Guests of Honour and Other Notables
Mary Crowell: The Marvelous Mistress of Magnus Retail
by Brenda Sutton
Most of us filkers struggle along with our instruments, hacking and faking our way through three-chord songs. Not so Mary Crowell. She's actually Dr. Mary Crowell, a former college professor of music and adept piano teacher. Mary knows music the way a sommelier knows wine, and she uses her knowledge to the benefit of the rest of us, underpinning our three-chord songs with arpeggios full of sevenths flatted, diminished, and mobiused -- and she makes us all sound so much better.I first met Mary in 2001 when some good gaming buddies of hers dragged her off to GAFilk. She'd been making up a few songs about their D&D characters' antics, and they knew that the folks at GAFilk we're going to love Mary's music. We watched this beautiful young woman lug her keyboard (not the most portable of filk instruments, mind you) into the filk room with a slight amount of dread and a large measure of anticipation. And then she played her opening measures -- all Gershwiny, bluesy, and fine -- we all relaxed. This was going to be an expertly arranged piece of music. And then she sang. Oh my stars and little purple comets, she sang! -- with a sultry, southern voice that made most of the men in the room melt into puddles on the ballroom floor. And what she sang -- challenging lyrics with internal structure, plot, and daring wit. Mary's first foray into filk was an unmitigated success. We fell in love with her and her charming Dungeon Master/pediatrician/masterchef husband, Dr. Wesley Crowell. (We met their precocious, creative son, Simon, later in the year, and fell in love with him, too. Simon has been the inspiration for many of Mary's songs, and shares a co-writing credit for Get Down Mama.)
The next year, we asked Mary to entertain at GAFilk's banquet. The setting was just too perfect to waste -- grand piano, lovely lady in a slinky dress, brandy snifter tip jar. Everyone loved it, so we hammed it up even bigger the next year with a lounge-act-glitter-and-feather-boa glossy poster. Each following year something new was added to the act -- a bass player, a drummer, a guitarist or two, a sax or three, a trumpet, more singers -- and voila! GAFilk soon had one of the most amazing house bands ever, Play it with Moxie.
A few years later, when Gwen Knighton married a crazy Irishman and moved to England, Three Weird Sisters found ourselves one Sister short. Teresa Powell and I loved the TWS music and didn't want it to end, so I suggested that Mary might fill our gaping hole in the band. I mean, come on -- pretty, talented, charming, fun-loving, keyboard singer/songwriter living not too far away in Alabamaland -- Mary was the perfect choice. "Would you like to be our sister?" we asked. She squeeed a little, accepted, and we were oh so grateful to have her.
Becoming a Sister wasn't easy, and Mary worried that she wouldn't be able to match Gwen's sound. At that first rehearsal, T and I were amazed at Mary's ability to not only nearly recreate the harp on her keyboard, but the exact vocal harmonies as well. Eventually we all relaxed into the music and the arrangements moved into new and different and Mary-influenced sounds. We found that we enjoyed this new sound just as much as the old sound. Alabamaland turned out to be farther away than any of us thought, so we rotated practices and shared the driving. Music weekends at Mary's house are always made even better by the magnificent cooking of Wesley Crowell, who delights in filling our tummies with delicious food. Then we really lucked out when Mary's songwriting kicked into overdrive. Other than the handful of D&D-inspired songs, she'd never let herself explore the wide possibilities filk offers. Music with crows and goddesses, myths and heroes, sex and puzzles started pouring out of Mary's mind and hands. Her music students were treated to very unusual songs, by collegiate music class standards, and we even played a concert at the college where many of them sang along.
Mary has this magical power, you see, but she only uses it for good. Don't let that pretty, flirty exterior fool you. Mary is a very strong, complex, passionate, and compassionate person who owns a creative mind and an overwhelming ability to improve everything she touches. Before you know it, you'll find yourself on the floor in Downward Facing Dog position. I consider myself fortunate in the extreme that Mary touched my life. Now she gets to touch yours. Mwaaahahahahahahaheeheeeheee. Squeee.
From the UK: Lissa Allcock
written by Teddy
Those of you who don't already know Lissa probably know of her. Just in case there are people in UK Filkdom who haven't encountered Lissa, however, here's a bit about her.
In addition to being fun, friendly, and helpful, she's very organized.
I've referred to her as Organized Bunny To Filk Fandom for years, and have heard others doing likewise. She's been administering the Filk Fund (you know - that thing that helps conventions afford to bring all those neat overseas Filk Guests over to the UK for the FilkCon each year) for quite some time. She's a victim of her own efficiency there, I'm afraid, as she's likely stuck with the job until she actually resigns the post (triggering a mad scramble to find someone else willing to take it on).
She's been a driving force behind committees running Filk Cons, and is an absolute demon when it comes to selling memberships. Believe me, I've seen people going for their wallets just at her approach with a cash box in hand and a big smile on her face. They know that resistance is futile.
She's the drummer in Phoenix (that's the loud rock-band that made a comeback at this year's FilkCon in February....hmmm... do I need to use "loud" to describe a rock-band, especially Phoenix, or is it a bit redundant?...) and also provides backing vocals and - on sadly rare occasions, so far - lead vocals. I remember one time when the techcrew were taken completely by surprise by the volume and power of Lissa's voice when she stepped up to take lead on a song.
Fortunately for us all, her confidence in her own voice has taken a justified upswing of late - anyone present for her duet of "Persuasion" with Tom Nanson at this year's FilkCon can bear witness to that - so we'll hopefully be hearing more from her in the future.
Starting with her Guest set at Duple Time.
Footloose Filker: Sebastian Kinder
The UK Filk Fund (FF) committee have again decided that it would be a good idea if some of the upcoming talented European Filkers were able to come to the British Filk Convention so that they could benefit from exposure to the wider circle of filkers present at the UK con and also for UK filk fandom to get to meet some of the newer talent coming out of mainland Europe.
To make this possible the FF offers a grant/bursary to one or two such "Footloose Filkers", as such are identified, and decided upon by the FF committee. The grant is intended to cover part of the cost of travel to the convention and the majority of the accommodation costs. As is customary, Duple Time have allocated a free membership and a short performance spot as part of the award.
Footloose Filkers are not guests of the convention, rather they are there to learn more about filking and to gain experience in a convention environment that is different from their home convention.
We are pleased to announce that Sebastian Kinder has been invited to be our "Footloose Filker". Sebastian says about himself:
"I am a 17 year old guy, a filker and roleplayer, from Bielefeld in Germany. I am a little crazy, music is an important part of my life and that's all 'cause of my parents (thank you!). Ah! and I like cookies and cakes!!!"
We hope you will enjoy meeting and listening to him and we look forward to seeing Sebastian at Duple Time.
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