Hope in hopelessness


This afternoon, [Ophelia] Beth Sherby and I were playing music on Main Street at the Bethlehem Harvest Festival. During sound check we had captured the full attention of an elderly woman in attendance who I strongly suspect is homeless. She was loaded down, wearing multiple layers, with two bags – all of her belongings – and a cup of coffee in hand.

She smiled and swayed, tapped her feet and clapped her hands, and at some point was doing high kicks in the air. She must be nearly 80 years old, and Beth and I both looked at each other in disbelief as she got her foot high above her head, reached out and grabbed the toe of her shoe with one hand, then went right back to dancing in time.

When she decided to move on, she walked up to the stage and pulled out a wad of paper towel from one her bags. She carefully picked out a small handful of loose coins and very joyfully dropped it in our tip bucket.

Good day to you, dear. Dance on and let the music feed your soul.


Walk in the Light.


It’s Monday – back to the grind. It was a bit harder to get out of the bed this morning and start doing all of the Monday things. You know, those things that make your world go ‘round.

It’s always harder to get started the morning after a meaningful event. Whether it’s a celebration of life, or just a simple gathering with friends and family, when we feel suspended in time and hoping it will go on and on, we know that when the party’s over we’ll all go back to our regular lives.

Now, think about those people whose lives are fraught with danger, cautiously walking through each day like they’re stepping on eggshells, doing all they can to not upset the beast, and then sleep vigilantly through the night, always with one eye open. What do they wake up to? I want to believe that they wake up to the hope of stepping out into the light and feeling free. There’s a freedom in knowing that abusive person can’t reach you, and that they won’t hurt you ever again.

That’s when you transition from victim to survivor. That’s Free.

left to right: Rameen Shayegan, Dina Hall, Todd Schied, Andrew Portz, Mitch Shelly, Charlie Mark (not pictured: Alex Radus, Jordyn Kenzie)

We ended last night’s two-hour Ramble with two encores, the last of which was Free. I wrote the song many years ago, after my own experience of stepping out into the light. The song was originally created as a contribution for a show supporting domestic abuse services, and it eventually grew into a rock anthem for survivors. Some people deeply relate it to their own lives, and others hear it as man-bashing. But you can be sure I’ll always present the song as a personal celebration of freedom.

There are many stories of domestic abuse, but most all of them go unknown. Much of the abuse is invisible, or hidden from others. We don’t talk about these things over Sunday brunch, or cocktails on a Friday night. We don’t burden our children with the traumatic stress of their forebears. We do our best to put on a happy face, and we try to see goodness in others. It’s basic mindfulness, but it can be difficult sometimes.

For four years now, I’ve had the honor and the extreme pleasure of presenting a musical event as part of the Ice House Tonight series, and as part of the greater Bethlehem arts community. Each year my goal was two-fold – share a message of hope with the community, and raise money for a local human services organization.

It’s hard to believe that in this era of equality for all, we’re still faced with misogyny – social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. We’re making progress.

Believe it or not, it takes work to choose songs for a concert that don’t border on any or all of these concepts. And as a woman, it’s hard to market a show without exploiting any or all of these concepts. I make it a rule to stay away from terms like all-girl (women) or female vocalist (drummer, guitarist, engineer) in my descriptions, but that’s still an uphill battle in the media.

So, when I gathered my friends for the Ramble on the River, and we started choosing songs and arrangements, I knew immediately that I was surrounded by some of the most authentic, caring, sensitive, kind, respectful and loving musicians that I know. Someone once said to me, “you attract the best people”, but I don’t deserve the credit. I would say, “I’m attracted to the best people.”

When you walk with the best people, you walk in the light.


More video is on the Video page of this website.


Good news: We raised over $1700 for Turning Point of Lehigh Valley.

