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Obit: Helen Schneyer, (1921-2005)

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KathWestra 17 Jul 05 - 01:19 AM
rich-joy 17 Jul 05 - 02:43 AM
GUEST,Mike O'Leary-Johns 17 Jul 05 - 04:17 AM
Jeri 17 Jul 05 - 07:09 AM
Naemanson 17 Jul 05 - 07:17 AM
jacqui.c 17 Jul 05 - 07:48 AM
kendall 17 Jul 05 - 07:59 AM
Big Mick 17 Jul 05 - 08:29 AM
GUEST,Bruce and Debbie 17 Jul 05 - 08:57 AM
KathWestra 17 Jul 05 - 09:06 AM
Bat Goddess 17 Jul 05 - 09:13 AM
catspaw49 17 Jul 05 - 10:43 AM
RoyH (Burl) 17 Jul 05 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Bob and Amba Coltman 17 Jul 05 - 10:59 AM
DonMeixner 17 Jul 05 - 11:11 AM
KathWestra 17 Jul 05 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 17 Jul 05 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,pamela in ithaca 17 Jul 05 - 11:40 AM
Bill D 17 Jul 05 - 11:48 AM
Nancy King 17 Jul 05 - 11:59 AM
Anglo 17 Jul 05 - 12:00 PM
SINSULL 17 Jul 05 - 09:12 PM
ToneDeafDave 17 Jul 05 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,Ron Davies 17 Jul 05 - 09:43 PM
Cool Beans 17 Jul 05 - 10:01 PM
DADGBE 17 Jul 05 - 10:31 PM
GUEST 17 Jul 05 - 11:38 PM
lamarca 18 Jul 05 - 11:36 AM
Alan Oakes 18 Jul 05 - 11:55 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 18 Jul 05 - 12:26 PM
kendall 18 Jul 05 - 01:01 PM
RiGGy 18 Jul 05 - 01:04 PM
Charlie Baum 18 Jul 05 - 01:57 PM
Barbara 18 Jul 05 - 03:12 PM
Fortunato 18 Jul 05 - 04:06 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 18 Jul 05 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,Joan 19 Jul 05 - 09:49 AM
kendall 20 Jul 05 - 09:08 AM
KathWestra 20 Jul 05 - 09:11 PM
Alan Oakes 20 Jul 05 - 10:14 PM
Dani 20 Jul 05 - 10:40 PM
GUEST,Jennifer Woods , DC 21 Jul 05 - 01:18 AM
Alan Oakes 21 Jul 05 - 01:31 AM
Bill D 21 Jul 05 - 10:51 AM
Susan A-R 21 Jul 05 - 11:05 PM
Ferrara 22 Jul 05 - 12:09 AM
KathWestra 22 Jul 05 - 11:41 PM
Bat Goddess 23 Jul 05 - 08:59 AM
GUEST 23 Jul 05 - 11:27 AM
Sandy Paton 24 Jul 05 - 12:00 AM
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Subject: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: KathWestra
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 01:19 AM

It is with great sadness that I write to report that my dear friend (and honorary "mom") Helen Schneyer died this afternoon at a little before 2:00 p.m. Helen had been diagnosed in early May with Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to her bones. At the time of her diagnosis, the doctors told her she probably had six months or more to live. But a series of severe setbacks (including a femur that spontaneously fractured and required emergency surgery)made her time with us much shorter. She was ready to go, but I was sure not prepared to see her leave so soon.

Helen had spent this past week in a gradual decline, but surrounded by her family--Riki, Milan, Josh, Rennie, cousins Suzie and Harold--and visited by many, many friends who came to bid her farewell. She was peaceful and, mercifully, free of pain and fear. As much as I have been intellectually prepared to write this notice, nothing has prepared me for the emotional hit of this news. Despite her illness and imminent death, Helen and her wonderful spirit have been very close to me in these last weeks, as I've connected with many of her friends who called or e-mailed asking the latest news. What a force of nature Helen was. What spirit. What a sense of fun and joy she shared with so many of us. What a tremendous support she has been to me and to others as we've faced our own challenges over the years. And oh, what a singer. Thank you, Helen, for all of it.

