Archive for the ‘Oysterville House Concerts’ Category

Welcome! and btw, please don’t flush…

Monday, January 16th, 2023

The Skamokawa Swamp Opera:      Andrew Emlen, Kyleen Austin, Wren Hendricks, Erik Friend

In my mind, it was only twenty minutes until the musicians and thirty guests were scheduled to arrive for yesterday’s House Concert.  But it may have been more like ten miutes… or forty.  No matter.  Plumbers don’t work on Sunday and, suddenly, there was a massive leak under the house.

Andrew Emlen

I heard a strange noise behind a bookcase in the East Room.  Whooooosh.  Faint but steady.  Almost like fire.  Or water.  No outward evidence of anything amiss.  I called and asked if Tucker could come listen.  We were both mystified but Tucker finally decided it was water and asked f or a flashlight and the location of the closest access to the crawl space under the house.

It was only a minute or two before he confirmed:  Big puddle under the East Room; insulation hanging down; leaking pipe.  Quick as a wink, I pulled the plug to our pump:  no pump: no water pressure: no water… period.  No cool sips for thirsty singers, no hand-washing before or after our pot-luck meal, and most worrisome… no flushing.

Erik Friend

I left multiple messages for the plumber.  (Fingers crossed for a response today.)  Thank goodness for the stash of bottled water in the pantry; I  placed several bottles in each of the crucial places.  Carol brought over packets of alcohol wipes and… ready, set, go!

When everyone was seated, my “welcome-to-our-house-concert” included the news.  The response was as you would expect from folks used to power outages and iffy rural water companies — smiles and sympathy.  And more than a few nodded sagely and murmured “Mrs. Crouch.” I surely hope they weren’t right about that.  There are way too many possibilities for ghostly mischief in this old 154-year-old house.

The Skamokawa Swamp Opera, January 15, 2023

But whatever worries any of us had disappeared with the  Skamokawa Swamp Opera’s very first song — “Sheriff’s Report in the Wahkiakum Eagle.”  Immediately, our adventures in country living — broken pipes and all — were put in familiar perspective.   And for those of us who turn first to the “Dispatch Reports” in our own Chinook Observer.” we felt a kinship with the band right from the get-go!  You were fabulous as always, Andrew, Kyleen, Wren, and Erik!   Thank you!


Windows and Lawns and Music Oh My!

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Mark and the Seed Broadcaster

How does friendship happen?  When you think you’re merely a groupie and then get to be a host and suddenly the music becomes secondary — almost! — you suddenly realize.  We’re friends!  How could that be?  Why ever would they choose us as friends?


The Rose City Mixed Quartet was here this weekend.  They came first because Carol W. booked them to do the music for the final Vespers of the 2019 season.  They would stay here as they have always done in the past.  And we would host a Saturday evening House Concert.


And then, before you could even blink an eye, they said they wanted to be here “to help.”  And help they did!  They washed ALL of our windows inside and out.  They worked on our terrible, horrible, no good lawn — thatching, sowing, top-soiling, and watering.  They vacuumed with a much-better-than-ours vacuum cleaner that Dale’s mother sent with her regards.  (She’s in an assisted living place now and  has no use for it.)  They got rid of every cobweb in every corner of every ceiling and dusted the tops of picture frames I can’t even reach, much less see.

Cameron on the Cobweb-Hunt

Besides all that — they brought all the food for all the meals, Friday night through Sunday noon.  They brought sleeping bags which they put atop our beds so they wouldn’t leave dirty linens behind.  They even brought their own towels.  They left NO footprint in this house — except for the left-over food which is neatly packaged in our refrigerator or freezer.

Friendship doesn’t get better than that!  How do we ever reciprocate?  There is no adequate response to that question so it was left unspoken.  And that may be what true friendship is all about…  I can only hope that we can pay it forward somehow.

All My Favorites!

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Rose City Mixed Quartet

The “kids” blew in yesterday afternoon — car laden with food and clothes and printed programs and who knows what all.  Not actually our children, you understand.  In fact one or two of them might be closer in age to us than are our actual kids.  But never mind!  We would adopt the Rose City Mixed Quartet anytime!

