As Program Chair, I booked Johnny Collins for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington in the early 1990s. It was an unforgettable evening that helped me understand that folk-singing is not, at heart, about the performer, or even the song, so much as it is about building a musical community. He was, of course, one of the great chorus leaders of our time, but even with a solo song he turned us into a community of listeners.
He was a warm, magical man who could cut to the chase of a song. I felt honored when he sang a song or two of mine because I knew that would never have happened unless they personally touched him enough to learn. That made me more confident about my own songwriting.
I did not know him as some of you have, but i carry my memory of that evening around like an ember within. It will never go out.