I will let you know when I know something more about memorial gatherings.

In the words of one of Helen's songs:
And I'll reach home, oh praise the Lord, some sweet day,
When I walk up that great Milky Way.
Goodbye old world, good morning there before the throne,
What a singing there will be when I get home!

Rest in peace, dear Helen.
Kathy


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: rich-joy
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 02:43 AM

such a wonderful, passionate singer!

vale, Helen.


R-J in Oz


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Mike O'Leary-Johns
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 04:17 AM

I never had the good fortune to meet or even hear a live performance.But her singing was Wonderful great passion in the voice.
I treasure the recordings I have of her.
You can also measure a person by the friends they have ; she had great friends.
May she rest easy......................Mike.[But keep singing]


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Jeri
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 07:09 AM

I'm so sorry. I only got to know Helen a bit in the last few years. She was so well loved and so strong that she seemed somewhat intimidating to a less than confident me. She was about encouragement though, and warmth, and smiles. I'm a better person because of her, and I wish I could get to know her better.

I'd first heard her in 1974 (I think) when her hair was brown and she wore perhaps a pound or two less turquoise. She blew me away with her voice and the way she sang, and her singing has been a part of my life ever since, even if she herself hasn't been until more recently.

My heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 07:17 AM

I am another who never met her or heard her but I know about her through my friends, including Jeri. I am saddened that I will never know what she said, sang and did to make such an impression on those people who I count as special in my life.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: jacqui.c
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 07:48 AM

I only became aware of Helen in the last few months - she was a dear friend of Kendall's. I met her twice and just fell in love with the lady. She had such a sense of fun and enjoyment of life, even toward the end. I wish I had known her better, but she stays alive in the memories of all who knew her.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: kendall
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 07:59 AM

I'm trying to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death. It's always hard to lose a dear friend, but I saw her a week ago and she was obviously ready to go. Being bedridden and in pain is not living.
What a woman, what a spirit, what a singer!What an honor to have known her and to call her friend. What a hole she leaves in so many lives.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Big Mick
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 08:29 AM

I have met her, but cannot lay claim to knowing her but for mutual friends. When Kath Westra, and Kendall, two folks that I love and respect as musicians, mourn her in such a personal way, it makes me know that a special light has passed through our midst. It has now disappeared around the bend. The memory of the warmth it spread as it passed will live long in those it touched.

Her voice will not be hard to find among others, such as Jeri.

God be good to her.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Bruce and Debbie
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 08:57 AM

When we joined FSGW in the early 70s, Helen was one of the first people we met. We were invited to a party to welcome Riki home even though we had never met Riki. Over the years Helen was a friend, confident, fellow antique lover, inspirational singer. I mean someone who inspired all to sing no matter what the subject matter.

She was the Jewish mother of the local traditional musicians, opening her home to many in need of a place to stay, whether relocating to DC or just in need of a home.

Parties and gatherings after concerts were legendary. Her singing amazing and her friendship helped so many of us get through the day, week or month.

We haven't seen much of Helen in recent years but she is still very much part of us. I always thought that oneday we would get it together to go up to Vermont and I am sad that we were not able to visit her in the hospital. That does mean I can remember her as she was the time we all threw our laundry at her in the midst of "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb"

Can't wait to hear the new CD to keep her with us always.

Love
Bruce and Debbie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: KathWestra
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 09:06 AM

The new CD that Bruce and Debbie Hutton refer to is called "What a Singing There Will Be," and will be out in about a month. I'll post a notice in a new thread just as soon as it's back from the manufacturer.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 09:13 AM

I've had "What a singing there will be when I get home!" in my head all week.

And I'll probably hear Helen's voice in my head for the rest of my life -- not to mention that her music lives on in her CDs and in the singers who learned songs from her.

What we've once held close in our hearts is never gone, but Helen's presence will definitely be missed.

Our thoughts are with Rikki and Milan -- and with you, Kathy -- as well as with other friends who knew her better than we did.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: catspaw49
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 10:43 AM

SO sorry Kath......When I read your words I too know what a wonderful life has passed. I loved her work but you loved the person and I can only hope you take care of yourself and flood your heart with great memories to help ease the pain. All my love.......

