Weave Me the Sunshine
The 2016 Northwest Autoharp Gathering
By Susan Wickett-Ford
Seventy-nine people attended our gathering July 28-31, in the rolling hills west of
Portland. Joining us at the Ananda Center in Gaston were harpers from Texas,
Minnesota, and British Columbia, to name a few. NWAG is the new incarnation of the
long-running Willamette Valley Autoharp Gathering, so there were many old friends.
Also newcomers – three of them funded by our new scholarship program – enjoying
their first immersion in the autoharp community, and their first exposure to world-class
performers and teachers. Drew Smith, Doug Pratt, Lucille Reilly and Jeanette
Sheeran were our headliners.
We kicked things off in a novel way: an opening celebration in the cafeteria
involving an icebreaker, a table-whacking, sit-down square dance, and a parade.
Assisted by the NWAG band playing When the Saints Go Marching In (what else?),
featuring a golf cart “float,” the amazing hula-hooping-while-harping talents of Joan
Liberman, and all the rest of us on kazoos, whistles, and percussion, we marched
down to the auditorium.
Once assembled, we were greeted by perennial emcee Mimi Geibel who kept us
giggling throughout the weekend with her performer introductions, which flirted
with the truth, but never quite married it. We learned about the nearly forty
workshops we had to choose from with names like “Diminished Expectations”
(Doug), “Painting with Brushes” (Lucille), “Tunes a La Modal” (Drew Smith), and
“Playing Well with Others” (Jeanette).
Throw in a bird walk, yoga, a community dance, open mic sessions, “Learning Trees”
(casual Q&A sessions), and two beautiful concerts, and we had a full weekend ahead.
From then on, our “parades” from the dorm to the meeting rooms were quieter,
lulled by the wind chimes and messages of peace tucked along the walkways. In
addition to serenity the Ananda community supplied comfortable rooms, delicious
and healthy meals, air-conditioned classrooms and an auditorium for concerts.
Jeanette (with husband Chris) performed on Friday night, followed by Doug Pratt.
Drew and Lucille took the stage Saturday. They were beautiful, impressive concerts.
The variety of styles, techniques, and song choices kept us amazed and delighted.
Participants had opportunities to share their talents at an afternoon open mic
session in the auditorium, and at the afterhours Teahouse of the August Moon. We
were alternately charmed, amused, and downright blown away by the voices and
tunes that came out of our weekend companions.
How did we ever find time to jam? But jam we did, formally and informally, beginner
and advanced, inside and out under the trees because the weather went easy on us
It was a gentle sunshine we could “weave,” when we gathered, exhausted but
inspired, Sunday morning for a song circle celebrating the legacy of Peter, Paul and
Mary. We sang our hearts out, especially Weave Me the Sunshine, which seemed to
capture the tapestry of learning and friendship we’d all been creating, woven with
the light of music.
Here’s what NWAG looks like! (Pictures thanks to Stu White.)
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