My love and gratitude to the musicians – Jordyn Kenzie, Alex Radus, Andrew Portz, Rameen Shayegan, Todd Schied, Mitch Shelly, Charlie Mark – and their families. Thank you to everyone who came to the show, and shared the experience with friends. Thank you to Phil Forcelli and the crew at City Entertainment – Ginny and Sam. Thank you to Doug Roysdon, Ice House Tonight, and the City of Bethlehem for providing an incredible venue for our artistic community.


Ramble on the River


As many of you know, I’m very fortunate to be included as a presenting artist in the Ice House Tonight Series, here in Bethlehem, Pa. There are a handful of us who make up an independent consortium, mostly chosen because of our affiliation with local arts organizations.

This is an honor that I take very seriously, and with that comes an important decision – should this be a profitable event, or should the money be donated to a worthy organization here in our community? The answer is easy for me, and this marks my fourth annual benefit concert at the Ice House. Once again, I’ll be donating all profit to Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.

Joining me this year are several dear friends – songwriters Andrew Portz, Alex Radus, Rameen Shayegan, with Todd Schied on drums, and Mitch Shelly on bass. Opening the show is my very special guest, Jordyn Kenzie. Phil Forcelli and City Entertainment will be providing sound for the show, and Back Door Bakeshop will be feeding the performers and sound crew.

I’m going to be coming at this with increased intensity over the next two weeks. Most all of you are in my community of music, as strong supporters.

Now’s the time to add this to your calendar! Click here for Advance Tickets

Tickets are also available at Back Door Bakeshop, and I have them with me at all times.

If you’re on social media, please SHARE and INVITE FRIENDS. Click here to go to the Facebook event, where you can also buy tickets directly.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on April 14!


and the Circle Goes Round and Round


On a cold January day in 1999, as I was just getting started in this music business, a friend told me she was going to see John Gorka at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem. That statement meant nothing to me at the time, because I had never heard of John Gorka, or Godfrey Daniels for that matter.

Back then, if you had a computer in your house, you were very fortunate. Most of us had them at the office, and we were starting to use email as a real form of communication. But, websites were still very rudimentary. Godfrey Daniels’ website was simply a listing of shows with a bit of clip art. It was very linear, created by a computer programmer who worked in a corporate platform. Back then, there was no YouTube, and no social media, not even MySpace. So, it was not so easy to learn about either of those soon-to-become legends.

One year later, I was living in Bethlehem, and I discovered Godfrey’s, along with the folklore that was passed on from generation to generation. When the house lights went down and focus was turned to the artist(s) on stage, there was a palpable energy shift, a give and take with the audience – no matter how large or small.

I was smitten. I became a regular at Open Mike, and began volunteering at shows. Within a couple of years, I began the process of developing a state-of-the-art website, and email marketing system. I created posters, and postcards, and all of the visual tools necessary to compete with the slick venues that were beginning to pop up everywhere. That wasn’t an easy task, because there was a very meager budget for these things. Translation: Work for free. And I did so, very willingly.

Fast forward to the present day, I recently completed Godfrey’s website re-development project; created an in-house promotional slideshow; installed new window graphics; and along with a great team, refurbished the front room. Think about it, 20 years later, you can now browse the website and buy tickets from your smartphone!

How does this happen? People care. People act. People donate – Time and Money. And people appreciate each other.

Last night, I had the unique opportunity to open the show for John Gorka, at Godfrey Daniels, in front of a sold out audience – John Gorka’s sold out audience. I would say this story has come full circle, and I am very appreciative.


Find Your Voice.


A couple of weeks have passed and I’m finally able to give you a wrap-up on our fundraiser to benefit Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.

I promised that this would be a very special show, with music and spoken word, and a unique combined effort to create a very spontaneous, pop-up chorus – and we sure did come through on that promise.

First of all, my very sincere thanks goes out to
Beth Sherby
Karen & Amy Jones
Dierdre Van Walters
Danielle Notaro
Julia Gross
and special guests Jeremy Aguiar and Andy Killcoyne

Thank you also to Phil Forcelli and his crew – Ed and Ginny – for providing a fabulous sound system.

And thanks to Donna Mugavero for handling the ticket sales.