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 10:50 AM

There goes another jewel from folk music's crown in this terrible year of loss. Helen was one of the first people I met on my first visit to the USA in 1976. Thereafter we met often, always happy occasions, ringing with song. She was a grest singer and a memorable person. Once seen, never forgotten. 'What a singing there will be'..indeed. Rest in peace Dear Helen. I'm so glad to have known you and to call you Friend. To her family, Sincere condolences from Elaine and me.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Bob and Amba Coltman
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 10:59 AM

We are grieving at the passing of a friend and a great singer.

Kath, our hearts are with you, her family and all her many, many friends.

Helen, see you further along the road.

Bob and Amba


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: DonMeixner
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:11 AM

I only know the songs she left behind and the praise from many people. Another voice I missed hearing live.

Don


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: KathWestra
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:21 AM

Mary Cliff of WETA-FM in Washington (host of "Traditions" for 30+ years) did a wonderful tribute last night on her show--an edited broadcast of a live concert Helen did at the Library of Congress in May 2004. One of the songs she sang was Bob Coltman's "Lonesome Robin," which will be on the new recording. Especially poignant to hear it last night.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:27 AM

What a voice!! Uniquely magnificent. I got to know Helen at the several Folk Legacy festivals in Hartford, Connecticut---and in the D.C. area, of course. (I got to know many of you congregating here in this thread the same way.)-------Just know that I'm with you in feeling this great loss.

Onward and upward,

Art and Carol Thieme


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,pamela in ithaca
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:40 AM

I never had a chance to meet Helen, nor hear her live, but her
music has made a big impact on my life.
We've lost another "Flower Companion."
How Sad.

My best to her family and close friends,
Pamela in Ithaca


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:48 AM

I 'met' Helen at the National Folk Festival in 1975...even before I moved to Wash DC...we were both volunteers, serving sandwiches to performers under a tent on a hillside...but before that, I had heard her sing onstage at the Red Fox Inn, and knew I was in the presence of someone special!

Once I moved here, I saw Helen often, and was amazed how naturally she accepted ME and remembered and acknowleged me, even though I was just not anyone special.

And LORDY, how that lady could sing! One of my favorite memories is of going to a Bok, Trickett & Muir concert at Gaston Hall and hearing Ed Trickett explain that "...we learned this next song from Helen Schneyer, and we really wanted to do it just like she did it. We practiced and worked, but we just couldn't quite get it.....there were only three of us!"

Helen had a wicked sense of humor, but her greatest gift was her grace when the jokes and tricks were at her expense.

She also had an exquisite feel for the mood and occasion. She has told of doing a concert in, I believe, West Virginia and settling down to do one of her famous renditions of some maudlin old song...I believe it was "Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight".....and looking out into the audience and seeing an old fellow in overalls with little tears in his eyes....whereupon she told herself ..."I think we do this straight tonight!" Helen simply knew when it was right to milk one of those songs, and when it was not.

It was a great art Helen had, to both be a 'queen', and hold court and be a commanding presence, and still never seem like she was above anyone or excluding anyone....but she managed that art wonderfully.

Last night, Mary Cliff, on WETA, played parts of a concert Helen did last year, and I simply could not hold back the tears as Helen's voice, along with her friends, rose and swelled with the power of one of her signature songs: "Moonlight" (get the record..HEAR that song!)

"I know moonlight, I know starlight..
I laaayyyyy this body down...."

...rest easy, Helen


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Nancy King
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:59 AM

Helen was truly an amazing person. In some ways larger than life, she was nevertheless totally down to earth. A phenomenal singer with a powerful voice and a great knack for getting to the essence of every song, she encouraged everyone she met to sing their hearts out. She was a mainstay of the Washington DC folk scene for many years, and was a founder of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. How very fortunate we were to know her!

She sang a wide variety of music -- incredibly sad ballads (both the old Child classics and newer mining disaster songs, for example), joyous gospel songs such as "Dwelling in Beulah Land," more somber ones like "I Know Moonlight," shanties like "Roll the Woodpile Down," and the offbeat "hideobilia" that only she could carry off. And she made every single one of them really memorable. Someone asked her once how she, as a Jew, could sing gospel music so wholeheartedly, she responded that she loved "any song that is deeply felt."