They are in Oysterville to do Vespers on Sunday.  They are at our house to “help” us get ready for Our Grand Affair and, “by the way, while they’re at it, we could do a House Concert Saturday Night.”  (If you didn’t get the memo and would like to come, call me or drop me an email before one or two today.)

Friday Night: Animal Crackers and Chocolate Hummus

They gave me a sneak peak of this evening’s concert.  OMG!!  Twenty-one numbers and among them all of my favorites including “Little Red Riding Hood,”  “Java Jive,” and “Short People” (yes! even that one becomes a favorite when the RCMQ sings it!)  And… printed programs!!!  How spiffy is that!

Meanwhile… today’s project is the lawn — those 41+ grass-less areas left by rampaging moles and the huge patch of “scorched earth” left after an ambitious thatching project that Nyel was unable to complete a year or two ago.  I have the grass seed. I have the top soil.  But the enterprise has been on hold for the last month for lack of muscle and energy on my part.  RCMQ to the rescue!!!

And, tomorrow?  It’s time to spread ammonium sulfate once again — that “magic” nutrient that puts nitrogen in the lawn and turns it green, green, green!  Or maybe that will happen today, too.  Plus, they are on a window-washing mission.  And who knows what all else.

So, I ask you, who wouldn’t want to adopt this fun and energetic group?  We are the luckiest old folks around!  And we will be the first to say so!


Scott + Holly = Musical Magic in Oysterville

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Holly Reeves and Scott Cossu in Oysterville

Scott Cossu is known as “the grandfather of New Age Music.”  Holly Reeves is the principal cellist with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.  Playing together they are pure magic, or so was the collective opinion of their Oysterville House Concert audience last evening.

Their program was eclectic to say the least and, though I am no music expert – not by a long shot – I think it transcended the “New Age” category by centuries.  Literally.  As Scott said at the conclusion of the concert, “When else have you heard pieces from the 13th  century, Jelly Roll Morton, and the Beatles all in the same program?”  Plus, of course, many of Scott’s own compositions and arrangements.

Scott was one of the first artists with Windham Hill records, widely recognized as ‘the’ New Age record label from its inception in 1976, though their artists often came from classical, jazz, folk, or bluegrass backgrounds.  Scott was no exception.  He was trained classically but, through a series of fortuitous circumstances, widened his horizons dramatically while he was still in college in the early 1970s.

First and foremost, he credits Hamza el Din, a teacher at the University of Ohio who offered a course in the music of Africa.  Hamza recommended that Scott should travel “out west” to study Ethnomusicology (World Music) at the University of Washington.  Upon hearing that Scott had studied with Hamza, he was accepted immediately and his out of state tuition was waived. Scott spent the next two years learning the music of Thailand, Sudan, Korea, China, Romania and Ecuador. Scott remained friends with Hamza until Hamza’s death, in 2006.  And… the rest is history, as they say.

This was the third House Concert (or the fourth?) Scott has done here but it was the first time Holly Reeves had accompanied him.  What a perfect combination!  Holly, also, classically trained has toured extensively, performing in Canada, Costa Rica, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, and most recently, Italy. She is also a long-time member of the Tacoma based chamber orchestra, Northwest Sinfonietta and maintains a busy private studio.

Scott delights in saying they met last May lifting weights at the gym.  We (and thirty of our friends and neighbors) are delighted that they did!

A Saturday in 2/4 Time!

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Helen and Cameron

All of a sudden, yesterday became doubly brighter – despite the rain!  Cameron Griffith (soprano) and Helen Dietz (alto), two members of our all-time-favorite quartette, came calling.  They were in Astoria for last night’s performance by the Portland Symphonic Choir at the Liberty Theater.

The night before Cameron had written:  I know this is short notice but Helen and I are singing in Astoria for the music festival. We must be there by 11:00 am for rehearsal and the performance isn’t until 7:30 and we are on the second half. Could we come for a visit and a rest?

All Four

You bet!  We were so pleased they put us in their busy loop!  Usually (but not always) we see Helen and Cameron as two of the four Rose City Mixed Quartet.  The group has been coming to Oysterville since 2007 – usually each year, either for a House Concert or to perform at Vespers or, once, for the funeral of our neighbor Carol Nordquist.  On those occasions, of course, Mark Peterson (bass) plus Dale Weber (tenor) make four!

