|Holly Near and Steve (with baritone mountain dulcimer)|
Over many years, the music, witness, example and life of Holly Near, has enlivened my music, revived my flagging hope, renewed my resolve and helped me focus on how I choose to be in the midst of forces that bid me to sink to a more base level.
My spouse, Connie, and I have sung Holly’s music for public gatherings, for and with our children, in our churches and communities.
She has been a long-time (and long-distance) colleague of mine in the musician’s union (Local 1000 AFM) and became a friend when we met at our local’s membership retreat at the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee in 2012.
So, when she invited me to join her on stage for her concert celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (RMPJC) in Fort Collins in mid-October, I was delighted. When that concert was cancelled, she renewed the invitation to come to Boulder, so Connie and I saddled up for a delightful evening.
|Rehearsing Mountain Song|
Holly asked me to play mountain dulcimer on her “Mountain Song” (which has long been a favorite of mine!) to begin the Second Set.
In the conversation following our rehearsal, both she, the hosts and the other musicians and I began trading stories about being active in the movement which inspired the formation of RMPJC back in 1983: the Encirclement of Rocky Flats.
At the time, Rocky Flats was the producer of all the plutonium triggers for the USA’s nuclear weapons arsenal, the arms race was very hot and the anxiety about the possibility of nuclear annihilation of the human race and the entire planet was a common topic of conversation.
More than a thousand Colorado citizens decided to encircle the 17 mile perimeter of the Rocky Flats plant with a hand-to-hand human chain on a sunny day in October.
I was one of those citizens, and I had been trained as a peacekeeper (with a completely different mission than the missiles that then-President Reagan had named with the same name!), and I was carrying my trumpet, because I was one of the many buglers assigned to play “Taps” at the appointed hour, signifying the ending of the creation of these weapons.
There had been many demonstrations before and after and, in our conversations, we lamented that it appeared that little would every happen.
But, something DID happen. The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center was born and has carried on with similar work for 30 years. AND, Rocky Flats did close, the arms race began to cool down.
In her words to the gathered people at the (delicious!) reception before the concert, Holly encouraged the young people present not to give up hope, saying that even though we may not get thousands of people together with a common purpose, we could get 250 or 300.
So to demonstrate and share this experience, Holly had three Boulder choruses join her for her final song (instead of the “traditional” encore). And for the “2nd non-traditional encore” had the rest of the audience stand and join hands around the sanctuary of the Unity church to sing the song she wrote after the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone in San Franciso in November of 1978:
“We are a gentle, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives….”
I was so inspired and honored to be there in 1983 AND in 2013!