We did a bit of reminiscing a while back in this thread. Somehow some of the posts seem to have gotten out of order, so that some responses appear before the posts they are responding to (how could that happen?), but there's a lot of good stuff in it.

She has been a tremendously important influence on traditional singers, certainly here in the Washington area, where she was such a presence for so long. Both of my kids grew up listening to her and singing along with her, and now both of them are fine singers in their own right.

She taught us to sing right out loud, and to feel the music. She was a true free spirit, and we miss her terribly already.

Nancy


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Anglo
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 12:00 PM

One of my favorite memories is of Tony & me arriving late at her house in Kensington MD, in1975 - she was already in bed but was watching TV, so we all bounced around on her bed screaming as Carlton Fisk hit his memorable world series homer for the Red Sox.

Sadly I'd not seen much of her over the last couple of years, but I did get a nice chat with her on the phone a week ago.

Those shoes sure left big footprints (figuratively of course).

John


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: SINSULL
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 09:12 PM

RIP Helen. Your friends are fighting tears while trying to celebrte your life.
Mary


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: ToneDeafDave
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 09:22 PM

I was lucky enough to visit Helen a couple of times in Vermont - and once she visited me during my sojourn in London, and of course I was somewhere in the crowd around whenever I attended any festival or activity where she was. I am amazed now at the strenth of the impact those few contacts made on me. She filled the room, she filled the stage, she filled her own life and the lives of those around her.

I think it says a lot that no one in this thread spoke much about her age, or gave a hint of that mealy mouthed "well she had a good run" kind of talk that sometimes comes out when someone in their eighties departs. She was ageless, and she was a great performer who, as great performers do, has walked off the stage leaving us all wanting more...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Ron Davies
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 09:43 PM

So many of us started to miss her when she left the DC area and moved up to Vermont--and always hoped we'd see more of her than we did. I always thought of her as the grande dame of the FSGW, and I suspect I wasn't alone. But we'll always remember her for being such a vital force, a wonderful person, and with so many musical sides to her.

She made so many songs indelibly her own--in so many different styles. So many of us will never be able to hear "Beulah Land", "Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl", "There Is A Fountain" (Miner's Version), "Lonesome Robin", "Been In the Storm So Long", "Palms of Victory"-the list seems to go on forever----without hearing her singing them again.

It's so hard to know we'll never hear her sing again except on record---but her legacy is immortal.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Cool Beans
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 10:01 PM

My wife and I were privlieged to hear Helen,and have lunch with her a couple times, at the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia. Yhis would have been around 1993. I'll never forget they way she sang "This World Is Not My Home." Just beautiful.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: DADGBE
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 10:31 PM

Godspeed Helen.

Your greatest legacy is in the circle of friends you leave behind. Although I'm across the continent now, the memories of your strong voice and warmth remain strong. We are all better people and better musicians for having been touched by you.

Thank you for having been there for us all.

Ray Frank


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jul 05 - 11:38 PM

Her voice was as powerful as anyone I ever heard sing - and she was generous with her talent. I never tired of hearing her sing 'Beulah Land'

May her soul rest in peace.

Padre


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: lamarca
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 11:36 AM

Helen's death leaves a hole in the fabric of our folk community that is hard to describe. She has been an integral part of so many groups of people in different parts of the US - the DC folk community (she was a founder of the FSGW), the Indian Neck Folk Festival, the February sings in Maine, and, of course, the web of friends and family that she wove together in her adopted home in Vermont. But her songs, her singing and her support of traditional music reached people all over. Martin Carthy and the Watersons were frequent guests in her home; Jim Boyes and Swan Arcade recorded exuberant versions of songs they learned from Helen. Even Garrison Keillor attempted to sing "Palms of Victory" a few weeks ago - a song he probably learned from Helen in one of her several appearances on Prairie Home Companion.

