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New Time for PFS Virtual Song Circle!

The Virtual Song Circle is going to start 30 minutes earlier, starting on Saturday October 10. Doors will open at 5:30, and music will start at 6:00 PM, Pacific time. This will help our East Coast participants get a half hour more music before their eyes shut, and maybe the whole thing will wind up earlier. When the time comes, just click on the picture to join the Virtual Song Circle.

Tell me more about Virtual Song Circles

VSC link

Flash! September-October Local Lore is out!

This edition of Local Lore is all about song-writing, and it's a great one. PFS members and others talk about the thrill and frustration of writing songs, and some give tips for how they manage to do that. It features articles by Avery Hill, Matt Meighan, Robert Owen, Bob Howard, David Hutchison and David Ingerson.  and short contributions from... well, the list is too long to include here. Don't miss this issue!

Thanks as always to the team that puts it together, including Editor and Designer Kim McLaughlin; Ruth Bolliger, David Ingerson for proofreading; and Jeannette Warner who mails them to you!

Local Lore is one of the benefits of PFS membership. Members can have a paper copy if they want, and if they don't need paper they can download it as a PDF from this site under the Resources Menu. You can also pick up a copy at most PFS events, even if you aren't a member. But we're not having any in-person events for a while, so if you would like a paper copy of Local Lore, consider joining PFS. In addition to Local Lore, you get reduced prices on events, and the pleasure of supporting the music you love! Now is a great time to join PFS. It is very easy and affordable. Thanks!

Virtual Song Circles celebrate 25th birthday!

You must know by now that PFS is holding Saturday Evening Virtual Song Circles every Saturday Evening. We held the first - with little preparation - on March 14, when we were all waking up to the reality of COVID19, and we realized we couldn't responsibly go ahead and hold the scheduled in-person song circle. So, with 24 hours warning, we met on line. The technology was new to a lot of people, we didn't know much about how to host the event, and it was rough - but people had a good time, and someone asked, "Can we do this again next week?" We thought, "Why not?" And we haven't stopped. We marked our 25th VSC on August 29, and they are still going strong. 

Please consider coming; you will be welcomed and feel welcome, no matter your skills or equipment or whatever. A few of the regular participants have good set-ups, with separate cameras and mics. Most use laptops. A few just come in by phone. It doesn't matter.

Check out highlights a recent song circle here.

We have forty to fifty people every week. Many are regulars, but we're also delighted, really happy, when someone new drops by. And they do: not just from The Portland area, but from the East Coast, other countries, other continents. And in this way, at least, the virtual song circles are much better than in person song circles.

Every Saturday, we open the room at 5:30 PM and start singing at six. Come when you can, stay as long as you like. All kinds of music and all kinds of people are welcome. We follow the song circle practice of letting each person sing a song in turn and it is perfectly fine just to listen. Get a computer with a camera and mic, light up your face, and point your browser to Always the same link, always posted here.

Please click here for logistics information, and for information about how to connect by phone.

But that ain't all...

There is a LOT of other online folk music now, with opportunities to listen, take classes, and sing.

PFS volunteer Barry Gorden has been doing a super job posting the events he hears about, and if you have others, let him know at

Look at the Upcoming Events calendar to find out how you can stay connected, during these disconnected times!

Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events


Joe Hickerson's
Joe's Jottings
Back again! 

PFS Members who have been around for a while will remember the thirteen articles that Joe Hickerson wrote for Local Lore, back in 2014-16. These were wonderful! Unique! Delightful! They covered: 

Joe's experiences with a traveling folk group, The Folksmiths.
His memories of folksingers from Pete Seeger and Jean Ritchie to the Kingston Trio.
The evolution of the song Where Have All The Flowers Gone, which Joe co-wrote. 
Joe's thoughts about saying "close enough for folk music" (warning: tune your instrument and don't go there). 
Marlene Dietrich even makes an appearance.

These short articles are informative and fun to read. And, unfortunately, they have been hard to find since we migrated to this website. But no longer: now you can find them on Joe Hickerson's page. Enjoy!

The Original Folksmiths

Pictured are (back row) Ruth Bolliger, Jim, Joani, Bo; (middle row) Joe Hickerson, David, Ricky; (front) Sarah.

You'll find Ruth and Joe at most PFS events, including the Virtual Song Circles

PFS Honors a Dozen Black Singers
Black musicians and song writers, with their particular artistry, tenacity, joy, love, and anger, are integral to America's music, including the traditions we think of when use the word "folk." PFS honors these originators, truth-tellers, and innovators. Here are a dozen songs of protest and struggle from performers of the Black diaspora and Africa.
Rhiannon Giddens
At the purchaser's option
Giddens is a founder and lead singer with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. This song will break your heart.
Bob Marley
No Woman No Cry

Marley was a unique singer, song writer and performer. Everything he did was a celebration of his culture and history, good times and bad. 
Public Enemy
Fight the Power

This song was on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. A great powerful song, and I'm calling this folk music, so there.

Venice Beach Street Rapper
(Don't know!)

This Unknown Rapper Busker is one of many in Southern California, getting better every day and earning a living with music.
Elizabeth Cotten & Brenda Evans
Shake SugareeElizabeth Cotten plays while her great granddaughter sings this cheerful song that acknowledges the reality of poverty.
Northwest Tap Connection
Hell you talmbout

There are many takes on Janelle Monáe's anthem helping us to remember the names of black people killed by police, including 
this superb version from Seattle.

Tracy Chapman
Talkin' about a Revolution

Chapman has had a series of hit songs over  30 years. Her singing is always powerful and she is a strong supporter of social causes. 
Mississippi John Hurt
I shall not be 

Hurt worked as a sharecropper and self-taught performer most of his life. In 1963, he found fame as part of the folk revival.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Keep your eyes on the prize
Sweet Honey have been singing for almost half a century. Their harmonies are tight and inspired by Gospel music, but their sound is unique. 

Boogie Down Productions
Stop the Violence

KRS-One is the singer, BDS is the group. His songs describe life in the South Bronx with frank language; this song addresses  violence.
Miriam Makeba
Soweto Blues  

South African Makeba has influenced and worked with countless US artists. Here she performs with Hugh Masekela and Ray Phiri.
Billie Holiday
Strange Fruit

This song about the systematic murder of black people has been called the beginning of the civil rights movement. Never doubt that music makes a difference.

As you know, much music created by black people is about the struggle for dignity and equal rights in the face of poverty, lynching, mass incarceration, police brutality, and endemic racism. Choosing twelve representative songs is a ridiculous task that means leaving out hundreds of good choices. Thanks to Joe Hickerson, Joe Offer and Jay Thompson who suggested singers for this list. I made the final choices, trying to balance genres and eras, and using a very broad definition of "folk". Feel free to blame me for bad choices and omissions, but first -- please listen to this music. 

--Paul Rippey


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Since 1976, Portland FolkMusic Society has been active preserving, presenting and promoting folk music and arts in the greater Portland Oregon area. PFS sponsors song circles, concerts, workshops and retreats, and helps its members and the whole community pass the word around about folk music events, from old time ballads to sea shanties, from 60’s protest folk to contemporary singer-songwriters.

PFS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. 

Portland Folkmusic Society
P.O. Box 1448
Portland, OR 97207-1448

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