Top Ten Raison D'Etre Experiences in 2010
It's that time of year when everyone takes inventory of the big news stories for the year and blogs their choices for the best books and albums. There's even a segment on most news programs about who left us this year. But this will be the only list of the most enriching experiences for three women who live to sing together. We could compile a list of the most draining experiences, too, but we'd really prefer to focus on the blessings.
10. Party Like it's 1949!
One of the on-going delights in our musical life is performing for Creative Aging Cincinnati. While many of our contemporaries in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area also perform for the hundreds of senior facilities in our area, we feel that these shows strengthen us musically and spiritually. While we've had a swing alter-ego called the Swing Canaries since 1993, performing frequently for folks who know the great tunes of that Era forces us to hone our chops. As in if you're singing for people who actually heard the Andrews Sisters, by golly, you'd better bring it.
And because we do Swing Canaries more often now, we decided to improve the show with new(to us) tunes and arrangements. This year we added "Bie Mir Bist Du Schoen" and our own arrangement of "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" where Violet Rae plays her bari uke. And as Dan Fogelberg would say, "the audience is heavenly."
We've expanded our Creative Aging offerings to three shows as a trio or duo:
Swing Canaries, Sister Acts, and Songs of the Old West.
If you'd like to help Creative Aging continue to provide stimulation and involvement for their clients, they welcome contributions:
9. I Want to Go to the Ballgame
Speaking of swing, Raison D'Etre had the wonderful opportunity to work on a vintage baseball song for the upcoming documentary, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," a Sarah Knight film. Sarah did the documentary, "Hot Flash" about the feisty trio, Saffire: the Uppity Blues Women. "Diamonds" is her project about the only woman groundskeeper in major league baseball. Roberta looked for a vintage baseball tune during the summer that she thought would convert to a swing arrangement a la Andrews Sisters. Womensway staff researched the song and set up a meeting with the Jump 'n Jive Show Band. Arranger and musician, Jim Pelz came up with a swingin' chart. And the end result is that Raison D'Etre delivered a final mix to Sarah Knight of both an acoustic version and a big band version of the song. Several months, two studios, and lots of community cooperation later. We look forward to the film's debut.
8. Git Along Little Dogies.
Our third year of playing at The Old West Festival turned out to be an every week gig. We originally agreed to our usual stint of three weekends, but were soon pressed into weekly service because of a cancellation. This would become a theme in our booking year, as I'll explain soon. Sometimes just being ready and saying yes pays off.
Being there every week helped us meet so many more of the street cast people (who are a merry bunch.) If you haven't been to the Old West Festival yet, it is one of the most family friendly attractions in our area run by some community-minded people who truly love what they are doing. There's a replica of Dodge City, horse shows, theme weekends where you are encouraged to play dress up, lots of music from the period, vintage baseball games, medicine shows, saloon shows featuring some melodrama and some really fun can-can girls, wagon and train rides, cowboy church, and the big hit of the day, gunfights. And awesome barbeque.
Hope to be there next year:
7. Swing Canaries Go Public
Since 1993, we have performed our Swing Canaries set for museums, military reunions, Veteran's Day events, and Creative Aging. However, this year we received our first call from a summer concert series wanting to book us for their Friday night outdoor event in Frankfort, KY. We were inspired to polish up our new songs for the occasion. Highlights from that concert: several Asian students jitter-bugged to "Boogie Woogie,"our stage was located on the Old Capitol lawn we saw a friend from Morehead at the concert who also took some great photos, we ate at the Coffeetree and said hi to its darling owners, Mary and Walt, Roberta ran into former students, and we played for thousands of people enjoying a perfect summer night.
6. World Equestrian Games--the Kentucky Experience Stage: a Tough Choice
We were honored to be chosen for the Kentucky Experience roster of artists selected by the tourism regions of our state to possibly perform at the World Equestrian Games in September and October. However, as the time for the games drew near, we received word that they did not have a stage appearance slot available for us. We were kind of disappointed, but realized that we were booked every weekend at the Old West Festival anyway, so it probably wouldn't have worked out. Then, a week later someone was unavailable to fill their offered slot, so we were ready and said yes. Remember that theme I mentioned?