My first memory of Helen was attending a house concert by Lucy Simpson at her Chevy Chase home, and marvelling at the giant glass owl full of pennies(?) in the foyer. Later I learned that Helen's so-called friends would gift her with such "hideobilia" (her word); my favorite was the gaudy ceramic rose-encrusted clock in the shape of a mosque, that would emit the call to prayer at appropriate times. As a relatively late-comer to the DC folk community, I didn't actually get to know Helen until after she'd moved to Vermont. Like Jeri, I found her intimidating at first, but warm and encouraging of my singing when I got to know her better.

Helen's singing became even richer when she and her daughter, Riki, sang as a duo. Riki's clear, high, powerful voice blended with Helen's low one to give spine-chilling renditions of ballads like Sheath and Knife, and wonderfully textured hymns. The Library of Congress concert broadcast by Mary Cliff on Saturday had both Helen and Riki in wonderful harmony.

I'll miss Helen a lot. I hope there's a heaven; her soul and voice belong there.

Mary


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Alan Oakes
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 11:55 AM

Helen was one of the most wonderful and funniest and wisest people I have ever known. But before I get all sunshiny and like that, it must be said, immediately, that she also had other, darker, qualities: smartass humor, devastating quick comebacks and a terribly frightening, sudden icy stare -- to mention just three. I loved her very much.

And she sang with tremendous feeling. She had a wonderful connection to her unconscious -- especially for tragedies and powerful old hymns. When she sang she helped us feel those archetypal connections within ourselves.

She was very moved when others sang. She and I shared many Kleenex boxes together over the years while listening to our friends sing. Neither of us had any defenses at all when certain people sang and we would cry together and comfort each other.

Many years ago Helen honored me by asking me to become her fiancée. This was one of the proudest moments of my life. (She explained to Marnie, who was sitting next to me at the time, that the engagement would not affect our marriage in any way). I accepted immediately. We have been affianced ever since. Some rather cruel people have suggested to me that Helen would get engaged to just about anybody. Sour grapes, I think. I don't believe Marnie was ever jealous but she did quickly get herself engaged to Bob Copper.

As I think of Helen, many wonderful memories flood my mind. Just one category, as an example, is the group of animals that lived with her over the years. There was Nigel, the sad-faced, old, aristocratic, long-eared dog. All of us who knew him loved to imitate his facial expression. (Use your index fingers to pull down your lower eye lids. Then turn down the edges of your mouth while you hold it slightly open). Riki, was the singing cat named Fred? I think so, but I can't remember for sure. Helen would put Fred on her arm and rub him and say, "Sing, Fred, sing!" And Fred would mournfully sing, "Me-e-e-o-o-w. Me-O-O-o-o-o-w!" Anyone who wanted to could then rapidly pat Fred on his back to make him sound like a motor-boat while he was singing. Fred seemed to love it. Helen had many other pets over the years and a goodly percentage of them were remarkable and/or bizarre. We all know that pets become like their masters.

Music was only one of the areas where she was well grounded and well connected with her unconscious. While talking with her she would often ask such pertinent questions or express such unexpected and seemingly appropriate emotions that I would be jolted to a new connection with my own feelings. After a visit with Helen (besides having my sides ache from the laughter that always seemed to be present in her home) I often felt a new sanity and wholeness. Several of her other friends have told me about having similar experiences with her.

So many other memories of Helen are rolling through my mind as I write this that it's hard to stop. Everybody remembers the "Washed In the Blood of the Lamb" story at Fox Hollow. Do you remember the times that she sang the line "Casting my eye backwards . . . ?" Do you remember the singing on her birthday in the cold old church near Montpelier? Do you remember . . . ? Etc. Etc. The stories just go on and on. All of us who knew her will be sharing these memories and telling these stories for the rest of our lives.

That's important, I think. Helen and her wonderful presence, and her antics, will not be forgotten during our lifetimes. In that sense she will live on – very much like some of the people in her songs.

Farewell my friend,

-Alan Oakes


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 12:26 PM

Beautiful tributes to a beautiful woman. I have no stories to add, but offer sympathy and love to all who have lost a wonderful friend. But it's true that she's with us still, as the strength of the stories and her music attests.