We first met (actually it was a ‘pick-up’) outside the (of all places!) Liberty Theater back in 2005.  We were among a group huddled outside in the rain waiting for the theater to open when the four of them stepped up and began to sing!  Afterwards, I approached them and asked, “Do you ever do House Concerts?  Would you consider coming to Oysterville?”  And the rest is history…so to speak.

Enroute to Oysterville, 2016

We’ve ‘entertained’ them separately in Oysterville; they have more than reciprocated in Portland.  One or more or all of the four have ferried us to the airport, provided overnight accommodations, serenaded Nyel at the hospital, invited us to birthday celebrations and on and on.  Yesterday’s visit by the two distaff members of the group was an unexpected delight!

The entire group will be here in August on “Regatta Weekend” when they will be the music part of our Oysterville Music Vespers!  But… maybe we’ll see them individually or severally between now and then.  You never know with the RCMQ!

Hugs Across the River and Back

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

The Liberty Theater, Astoria

“The world is too much with us, late and soon…”  Those familiar words of William Wordsworth’s, written in 1802 have been rattling around in my head these past weeks and months.  Not quite in the sense that Wordsworth wrote them, though.  His sonnet criticizes the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being overly absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature – a situation he considered endangering our humanity and spirituality.

Although I say “amen” to that viewpoint, my own take on the world right now is that it is conspiring to overtake me and my honeybunch, personally, in accidents and illnesses and dire, almost insurmountable disorder.  When that happens, one tends to lose sight of the bigger picture – never a happy or healthy happenstance.

Israel Nebeker

So… thank goodness for friends!  Right now, right when we need them, folks seem to be contacting us from every corner inviting, reminding, urging…  It’s the Astoria Music Festival and, though I hate to say it, were it not for our friends, it would have gone right by us!  We would probably have continued wallowing in our own little sea of troubles, oblivious to the joyous possibilities just an hour away.  For this, for everything, we are out of tune said Mr. Wordsworth.  Were it not for our friends, that could have been our story.

As sometimes happens, though, the fates merged yesterday when we received one phone call and two emails – all from disparate people/locations – focusing our attention back to the world of music that has arrived right at our doorstep.  First our friend Paul Brent in Seaside called inviting us to “Beethoven and Blue Jeans featuring Israel Nebeker” at the Liberty Theater next Thursday night!  Thank you and yes!!

Aaron Larget-Caplan

Later, an email from classical guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan, a friend and Oysterville House Concert performer, reminding us of his June 23rd performance at Clatsop College and a gig the following night at the Performing Arts Center in Long Beach.  The latter date was already on our calendar (for a wonder!) so I wrote and assured Aaron that we’d see him then!

And, finally, just before bedtime, a note from soprano Cameron Herbert that she and Helen Dietz (both of the Rose City Mixed Quartet, also House Concert performers) would be performing tonight at the Liberty with the Portland Symphonic Choir and could they come over for a visit between their 11 o’clock rehearsal and their 7:30 performance?  Oh boy and how!  She’ll be calling this morning to fine tune…

“The world is too much with us” has given way to “What a Difference a Day Makes” and I am rejoicing that Wordsworth’s gloomy words have suddenly been replaced by the upbeat voice of Dinah Washington.  And maybe Shakespeare too: “If music be the stuff of love…”  And wasn’t it Jackson Pollock who said “Love is friendship set to music”?

Well… there you have it!

Ode to A Petrified Clam

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

The Perfect Little Black Bag

The presentation made to Nyel and me by Double ‘J’ and the Boys at Sunday’s concert was unprecedented in oh! so many ways.  First of all, I don’t think any other musicians have ever done such a thing.  Thanking us, yes.  Profusely thanking us, yes.  But a gift?  The bar has definitely been raised!

And what a gift it was!  Actually, two gifts in three parts.  First: a black carryall emblazoned with the logo from The Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering – an event I’ve actually hankered to attend!  The bag is the perfect size for me – not too huge, with straps that fit over my shoulder and allow the bag to tuck right under my arm rather than hanging and banging at knee level.  (I’m sorta short.)  Plus, it has a large outside pocket, a net thingy maybe for a water bottle if I ever thought to carry one, and a metal ring for hanging stuff off of.  Plus, the top zips closed for security purposes.  I’ve claimed the bag part of the presentation for myself.