The honor was a bit tarnished by the fact that many of our friends dropped out of the WEG when they discovered that Alliance Coal was a sponsor for the Kentucky Experience Pavilion. We strongly felt that to drop out would harm our friends at the Kentucky Arts Council who were doing most of the leg work for scheduling and running the stage. So, we performed and sang Vickie's song about coal and her family's home place, "Another Train." The acts who withdrew went on to perform a concert together at Memorial Hall in Lexington that featured Wendell Berry. I still feel that we did what we had to do. Some things are just not black and white.
5. Dog Days of Summer Art Fair in Rabbit Hash--We Become Fine Art
Since Raison D'Etre used to pitch a family crafts tent at the Appalachian Festival in Cincinnati, we actually own a 10x10 crafter's tent. Once a year, Roberta gets the hankering to drag it out to an Arts Fair. Since Rabbit Hash started a new Arts Fair and invited us to submit an application, we did so. However, the plot thickened when they asked if we wanted to play at the Festival. So, we borrowed Womensway's much simpler EZ-up and hit the road. The well-attended two-day festival was lots of fun. And we'll probably do it again.
But the biggest hoot was while Violet Rae, Vickie and I were using the booth time to rehearse our Old West set. A photographer came by and shot a photo. She enjoyed it so much, that she framed it for her Art Opening at the Rabbit Hash Historical Society. I made Gary take me to Old Timer's Day on our vacation so I could see us hanging in the gallery. If you want to see the photo, it's up on Redbubble by the fabulous Jeanne Sheridan who is a rockin' diva and a great photographer now living in Rabbit Hash.
4. Playin' Favorites Top Ten Features Three Raison D'Etre Videos
One of the best experiences for us this year was the launch of Mudbrick Media's music video site in January. They went from having maybe 8 or 10 artists to a full catalogue of videos featuring the likes of Happy Traum, Roy Bookbinder, Mack Bailey(of the Limelighters) and Rachel Levy, and Rhonda Hart with still more videos being added as we speak. Since September, Mudbrick has conducted an online contest for its catalogue entitled "Playin' Favorites." One of our videos has been in the top ten every week. We hope you will check them out at
3. Hospice Hoedown and Benefit
While this was not one of the most joyous projects we took part in, it certainly involved the most love. Our good friend and former bandmate, Dan'l Wilson, fell very ill during November and was told he had weeks to live. What he chose to do with his remaining time was awesome. He told his daughter, Betsy, that he wanted to go home to his cabin and make music. So, for two Saturdays and one Sunday in November, that's what he did. His lifelong friend, Don Clare invited all the musicians who had crossed Dan's path and what transpired was a beautiful sprawling jam that showed just how much Dan's life affected others. On November 21, Chip Coburn and Norm Heck organized a benefit at Peecox II in Independence, KY where most of the bands Danny was in and some he influenced came to pay tribute to Dan'l and raise funds for his medical bills. Raison D'Etre was honored to play a set at this event along with Don Clare, Cash Ownly and the Badaires, The Downtown County Band, Crosstie,, Foxfire Reunion, and Kentucky Myle. And we were even more honored to play Danny's beautiful song "Brown River" for him in person.
Dan'l left us on December 7, but his music and the love surrounding him will never leave. We are enriched by knowing him.
2. Airplay, airplay, airplay!
Raison D'Etre songs have been played in Australia, Israel, Great Britain, and the Netherlands on some fabulous folk radio shows. We've also enjoyed a constant internet radio presence on Women of Substance Radio theme and folk shows!
1. SERFA Builds Community!
Probably one of the best experiences of our year was attending Southeast Region Folk Aliiance's 3rd Annual Conference in the Ozarks. We went last year and had a blast meeting folkies in our private showcases and performing for the Fast Pitch Showcase.
This year we had an official showcase on Thursday night, had our Old Kentucky Home showcase in our cabin, got to showcase for the Texas Sugarbaby cabin, were asked to take part in a harmony workshop with the likes of Still on the Hill, and Max & Ruth Bloomquist, experienced workshops by Michael Jonathan, Si Kahn, Jane Toohey, Kari Bedford, Ben Bedford, Jon Vezner, Kim Richardson, Jack Williams, Betty Frederickson and Denise Williams, and got to hang with Friction Farm,Kari Estrin, Clarke Buehling,Hannah's Whirl, Andy Cohen, Molly Andrews, Tom Verdot, and Clint Alphin. The showcases were magical! Thanks to Kari Estrin for her vision and leadership.
If you don't know about SERFA and live in the Southeast, please check them out at
Next conference is at Montreat in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, May 19-21.
Happy New Year!
Raise on, and don't defer those dreams.