Allison


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: kendall
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 01:01 PM

Helen was one of those very rare people who got inside my circle of comfort immediatly and stayed there for over 30 years. We showed our love for each other by snotty remarks and veiled threats, just like buddies do.
She loves to tell the story of the one time we tried to be nice to each other and it lasted about 20 minures. She threw the first insult and things got back to normal.

Back when she discovered that spot on her nose and it turned out to be cancer, I talked to her on the phone, and I told her to do everything the doctor said or I was going to come over there and be nice to her. She promised to be good!
This is hard to put down on this forum, but I had to share it. God, I miss her.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: RiGGy
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 01:04 PM

Thank you, Helen, { AND Joe O ! ] for the song THE SWEETEST WORDS HE EVER SAID, which was sung at my wife's funeral last year.   May such
sweet words, and notes, be sung loudly at your memorial ! Riggy


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 01:57 PM

Helen Scheneyer sang directly, with full conviction, with nothing held back emotionally, and she taught others to do that by example. I first met her at Augusta Vocal Week back in the early 80s, where she did a course in the history of American folk hymnody. Her force and directness could cajole even the most reluctant angel to sing along.

She always wore white linen underneath the turquoise and silver, and once explained that no matter how muddy the festival or surroundings, it made her look calm and cool. It made her look not unlike an angel.

Somewhere in heaven, she's now singing duets with Jonathan Eberhart, and between them, they are shocking the other angels with their directness and offbeat humor, and forcing them to sing along.

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Barbara
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 03:12 PM

..Or that Jonathan and co. would back her up and sing "fried liver" whenever she sang "wide river", so she, smiling beatifically, would hold up her index fingers, stick them proudly in her ears as the phrase approached and then sing "fried liver" anyway.

Or all the sheep that baaaed their way through "Feed My Sheep"? As in "Oh good people, Baa! Baa! Baaaa!"

I only met her a few times back in the seventies and I have loved her ever since. I am sorry she is gone, she was such a force of nature, and such a delight.
I remember her talking about loving songs that went from the tonic to the IV chord in such a way as to make you cry... her example, "The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair.. they'll never go down to the broom anymore" was just as good at making me cry as her.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Fortunato
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 04:06 PM

I met Helen at the Red Fox in Bethesda around 1978, where Bruce Hutton was running a open mike. My pal Tex Rubinowitz and I went down to sing. He never went back, but in a way I never left. Dave Olive, Bruce, Tom McHenry, Marv Reitz, and the one and only Helen and the beautiful Riki Schneyer and the FSGW gathered me in and kept me. I followed her to Fox Hollow and all those wonderful parties folks mentioned above. Clogging with Riki on the front porch and chatting with Helen in the kitchen, picking in the living room with Mike Seeger, drinking Ouzo with Peter the Giant and always Jonathan Eberhart's repartee. It was a wonderful time and I owe it all to her truly welcoming, egalatrian nature.

Helen has been very large in my life for 30 years. It leaves a hole, friends, but no regrets.

Love you Helen.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 18 Jul 05 - 07:19 PM

Goodby to another great singer and friend. We met mostly at festivals, in the 70s and 80s, and at Augusta ,at Davis & Elkins. Glorious golden days (and nights), with Helen always the life of the party and the one whose enthusiasm kept us up all night! We are going down the valley, one by one.....


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Joan
Date: 19 Jul 05 - 09:49 AM

You've said it all...well, is that possible in Helen's case? So many of us will be telling Helen stories for years to come and listening to her voice via CDs and other electronic miracles. Her spirit hovers near, but I'll miss her daily presence.

I met Helen years ago through music channels, sharing the occasional festival workshop stage and our Folk-Legacy connection; admiring her awesome singing goes without saying. It wasn't until I moved to Vermont eight years ago that we both realized we were also animal nuts and gardening enthusiasts and we just plain liked each other! We talked on the phone or got together nearly every day. Oh, I'll miss her.

I lived about a minute and a half from her house and I was one of the many Vermont "unusual suspects" who did whatever we could to give help, support and comfort at the end. Plus bringing treats and taking sweet dog Daphne outside for emptying and cleaning out Tucker and Bo-bo's kitty litter box. Or just sitting and talking. Did I mention I'll miss her? So will we all.