Petrified Clam, Texas Size

But wait!  Before I’d had a chance to fully register all of the above, Judy (with magician-like precision) extracted parts two and three of this never-ending gift – the front and back sides of a petrified clam!  Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!  Not unless you spend your winters in the wilds of Texas as Judy and Charlie do.  Apparently, they run across petrified items every once in a while.  “But finding matching halves is unusual!” Judy said.

I don’t know what that clam weighed when it was alive, back when Texas was under water and no one was around to brag about the size of things in the Lone Star State.  But now that minerals have replaced all the once living clam cells, the petrified version weighs fourteen ounces.  Almost a pound!  Perfect paper weights for Nyel’s desk!  If I knew how to write an ode (in keeping with the poetry piece of this gift), I would definitely commemorate this hefty clam.  Something like –

Petrified Clam Halves – 14 ounces worth!

Oh, huge and silent mollusk of so long ago,
Your sea birth unremarked by ancient mariners!
Overlooked by cowpokes, but not by yodeling Judy
Or by Charlie of the sharp snappy snake boots.
Welcome to our bayside home!  Can you smell the sea again?

Better yet… maybe Judy will write one of her inimitable songs!  I mean, how many songwriters have tackled a petrified clam?

Skamokawa Swamp Opera

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Skamokawa Swamp Opera

If you can’t quite wrap your head around the meaning of “swamp opera” and you aren’t sure how to pronounce Skamokawa… you should’ve been here.  Last night in our living room in Oysterville!  But wait!  You have another chance to see the exact same show.  Read on.

First of all, for those of you who don’t live nearby, according to Wikipedia Skamokawa (ska-MOCK-a-way) is an unincorporated community in Wahkiakum County.  Skamokawa is a Chinook term for smoke or fog on the water. Skamokawa rests on the banks of the Columbia River and on WA4.  The town includes a post office, restaurant, and general store, along with a nearby historical museum and covered bridge. It is a local center for kayaking and fishing.

Andrew Laying Down a Cello Track for New CD

Or to many of us Southwest Washington locals, Skamokawa is where Andrew Emlen lives (with his family on a small farm) and works (as a Kayak Guide and Roads Scholar Expert) and makes music as a composer, singer, and player of many, many instruments – cello, mandocello, banjo, guitar and  “Oh, darn.  I forgot my Jews Harp in F#,” he said at one point.  “Now that’s not a sentence you hear every day,” commented an audience member.

Andrew has a way of gathering other like-minded (serious, zany, talented, learned) musicians together and making music of infinite variety. His cohorts in the Swamp Opera are Kyleen Austin (guitarist, composer, and the opera connection), Erik Friend (multitalented percussionist, tenor, mandolin player) and Jillian Raye (banjo player, singer and dress-up princess extraordinaire). Their genre, according to their Face Book page, is Folk/Historical/Rock/Opera.  Last night we heard two operatic areas, a little bit of Motown hip-hop, some 19th century Voyageur songs and, not to forget some of local singer/songwriter Mary Garvey’s local history compositions.  A fabulous show!  We didn’t want it to end.

A Capella: “Going Down in the River to Pray”

But the good news is that on Sunday, February 5th, the SSO will be in Astoria at the Performing Arts Center “doing almost the exact same show,” according to Andrew.  Address:  588 16th Street.  Tickets are $15 at the door.  And the other good news: they have thirteen songs “in the can” says Andrew and it looks like an April release date for their new CD.  Stay tuned (as they say.)

Just What We Needed!

Monday, November 21st, 2016
Caolyn Cruso and Hammered Dulcimer

Carolyn Cruso and Hammered Dulcimer

Yesterday’s House Concert was just what we needed!  I really think I’m speaking for all of us who gathered to enjoy the music of Carolyn Cruso.  As she said at one point, “I think we are all pretty tired of talking about the election…” and so the closest she came to a mention of things ‘political’ was a song she had written in honor of the women of her grandmother’s generation who fought and won the battle for women’s suffrage.

