Mimi & Richard Fariņa:
Celebrations for a Grey Day

Vanguard (VSD-79174) April 1965.
Re-issued on CD in 1995.
Cover photo by Kenneth van Sickle.
Running time: 38:47

Instr.--guitar & dulcimer
Vocal--with guitar & dulcimer
(by Pauline Marden and Richard Fariņa)
Instr.--autoharp & dulcimer
Vocal--with dulcimer and guitar
5. DOG BLUE 1:42 (arr. by Mimi Fariņa)
Instr.--guitar & dulcimer
6. V.
Instr.--dulcimer & tambourine (Bruce Langhorne)
Vocal--with guitar, dulcimer, electric guitar (Bruce Langhorne), piano (Charles Small) and bass (Russ Savakus)

8. HAMISH 1:47
Instr.--autoharp & dulcimer
Vocal--with guitar & electric guitar (Bruce Langhorne)
10. TUILERIES 1:45
11. THE FALCON 3:38
Vocal--with guitar
12. RENO NEVADA 3:07
Vocal--with guitar, dulcimer, electric guitar (Bruce Langhorne), piano (Charles Small) and bass (Russ Savakus)
Instr.--guitar & dulcimer


This bold debut from the new folk duo featured mostly original compositions and a surprising number of instrumentals (seven out of the thirteen songs are instrumental) to showcase the more distinctive features of their style: Richard's inventive, percussive attack on the dulcimer, and the rhythmic flair of both performers that propelled folk toward the new sonic universe of sixties rock. Richard's playing inspired a whole generation of dulcimer players, and Mimi, who was 19 when the album was recorded, developed a beautifully expressive, winsome style on the guitar that complemented Richard's dulcimer perfectly.

This hitherto unusual combination of dulcimer and guitar provides the foundation of their style: a diatonic instrument and chromatic instrument, the one archaic and primitive, the other infinitely versatile, just then emerging as the pioneering instrument of progressive popular music. This is the "android synthesis" that Richard cryptically discusses in the album notes and illustrates with a long list of groceries, mingling traditional fare such as fresh country eggs with assorted processed, frozen, or wholly invented foods and medicines, as well as experimental diets such as the macrobiotic. The seemingly pointless list is a sly metaphor for their music, combining old and new, borrowed and invented, traditional and innovative. The reference to "our foreign blood" and "a tradition barely ours and hardly its own" is not merely a reference to the couple's Hispanic ethnicity (of which Richard liked to make much ado, long before identity-politics posturing became the rage) but also a recognition of the myriad, inextricably tangled traditions of folk music that provided a smorgasbord from which the Fariņas' own inventive artistry could serve up this feast.

Thus, the album still sounds amazingly fresh today--the modern listener is struck by the uniqueness of the sound, and the feeling of new musical terrain being discovered. Their next album would take the traditional-modern synthesis even further, but this album, with its brilliant exposition of the dulcimer-guitar fusion, beginning right with the first song and continuing throughout a generous helping of instrumentals, is my own personal favorite. Although the Fariņa Poll reveals that Reflections in a Crystal Wind is much more popular, I suspect most people would agree that Celebrations isn't far behind in quality--it's like the difference between Rubber Soul and Revolver: one is clearly a leap forward, but the earlier one yet has that indescribable, unrepeatable charm.

Celebrations featured the two songs by which Richard and Mimi are still best known, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and "Reno, Nevada." Both were released as singles the following year: "Reno, Nevada" was backed by "One Way Ticket," and "Pack Up Your Sorrows" by "Joy 'Round My Brain" (which didn't make it onto LP until Memories.) "Pack Up Your Sorrows" proved to be the Fariņa song most frequently recorded by other artists, with a flurry of cover versions in 1966 following Richard's death, and continuing well into the 70s, then lagging in the 80s, to be picked up again in the 90s and on into the 21st century (see the Cover Versions page for more info). Richard would be proud of the song's enduring popularity and the many tributes by friends and fans. But although it's inevitable that the bitter-sweet song would become an anthem for his brilliant life and untimely death, the popularity of "Pack Up Your Sorrows" is ironic, perhaps even regretable, because its summercamp sing-alongability has given an impression of a conventional folk sound that sells short the Fariņas' true style. People who know Richard & Mimi only from that song, or have heard facile comparisons to Ian & Sylvia, don't know what they're missing, and therefore may never bother to seek out the stranger, wilder paths their music traveled.

A Note on "Michael, Andrew and James":
Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were members of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). On June 21, 1964, they traveled to Longdale, Mississippi to visit a church that had been bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. On their way back they were arrested by the sherrif, then released, and then shot by a mob and buried in a shallow grave. Their bodies were not discovered until two weeks later, on August 4th. Michael Schwerner had been a Cornell student (class of '61), which probably gave the tragic events an extra poignancy for Fariņa. His song is a sequel of sorts to "Birmingham Sunday," which likewise commemorated the victims of a racist attack. In both songs Fariņa called upon the folk trope of naming each victim to preserve them in our collective memory, a tradition older than the Homeric epics. Tom Paxton also wrote a song for them, called "Goodman, Schwerner And Chaney," on his album Ain't That News and Carolyn Hester wrote one called "Three Young Men" on At Town Hall, vol. 1. The lyrics to Paxton's song can be found at http://www.mydfz.com/Paxton/lyrics/gsc.htm

Other Notes:

  • A photo by Kenneth van Sickle on the back of the LP was omitted from the CD re-issue.
  • Richard's album notes referred to a production of The Shelter, a one-act play written by Richard, in which Mimi allegedly danced. However, Mimi later stated in an interview with Patrick Morrow that that play was never produced.

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