.


There are spaces throughout the 7.5 acres of woods for parking and tents, including two spaces where RVs can connect to electricity, but no other hookups. In case of inclement weather, we can use a heated shelter, which is 30 feet in diameter and has a roof and walls, for playing and singing.

Water is available. Bring food and regular camping equipment, including tables and chairs—also instruments. Please pay attention to the signs about disposing of trash. Portable toilets will be provided.


Friday, May 27, 2:00 p.m. to Monday, May 30, noon.

Work Party

We will organize a work party to help get the site ready. People who want to help with this can come as early as Wednesday and can camp free of charge for days they are helping. Contact Melissa Sarenac, phone (415) 647-1474, for more information. If you can come, please email Mark Levy at and let him know when you will arrive.

Registration & Rules

NEW! Register at camp—no more advance registration. Cost will be $8.00/night for each adult and $4.00/night for each child under 16. Babes-in-arms are free. Day use fee will be $5.00. It is not necessary to be a folk club member to attend. No pets are allowed and—as at all SFFMC camp-outs—no radios or TVs, and no beeping phones or electronics of any kind are allowed. RVs are OK.


If you need directions and a map, contact Melissa Sarenac or Ed Hilton, email: phone: (510) 523-6533.

Fold-in/Folk Sing April 24

The fold-in is at noon, Sunday, April 24, at the home of Marian Gade,

The more, the merrier. Help with the folknik, enjoy a meal afterwards, and make music. Bring a potluck dish and instruments.

Happy 35th Birthday, SF Free Folk Festival!

SFFMC’s wonderful, one-of-a-kind folk music and dance event is better than ever, June 25 - 26! This year we’ll be at the very inviting Presidio Middle School, 450 30th Ave, at Geary, San Francisco. There are lots of open spaces for jamming.

Tell your friends and help us get the word out! This is a totally (and we mean totally) community-run, all-volunteer festival. Prior years’ festivals have seen three separate stages for concerts and open-mics, special activities for families and kids, dance workshops and dances, and music workshops of all levels, led by experienced teachers from our local community and beyond.

Volunteer! We need a small army of about 200 volunteers to make the festival run smoothly. If you’re interested, contact Volunteering is always fun and opportunities are numerous and varied. Pre-festival (as in now), we need volunteers to help call people and organize. And it’s not all work and no play; volunteers have been known to get jam sessions going at instrument check, at the info desk, in the parking lot….

For more info, lists of performers and workshops, past years’ programs, and photos check out the festival website: You can also join the Festival’s Facebook group, San Francisco Free Folk Festival. See you at the Festival!

31 Years Larking about at Camp

The standard greeting when you arrive at Lark Camp is, “Welcome home!” For 31 years, Mendocino Woodlands has been the home of this tour-de-force of music camp-outs. Lark was founded by Mickie and Elizabeth Zekley, owners of Lark in the Morning world musical instrument shop & website, when it grew out of the annual music party that finally got too big for their house. Mickie and Elizabeth affectionately call Lark a “musical party with educational overtones,” and the breadth of world music that you can hear, play, dance to, sing or learn (often all at once) is breath-taking.

Workshops run all day, taught both by teachers hired by the camp and by participants who volunteer their expertise. Besides formal workshops, there are jams, sessions and circles around every corner, all day and night, and several dances every evening. Lark is known for its friendliness, inclusivity, lack of barrier between students and staff, and for the high quality of its music and dance.

The instructors and workshops are way too numerous to list but the themes of Lark’s three camps give a good example of the variety. Camp One: Ireland, British Isles, Greece, Eastern Europe, Sweden. Camp Two: South & North America, Spain, France, Swing. Camp Three: Middle Eastern Music, Africa, Drumming. A comprehensive list of instructors is on the website:

This year, Lark Camp runs July 29 - August 6 and registration is open for both full and half camp. Information on registration and the workshops and teachers, as well as photos, stories and links to YouTube videos (don't miss the silent Betty Boop cartoon with live orchestra), is all available on the Lark Camp website:

An Interview with Pete Seeger

(The following is excerpted pieces of an interview taken by David Kupfer in 2009. The interview in its entirety is at

I visited with [Pete] just before his 90th birthday in the spring of 2009 on a warm afternoon. The home he shares with his wife Toshi overlooks the Hudson River and Denny’s Point near Beacon, New York. Pete is an excellent historian and a wonderful storyteller.

David Kupfer: What is it about the power of a sing-along song?

Pete Seeger: There is something about participating; it is almost my religion. If the world is still here in 100 years, people will know the importance of participating, not just being spectators ….

Curiously enough, the people who are suspicious of songs have put their words down, so they also think there is something to the power of song. Plato is supposed to have said it is very dangerous to allow the wrong kind of music in the Republic. There is an old Arab story: when the king put the poet on his payroll, he cuts off the tongue of the poet. I know very well that the powers that be would like to control the music that the people listen to.

Herbert Hoover said to Rudy Vallee, who was a top singer in 1929, “Mr. Vallee, if you can sing a song that will make the American people forget the depression, I will give you a medal.” A lot of musicians would like to get that kind of medal. Bing Crosby had a hit record, “Wrap your troubles in dreams, and dream your troubles away.” That was how we were going to solve the depression in 1932.

DK: I never thought of those singers as propagandists.

PS: The exception proves the rule. A lefty named Yip Harburg got a musician named Jay Gorny to write a tune for him and wrote “Brother Can You Spare a Dime.” Yip got together in 1938 with Harold Arlen to make songs for the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz.” He said “Harold, get me a melody for the phrase ‘over the rainbow.’“ Arlen said “There's no rainbow in the Wizard of Oz; I have read the script.” “I’m putting it in,” said Yip.

When they got this great melody, the producer tried to cut it from the movie. “It slows up the opening,” he said. The two songwriters said, “this movie will not be made unless this song is in it.” They went on a two-man strike. They had hundreds of thousands of dollars going out every day, extras, scenery, cameramen. Finally Louis B. Mayer said, “Oh, let the boys have their way; let's get rolling.” So they won the strike.

DK: There is something magical about people singing together collectively, isn't there?

PS: I quote John Phillip Sousa frequently. He said, “What will happen to the American Voice now that the phonographic recording has been invented? Something is irretrievably lost when we are no longer in the presence of bodies making music. The nightingale's song is delightful because the nightingale gives it forth.”

DK: What is the most pronounced thing that you have seen that a song has been able to accomplish?

PS: The civil rights movement. Songs did a lot for unions, but the civil rights movement would not have succeeded if it hadn’t been for all those songs. They were sung in jails and in picket lines and parades. People hummed them when they were most beaten.

DK: How do you think folk music serves to influence and mold a culture?

PS: I think it helps reinforce your sense of history. An old song makes you think of times gone by. Then the idea that you can make up songs has taken over and I look upon us all as Woody’s children.