Ellen Harper – folk singer-songwriter, mother of a Grammy-winning musician Ben harper, and owner of the historic Folk Music Center in Claremont, Calif., has been around folk music his entire life.
She will share her fascinating memories of her childhood amidst the folk music scene with luminaries such as Bob dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete seeger when she visits The Braid (formerly Jewish Women’s Theater) for a unique Zoom event on Sunday, July 11 at 11:00 a.m. PT, 2:00 p.m. ET. In addition to giving viewers a preview of her new book, Always a Song: Singers, Songwriters, Sinners, and Saints, Harper will join award-winning moderator and author Lisa Rosenbaum for a free conversation that will reveal intimate information about famous musicians and folklorists that his family knew.
The program will also include a short dramatic performance adapted from Harper’s book, a montage of personal and behind-the-scenes photos accompanied by a darling song that Harper recorded with her son, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. Sunday Morning with The Braid with Ellen Harper is free, but The Braid is hoping viewers will consider choosing a virtual ticket from their website. For the registration link and more information on using Zoom, visit: the-braid.org/sunday.
Harper will not only share stories from her remarkable life with Zoom audiences, she will also discuss how her Jewish background shaped her, her unusual family, and others who have spearheaded the revival of American folk music. 1950s to 1970s. Raised in New England by a banjo and guitar mother who taught and performed with folk legends at the famous Hecht House in Boston, Harper experienced anti-Semitism as a child when his father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and fired as a public school teacher. Family friend Pete seeger suggested the family move to California where her father could use his skills in instrument repair and restoration to start a business. This business would one day become the Folk Music Center of Claremont, whose extraordinary collection of instruments, performance space and music school have attracted luminaries of folk and rock since its opening in 1958.
As a Jewish single mother raising three biracial sons in predominantly white Claremont, Harper has often faced difficult challenges. Playing, writing, and teaching folk music gave her the joy and comfort she needed to survive. When asked what it means to her today to maintain folk music, Harper said, “When people come together to sing, be it in a band, a church, a temple, a line of music. picketing, a protest march, a ukulele club or a salon – wherever voices are raised. together in song – it’s a revival of folk music. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate and carry on this tradition. Musicians cannot bring music to life for a second without music lovers.
Moderator Rosenbaum adds, “I have always been fascinated by the role Jews play on the American folk scene. They were songwriters and performers, as Leonard cohen, Bob dylan, Phil Ochs, and Simon and Garfunkel, and impresarios like Fred weintraub at the Bitter End or Bill graham in the East and West Fillmores. Jewish folklorists like Alan Lomax were at the forefront of recording and preserving traditional American folk music from many traditions. Rosenbaum was also personally interested in the story of Ellen Harper. “My own family’s experience during the McCarthy era is similar to that of Ellen Harper and as a person I also grew up adoring the folk musicians she knows I look forward to hearing more. ‘stories she shares in her deeply moving memories. “
Ronda Spinak, adds the artistic director of The Braid: “As a Jewish arts organization, we are delighted to spotlight a beloved musical genre that has also been so deeply influenced by Jewish writers and musicians. Ellen Harper’s journey has given her a unique take on the folk scene, from rural New England and Claremont, California to the White House. We are honored to present it to our audience. “
The Braid is the recipient of The Argonaut’s Best of the Westside 2020 “Best Live Theater Award” and The Santa Monica Daily Press Award for “Most Loved” performance. The Braid features stories, artwork, and other inspiring Jewish programs that highlight Jewish contributions to contemporary life. Now in its 13th season (bat mitzvah), The Braid’s salon-theater, comprised of original dramatic performances, each written on a specific theme, showcases the diverse and eclectic community of writers, artists and creators who celebrate the Jewish life, one story at a time.