Last but not least, I couldn’t do these things without the love and support of my incredible wife, Gail Lehman, who took care of hospitality, and loading gear out at the end of the night.

At the end of the day, we raised $600 for Turning Point, somewhat short of my goal to reach $1000. I’m not discouraged, however. The music was incredible, and everyone involved brought their very best to the stage. We shared a strong message of empowerment, respect, trust, and love. And that will stay with us for a very long time.

Here are a few photos from the show. Thanks to Brian McCloskey for documenting the event.

 

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Gratitude. Peace. Love.


It’s been a long week, and we made it through. A full work week at the day job, two rehearsals, a radio show, emceeing one night, three gigs in four days, and dancing to the Funk tonight. Gail and I are home now, eating cake and ice cream, and thinking about how much we love our happy city and the people who make it hum.

I must say thank you to the Musikfest stage volunteers who help us schlep our gear, and to the Godfrey Daniels volunteers who helped with our community day today. Thank you to Croaker Cajons, WDIY 88.1 FM, McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar, C. F. Martin & Company, and Alvarez Guitars.

Also huge thank yous to my best pal Beth Sherby, my brother-from -another-mother Andy Killcoyne, my buddies Nick Franclik and Josh Kanusky, my dear friend Jenn McCracken, my friend Kris Kehr, and my god-folk-father Dave Fry. Y’all make it so easy to swing into the tunes.

I have to say the best part of the whole ‘fest was hearing the entire Liederplatz clapping and singing One Big Love today.

We are love. Peace, everyone.


Finding Your Voice, and Making It Heard



a musical and visual workshop, inspiring young women
to overcome adversity and become leaders in their community

**some mature topics – restricted to age 17 and older**

Tickets are on sale now, at EventBrite.

ICE HOUSE TONIGHT

Singer/songwriter, recording artist, graphic artist, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, wife, and community activist – Dina Hall chronicles the journey of a shy, introvert who learned how to look within herself for the ability to take on adversity, and strengthen her family and her community.

This workshop was originally presented at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education 2016 Annual Women’s Conference at Kutztown University.

It is designed for anyone who appreciates the struggle of the unentitled and the marginalized. It will particularly focus on empowering young women and girls, but also challenges mature women who want to make a change in their life.

As we face cuts of federal funding to women’s health programs, and education about violence against women, the program becomes even more relevant. All profit will be donated to Turning Point of Lehigh Valley.

“I hope you will share this with a young woman in your life, and encourage them to come to the event. It will be a workshop format, including video presentation, and musical performance. I will end the program with questions and discussion from the audience.”


For What It’s Worth


In 1976, I was 12-years old, in the sixth grade at D.D. Eisenhower Elementary School in Sayreville, NJ. I was a good student, and received an award for perfect attendance that year. I was a lieutenant on the safety patrol. I was a Girl Scout. I played shortstop for the Red Devils. I had short hair, and I wore cheap red sneakers that came from Pathmark grocery store. I wanted Pro-Keds, like everybody else had, but my parents said no. This caused a real problem for me because it meant I would be ostracized by my friends. But I really don’t think my parents could afford them. So, Pathmark Specials it was for me.

The ridicule came fast, and my friends decided that I wasn’t cool enough for them anymore. They began to torment me. I remember walking home from a Girl Scout meeting one afternoon. Several of us lived on the same street, and we walked home together. And they decided that my best friend and I should fight, you know “beat each other up”. But as I recall, neither of us wanted to do that. Somebody pushed and grabbed my brand new Avon hairbrush from my back pocket and threw it down the sidewalk. It cracked in a couple of places. I hated that. I still hate when my stuff gets ruined.

The next day at lunchtime recess, I found myself in an even more frightening situation. The sixth grade class consisted of about 90 students. With the exception of about five girls who were as unpopular as I was, the entire class chased me around the playground and the large grassy field. A couple of the more aggressive girls came after me, pushing me around, and then one came along and slide tackled me to the ground. At some point, I fought back, and of course found myself in after school detention with the rest of them. My teachers saw me there and couldn’t believe it. I did my time and walked home, alone.

