In the first half of 2004, Work o’ the Weavers (WotW) has enjoyed spirited responses from our audiences, several high-profile performances, and the release of our first CD.
Among the warmly received appearances was the concert to fête Bob Sherman’s 35th Anniversary of his ‘Woody’s Children’ radio program at Merkin Hall, together with Pete Seeger, Christine Lavin, Tom Chapin and friends. The feeling of the evening was so infectious that the audience wouldn’t let it end, breaking into a spontaneous combustion of ‘Goodnight Irene‘, compelling the performers to return to the stage to sing it with them. Our WotW Merkin performances that night make up nearly half of our new CD (see below).
WotW appeared not once, but twice at Paramus Picture Show (Paramus NJ). The response to our January 31st show was so affirming that we were invited back for May Day. The intimate 200-seat venue lends itself beautifully to the nature of the program, and will surely see WotW again in the near future.
On May 6, WotW joined Pete in NYC once again to celebrate the birthdays of two acronymical organizations, POCLAD (50th) and CIPA (10th). Here we lent support to Pete’s efforts on behalf of the idea of returning royalties from popular songs based on traditional or foreign tunes to their country of origin. A case in point is the song Wimoweh (Wi’Mbube), originally written by South African shepherd Solomon Linda and first sung by him in 1939 with his group, the Evening Birds. The Weavers had mild initial success with it in the ’50s, but it wasn’t until American lyricist George Weiss lent but 10 words in English to the tune (“In the jungle, etc.”) that it became a worldwide hit for the Tokens in 1961. Disney’s inclusion of it in The Lion King renewed its popularity in the ’90s. (Incredibly, Disney lawyers continue to stonewall, insisting that the two songs are unrelated. We await the court’s determination on that.) Alas, not a single dime earned from the use of Wimoweh has found its way to the heirs of Mr. Linda in Johnnesburg.
That is, until now. WotW is determined to make a small but meaningful statement by sending royalties from the sale of our initial pressing of 1000 CDs directly to the Linda family. We will continue that practice with all subsequent pressings.
Standing ovations and encores followed each of our programs at Coffee & Soul Coffeehouse (Greenfield MA), Temple Israel (Croton NY), The Guthrie Center (Great Barrington MA), Tribes Hill SummerFest (Valhalla NY), the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge MA), PACE (Easthampton MA), World Fellowship Center (Conway NH), and Camp Kinderland (Tolland MA), where campers aging from 5-18 surprised us by knowing—and singing along with—not only the choruses, but the verses as well to our entire repertoire. Can this be but a taste of how the Beatles must have felt?!
August 8th was a singular treat for us. The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville NY screened the Weavers’ film, Wasn’t That A Time?, followed by an interview with Weavers’ longtime manager and friend, Harold Leventhal, oft called “the fifth Weaver.” We then closed with a set of Weaverbilia. I remarked after our first song that it’s not likely we’d ever have a tougher act to follow. At the same time, it’s doubtful we’ll ever be any more inspired than we were that evening.
THE NEW CD
16 songs distilled from our performances at Merkin Hall and Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse in December, seasoned with a soupçon of supporting narrative, comprise the content of our first CD, released May 7th. Details and ordering information may be found on the Work o’ the Weavers marketplace page or more directly at www.worldwindcd.com. Highlights, for us particularly, are the appearances of Pete Seeger, to introduce us, and Fred Hellerman, who joins us onstage to close with Goodnight Irene. We’ve been extremely fortunate to enjoy the ongoing support and encouragement of these two of our musical heroes.
Incidentally, we’ll be appearing again with BOTH of them on November 13 at the Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse (Katonah NY), for ‘An Evening with Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger’, titled “How To Beat The Blacklist.” See our tour schedule for details.
And please visit our Tour Schedule from time to time for other performance updates. 2005 will be the 50th anniversary of the Weavers’ triumphant sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1955, returning to public performing after 3 years of shameful blacklisting. We will be dedicating our entire year to the commemoration of that event.
We hope to enjoy your company soon.
James, David, Martha & Mark