Joan


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: kendall
Date: 20 Jul 05 - 09:08 AM

One more "Helen story"

We visited her a few days before she passed on, and she was telling us about a brutal physical therapist in the other facility that she had been in.
He (the way she told it) was moving her limbs around, and had hauled one leg up around her neck, then he asked how that felt. He should have known better because she replied "Fuck you, white man."

The stories are endless...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: KathWestra
Date: 20 Jul 05 - 09:11 PM

The "singing" cat was Richard, a huge Siamese who was one of the many critters who shared Helen's house when I lived there during most of 1976. He really did sing, just as Alan described. Nigel was a springer spaniel of very little brain but large devoted heart. And boy could he drool from those dewlaps of his! Helen has had many, many cats and several dogs in subsequent years, most of whom came to her because they got the word on the street that hers was a heart with as much space for four-footed friends as there was for us human waifs and strays--a place where everyone would be welcomed, fed, and cared for.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Alan Oakes
Date: 20 Jul 05 - 10:14 PM

Richard! Right! Thank you, Kathy. "Sing, Richard! Sing!" I also should have said "casting His eye backwards . . ." not "my eye." Oh well, it's been hot. Some of my cylinders haven't been firing, apparently.

-Alan


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Dani
Date: 20 Jul 05 - 10:40 PM

I just picked up a CD of Helen's singing last year, having heard many stories floating around the Getaway.

It's clear that you have lost a treasured friend from among you, and I am sorry for your loss. These stories (and the songs you will continue to sing, remembering her) are the finest sort of tribute. Thank you for sharing.

Dani


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST,Jennifer Woods , DC
Date: 21 Jul 05 - 01:18 AM

What a lost. I remember the first time I saw her, back in about 1980, wandering around the Washington Folk Festival, either all in white or turquoise, with all that wonderful jewelry, and a parasol! I thought What a wonderful character! And then I got to know her -- and was confirmed in my first impression -- to say nothing of her singing -- which enriched me, brought me often to tears, and, often clutching my sides as I fell off a chair laughing!
And the time at Indian Neck when we first really got into butchering "Palms of Victory" -- she latter would sing it with her hands over her eyes so she couldn't see what we all doing! (One, rolling balls that looked like eyeballs as she sang casting her eyes backwards, two, sign-language [of a sort] during the chorus -- 20-30 people putting crowns on their heads, flashing the "V" for victory sign, wagling their "palms" of victory! )
And a good supporter of all around her -- she helped me through a tough time just before she moved to Vermont, and asked me to lead "Waltzing with Bears" at her official farewell concert for FSGW -- and I think we had a Gorilla gram arrive at the end of it with ballons and other sillies. I've tresured every visit I've had with her over the years, and will miss her greatly.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Alan Oakes
Date: 21 Jul 05 - 01:31 AM

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. Someone had to start this genre. This is what I heard happened.

Helen arrived in Heaven and Saint Peter welcomed her at the pearly gates. Saint Peter walked with her over to see God who was leading the Heavenly Choir. Arranged on the slopes of four nearby hills there were 100,000 sopranos, 100,000 altos, 100,000 tenors and 100,000 basses.

God greeted Helen warmly and told her that they had all been waiting for her. Then He asked her to sing as soloist in "Palms of Victory." Helen accepted graciously and walked over to her place on top of a fifth hill.

God waved his baton and Helen sang the first verse. It was just as beautiful as it used to be on Earth. Then everyone began to sing the chorus. But God quickly stopped the singing by tapping His baton on His podium and holding up his hand. "A little less volume from the soloist, please." He said. And then they began again.

-Alan

P.S., My source assures me that this is what really happened, and it is just a coincidence that it sounds vaguely like an old Welsh tale.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Jul 05 - 10:51 AM

Oh, I am SURE it happen just like that!......well...it's just a good thing God didn't ask for "Beulah Land" (Far away the sound of strife, upon my ear is falling), as Jon Eberhart would have prepared the 400,000 chorus members to do all the silly background noises, and Helen would have petitioned to have him cast out!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Susan A-R
Date: 21 Jul 05 - 11:05 PM

I suspect that she and Barbara Carnes are singing and bitching and laughing somewhere. I'll miss Helen, her glorious voice, great taste in songs and quick wit. What a lady.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Ferrara
Date: 22 Jul 05 - 12:09 AM

Oh goodness me. Reading this thread I laughed til I cried, not a new experience where Helen is concerned. I loved it that she had to stop sometimes in the middle of a song until she could control her tears. I admired her for it. She never lost connection with the feelings.