That was 40 years ago. You’d think I’d be over it by now. I thought I was, until this past week.

On Friday night I played a gig here in Bethlehem. It was a small bar gig, which I don’t book very often because I hate competing with the noise. After a week of post-election shock, I really was hurting, and that was causing depression. I knew I wouldn’t be able to engage with an audience, and I just wanted to stay home. But, I rallied, and from the moment I walked in the door, I started to feel anxious. It was hard to breathe. I was catching fragments of conversations about the election, but I couldn’t piece any of it together. I had no idea who was friend or foe.

And then it happened, I looked around that room and I was 12 years old all over again. I was the shy girl in the corner at the middle school dance that none of the boys would talk to. I was the girl at the ice skating rink with the funny name, and the boys would skate by and sing out “Dina-Farina, Dina-Farina”. I can still hear the tune of it in my head. Then I was the naive 17-year-old working at the movie theater, who bent over to pick up a coin that one of the boys (intentionally) dropped on the floor so that they could judge who had “the nicest ass”. I was the 18-year-old high school senior nervously auditioning to sing with the studio band – all boys. I was the very frightened 30-year-old woman being berated by her narcissistic male employer and his bumbling sales manager. I was the 36-year-old woman apprehensively walking into a Sheetz store with her girlfriend in the middle of gun-toting conservative rural Pennsylvania.

I’m just one of the examples of what has happened to the marginalized people in our society. I can’t tell you what Muslims or Latinos are feeling. Of course, I can’t tell you what everyone is feeling. I’m certain that it’s far more terrorizing than my fear. But I can tell you this: Donald Trump’s treatment of women has gone unpunished, his verbal abuse of others has gone unrepudiated by his supporters, and that has brought out pain and anxiety of a history that many of us have been dealing with for years. He has given a voice to the virulent people who need to be validated in their hate, and he has not denounced one iota of the attacks on the marginalized.

img_2044Some people are saying “give him a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised”, and they “hope he succeeds”. Well, I do not want Trump to succeed as president. I want him to crawl back into his slimy tower and do penance for igniting this firestorm. Nothing will ever take away what we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears. As I read somewhere this week, “A woman does not have to reconcile with her abuser”.  I’ve been the victim of more than one male abuser, and I’m disgusted that I have to relive those feelings, particularly when that has been inspired by the president-elect of the United States of America. I’ll repeat that. The president-elect of the United States of America. The highest honor of service in the land.

As I read my social media feed, some people are asking if we can unite and be nice to each other. I think that will take a long time. There is a dirty stain on the American flag right now, and it’s gonna take a whole lot of elbow grease to get rid of it. If you don’t see the stain, you have terrible vision.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, they come and take you away

Stop, children what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s goin’ ’round.

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield 1966


‘Vintage Mellow’


I’m kind of old school. Last week, somebody called me ‘vintage mellow’, and it’s true, especially when I travel. I like to roll down the windows and take the long and winding roads. The ones that make you think you’re lost. The ones that get the most use out of my Volkswagen Rabbit stick shift.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the Philadelphia Folk Festival on behalf of Live From Godfrey Daniels on WDIY radio. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. I dedicated my radio show on Tuesday night to the Festival, playing live cuts from the “40th Anniversary” 4-cd box set. There’s just something about hearing artists like Arlo Guthrie, Gamble Rogers, Susan Werner and Mike Cross, in a live festival setting, that makes me listen intently and laugh out loud. I sure was ready to experience it for myself.

Sunday morning, I jiggled the internet for directions and chose what looked like the most delightful route of the three options. And THIS is where I cut ties with technology. I grabbed a black Sharpie marker and transcribed the directions onto a sheet of paper, in very big lettering. I learned a long time ago that doing this leaves a visual imprint on my brain. When I was 19, I drove from my home in New Jersey all the way to a friend’s house in Massachusetts. I had unwittingly left the directions at home, but I found my way there, nonetheless.