Of course, I wasn’t privy to every conversation, so I can’t say with certainty that there were no references to recent news events.  But the mood of the crowd was cheerful and their interest seemed totally focused on Carolyn’s music and, especially, on her hammered dulcimer.  She shared great information with us about its history (going back 2,000 years to Persia), how the instrument has evolved, and its various names and configurations throughout the world.

Carolyh's Appreciative Audience

Carolyn’s Appreciative Audience

She also explained some of the technicalities – similarities to a piano, for instance, and she demonstrated how different types of ‘hammers’ change the sound and enhance the musical possibilities.  As is often the case, we had several musicians in the audience and they knew just how to phrase some of the questions that we were all wondering about.

Along those lines, at the break, singer-songwriter Fred Carter asked if he could take a closer look at her guitars – which she also played, but they didn’t receive quite the attention as did the hammered dulcimer.  “I don’t think I’ve ever met a musician with two Martins!” Fred said with a bit of awe in his voice.  In that moment, I couldn’t help thinking how much I don’t know and don’t see – about everything!

Multi-talented Carolyb Cruso

Multi-talented Carolyn Cruso

Later, after the guests had gone and Nyel, Carolyn, and I were putting the house back together, we talked about all the great questions people had and I thanked her for taking time to talk about her instruments and about her craft.  As it turns out, she has recently been doing a few gigs at Senior Living Centers      and she said they have been more like Continuing Education courses than her usual gigs.  The audiences (much like ours, last night) are made up of retired people, eager for an opportunity to learn as well as to be entertained.

“Yep!” I thought.  ‘That’s us!” And Carolyn was the perfect person to do both on a cold and drippy November evening!

One of us is the strong, silent type!

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Sydney and Nyel

What a fabulous birthday weekend I had! Parts were planned – friends arriving from afar, a House Concert here followed by a gathering of yet more friends for cake and coffee; even a group dinner party on Friday evening given by a friend across the river. But, as if all of that weren’t enough, Nyel pulled off a surprise party on Saturday night complete with food, drink, 80 long-stemmed red roses, and a houseful of friends from past and present! It has taken me two days to recover enough to return to this blog!

People usually describe Nyel as “the strong, silent type.” Neither he nor I would disagree with that portrayal – especially when the two of us are together. I’m considered the ‘social one’ and Nyel appears to just ‘go along with me.’ But, truth to tell, he almost always has the last word about things and, if the occasion demands, can (and did!) plan a surprise and pull it off perfectly. In fact, probably those strong, silent genes helped a lot.

Rose City Mixed Quartet

Rose City Mixed Quartet

In addition to his silence about that surprise party, he said not a word about the gift from Martie and Steve of their Oysterville Guest House as the two-day quarters for the Rose City Mixed Quartet. I was dumbfounded when, at the conclusion of the Saturday night ‘Surprise!’ they put on their coats and headed out the door. I thought that they were staying here ‘as usual’ when they do a Sunday afternoon House Concert! Encore Surprise!!

Another Surprise!

Another Surprise!

And, even at the House Concert there was a surprise. Phil Allen came up to me during intermission and handed me a piece of paper. I recognized the Archway Theater’s “Hamlet” logo and saw my son Charlie’s handwriting: “Happy Birthday, Mom! Charlie.” And I simply could not connect the dots. It seems that Phil had read my blog about Charlie not being able to come up for my 80th because he is performing in L.A. in “Hamlet.” Phil was going to be in L.A. visiting his daughter. They got tickets, went to the show, went backstage to meet Charlie and voilà!! A souvenir program with the signature of Polonius, a.k.a.  Charles Morgan Howell, IV! I was blown away!

Even yesterday the surprises weren’t over. The RCMQ and our houseguests came for breakfast and then, in a way-over-the-top gesture, put the house back together. That included moving every piece of furniture to vacuum under and behind, topping off the water in a dozen vases of flowers, doing a load of dishes. All wrapped up by being treated to lunch at the Roo!

My recovery is still in progress… and I’m continuing to cards and discover presents left in the nooks and crannies.  Eighty Shades of Party!