The most poignant moment for me in Mary Cliff's program last Saturday was hearing Jonathon Eberhart's voice singing, "When you come to the end of your life's trolley ride ..." Thanks Mary for a fine set of mementoes of Helen.

It's wonderful to read the stories on this thread. Haven't seen her for a long time and they bring her very clearly to mind. To me Helen was the queen of folk music in the D.C. area and the heart and soul of the FSGW while she lived here. Her two-hour Sunday morning gospel workshop was the highlight of the FSGW Getaway. Her personality and her singing voice and her sheer love of it all just shaped the musical experience.

One of my favorite memories of Helen (besides Gordon Bok's remark that Bill quoted above, and apart from memories of hearing her sing) is from a concert at a cafe in Bethesda. She invited Riki and Jonathon to join her on the chorus. Now, if you never heard this I should explain that they didn't exactly "sing along" on the chorus. What they did was blow through their hands, like a kazoo, to make appropriate boisterous and totally irreverent trumpet noises. (You can hear it like that on the record, I think it's on "Somber, Sacred & Silly.") Helen said that when the song was recorded the producer (was that you, Sandy & Caroline?) told them to re-record it without the monkey business and she said, Nope. You get it with trumpets or not at all.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: KathWestra
Date: 22 Jul 05 - 11:41 PM

Just a note. Robin Murie, Helen's neice, has written to say that Garrison Keillor will do a tribute to Helen at the top of the hour of his PHC broadcast this weekend (July 23, 2005). The show is a rebroadcast from an earlier Boston show, but apparently he plans to use a recording of Helen singing "Lonesome Robin" and say some stuff in her memory at the beginning of the program. Tune in.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 23 Jul 05 - 08:59 AM

I miss Barbara (Carns), too -- and Jonathan. What a crew!

Our lives were so much richer for them being a part of it -- and we can keep on telling the stories forever!

Linn


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Jul 05 - 11:27 AM

I feel fortunate to have been to two of Helen Schneyer's concerts in the DC area. The first was at a Unitarian Church in the late '70. I remember most an exuberant "Dwelling in Beulah Land" with a hotel desk bell for the top note. It instantly became my favorite song.

The second concert was a few years ago at the FSGW Monthly Program. Dragged my son and father- "You've GOT to hear her in person!!".

A couple weeks ago I was driving back from a visit to New York and played the three tapes I reserve for road trips: a Klezmer, a dixieland jazz,and Helen Schneyer's "Ballads..". I was really reveling in the sound, and singing along as of course you have to do.
--Linda Goodman


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Subject: RE: Obit: Helen Schneyer, July 16, 2005
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 24 Jul 05 - 12:00 AM

Well, Rita, it's a very delightful "Helenesque" story, but apocryphal. The song in question, by the way, is on her recording titled "Ballads, Broadsides and Hymns," Folk-Legacy CD-50. I did the recording, and programmed the final product, but I never really acted as "producer," telling any of our artists what they should record or how. I may have suggested that Helen might want to record a "straight" version and decide in the cold light of the morning which would be preferable for the album (some things are great fun in the "doing," but don't hold up well over many listenings), but I've never attempted to control an artist's work. I felt controlled on my own first American recording (on another label), and soon learned to detest the sound of it.
    Helen was a great artist, and Caroline and I are going to miss her powerful presence terribly. I hope her performance of "The Cruel Brother" will be on the soon-to-come CD. Mary Cliff played the ballad (as Helen sang it at the LOC concert a couple of years ago) as part of her tribute program and it was absolutely stunning! Caroline heard her sing it at Indian Neck (the last song she ever heard Helen sing), but I missed it. Will it be on the new CD, Kathy?
    Sandy


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