Sunday started out as a typical mid-August morning, sunshine and hot temps, with the threat of rain later in the day. I headed south on some of the most beautiful country roads in the region, passing 19th-century stone farmhouses, dotted with whispering pines and weeping willow trees, and dilapidated old barns that display hand-painted, larger-than-life advertisements of icons from long ago like Ceresota Flour, and Bush and Bull department store. You miss this stuff when you travel the turnpikes. You miss the curves, and the creatures, and the communities. I savored all of that on my way to Schwenksville, listening to Dave Fry’s Sunday Folk program for most of the trip.

It should have been a 50-minute trip, but once I got close to the festival grounds, the roads were blocked, and there was no explanation why. I drove around in circles, or so it seemed, trying to find an alternate way in. Finally, I rolled down the window and asked someone “what’s up?”, and the emergency personnel told me that there was an accident up ahead. “Follow that van,” she said, “and you’ll get to the fest.” She was official-looking, wearing a safety yellow vest and all, and it was an official-looking, white panel van with a placard in the front window that must have read, “official festival van” or something like that. So, I did what she said. After about 15 minutes of follow-the-leader, I gave up, assuming that the people in the van must have gotten a call, like “hurry over to New Jersey” [or someplace very far east of where I thought we were going]. I turned the car around and found the festival on my own. Again, with no technology, just a good, old-fashion sense of direction. I was almost there.

Once I parked my car and got on the shuttle school bus, I was home free. The boisterous driver wore a train conductor’s cap and he and some passengers sang along with Bob Dylan (Bob’s recorded voice, of course), and we bounced along the road to the festival grounds.


I hurried off the bus and patiently waited in line for my press credentials. I was official. I could go just about anywhere now. So I sat down in the dusty field, kicked off my shoes, leaned back on my day-pack, and soaked in the music. And then it started to rain. And as the water ran down my arms inside my sleeves, I realized that my awesome rain jacket was no longer waterproof. And then it started to pour. And I decided that the best part of the day was now a memory, and I had enjoyed every second of it. I would get much wetter before the sun would shine again that day.

I was able to take a couple of photos and record a few of the sets on the Tank Stage and Craft Stages. The highlight of the afternoon was Hurricane Hoss, covering Utah Phillips, with a little help from her backup band, and Bob Beach on harmonica. But all intentions of talking to artists and getting interesting photos of them was gone with the wind that brought that storm. Everyone ducked for cover as soon as they stepped off the stage.

I left the fest much sooner than I had planned and drove home in the rain, still taking the long and winding road home. A different long and winding road, and just as magnificent.

Sometimes the journey becomes the destination.

 


Don’t Call Me Grandma


Tonight, I had the extreme pleasure of opening the show for my friends, Porter & Sayles, at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, Pa. It was my first time inside that theater, let alone playing on the stage. And it’s a fine stage. Sound was wonderful, and the staff was great.

I appreciate everyone who came out to support my supporting slot. It’s not always easy, but that was a very cool audience and I think I did my job well.

The job of the opener is simple, get the audience ready to receive the headliner. I know it well, but each show is different. Each venue is different. It’s hard to read the audience because all you can see is the faces in the first two rows, if you’re lucky. You have about five seconds to figure it out. Saturday night’s show was wonderful. The audience was warm, and everything clicked.

For those who are paying attention, here’s the set list: Inside Out, Round and Round, Logic and the Heart, Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen), Rosie (Bill Hall), Woman in Me. And of course, I spun my usual tales of the silly and the sublime.

In the course of story-weaving, I took the audience back to teenage years, (for some of us, that was a long time ago), and through the music, we went summer-day-tripping together. They laughed and clapped, and shouted out the names of their favorite beaches when I asked them to.

The man who bought one of my CDs had the quote of the night: “I like your stuff. You’re a rockin’ grandma.”

Ah yes, tomorrow’s another day.