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Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 99)

Related threads:
Armstrong segment on NPR (5)
Armstrongs on NPR's ATC 11/24 (2)
Armstrong Legacy (11)


Art Thieme 29 Aug 99 - 08:28 PM
katlaughing 29 Aug 99 - 08:34 PM
catspaw49 29 Aug 99 - 08:44 PM
Sandy Paton 29 Aug 99 - 11:09 PM
Big Mick 30 Aug 99 - 09:01 AM
folk1234 30 Aug 99 - 09:29 AM
Frank Hamilton 30 Aug 99 - 10:25 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 30 Aug 99 - 10:38 AM
Sandy Paton 30 Aug 99 - 11:43 AM
dpara 30 Aug 99 - 03:54 PM
Sandy Paton 30 Aug 99 - 05:02 PM
folk1234 30 Aug 99 - 05:41 PM
KathWestra 30 Aug 99 - 05:51 PM
Rick Fielding 30 Aug 99 - 06:27 PM
Art Thieme 30 Aug 99 - 11:56 PM
Ray Frank (inactive) 31 Aug 99 - 02:08 PM
Sandy Paton 01 Sep 99 - 03:08 AM
BK Lick 01 Sep 99 - 11:56 AM
Rich Warren 01 Sep 99 - 03:18 PM
Art Thieme 01 Sep 99 - 05:13 PM
Mary Elizabeth Colmer 02 Sep 99 - 08:26 PM
MAG (inactive) 03 Sep 99 - 03:28 AM
Maddie MacNeil 03 Sep 99 - 10:11 AM
Sandy Paton 03 Sep 99 - 11:42 AM
katlaughing 03 Sep 99 - 08:25 PM
Sandy Paton 04 Sep 99 - 12:41 AM
BK Lick 04 Sep 99 - 12:43 AM
Sandy Paton 04 Sep 99 - 01:36 AM
Alice 04 Sep 99 - 01:43 AM
Sandy Paton 04 Sep 99 - 01:47 AM
Sourdough 04 Sep 99 - 04:36 AM
Frank Hamilton 04 Sep 99 - 10:54 AM
Sandy Paton 04 Sep 99 - 11:36 AM
Big Mick 04 Sep 99 - 11:52 AM
catspaw49 04 Sep 99 - 12:32 PM
Art Thieme 04 Sep 99 - 01:22 PM
catspaw49 04 Sep 99 - 01:31 PM
katlaughing 04 Sep 99 - 01:54 PM
Sandy Paton 04 Sep 99 - 02:12 PM
catspaw49 04 Sep 99 - 05:14 PM
Barbara 04 Sep 99 - 06:04 PM
catspaw49 04 Sep 99 - 06:09 PM
Big Mick 04 Sep 99 - 08:52 PM
Mary Elizabeth Colmer-murry2@mis.net 16 Sep 99 - 08:47 PM
catspaw49 16 Sep 99 - 08:58 PM
catspaw49 17 Sep 99 - 08:41 PM
Art Thieme 08 Apr 04 - 11:31 PM
Sandy Paton 08 Apr 04 - 11:49 PM
Art Thieme 09 Apr 04 - 12:05 AM
Amos 09 Apr 04 - 12:17 AM
wysiwyg 09 Apr 04 - 01:22 AM
Ebbie 09 Apr 04 - 01:37 AM
MAG 09 Apr 04 - 10:04 PM
GUEST,MAG at work 10 Apr 04 - 12:23 PM
Art Thieme 10 Apr 04 - 01:47 PM
Art Thieme 01 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM
Stringsinger 01 Feb 09 - 04:02 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 01 Feb 09 - 08:23 PM
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Subject: Gerry Armstrong--sad news
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Aug 99 - 08:28 PM

Folks, I know that many of you have loved the music of Gerry Armstrong, and her late husbang, George---their great LP on Folkways that introduced the world to the the words to "Simple Gifts"---their fine work on Folk Legacy as original members of "THE GOLDEN RING", the albums called "FIVE DAYS SINGING" and recently a CD with her daughters, Rebecca and Jennifer. Sandy and Caroline & I had recently spent some lovely hours listening to Gerry just 3 or 4 weeks ago at the Dulcimer Festival in Morris, Illinois where S. & C. were performing also. We knew Gerry was ill but we didn't know how sick she actually was.
Today I got this e-mail from an old folk friend in California.

"Hi, Gerry Armstrong's sister just called to tell me that Gerry died today, just before noon, our time. Her sister, Barbara, was with her as all the girls were in California for Becky's son's wedding. Gerry had planned to go, but in the last few days had started to fail. Barbara reported that Gerry died without pain, peacefully with a smile on her lips."

Art


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Aug 99 - 08:34 PM

Another one I've missed and now, to learn about. Such a sad way to learn of someone who sounds like a treasure. I am sorry, Art. Thank you for letting us know.

luvyaKat


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 29 Aug 99 - 08:44 PM

I have listened and admired and now I am saddened. Thank you Art.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 29 Aug 99 - 11:09 PM

We knew, somehow, as we said "goodbye" at the festival and watched Gerry walk away toward her car, not looking back, that we'd never see her again. She had told us the doctors who discovered her cancer had warned her that it usually meant only six months to a year, at most. But when Gerry wrote to tell us about it, she insisted that we should not be saddened, as she was ready and her faith sustained her. How reassuring such a profound faith must be.

Farewell to a very dear friend of forty years standing. We'll miss your music and cherish your memory.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Big Mick
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 09:01 AM

I don't know why this one pains me so. Can't say I ever met her except in her music. I think it is because three people that I have come to truly love and respect, Art, Sandy and Caroline, speak of her with such tenderness. Friends, your sadness comes through loud and clear. We are all lessened by her leaving, but her body of work lives on.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: folk1234
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 09:29 AM

A lovely lady, who left behind the gift of music that we all can enjoy. Although I've loved her and George's music for many years, I did not meet her until this past April at the Big Muddy Folk Festival in Booneville, MO. We sang Poor Howard together. What a thrill for me.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 10:25 AM

Jean Ritchie had informed me of Gerry's condition. I called Gerry about a week ago and had a lovely chat with her. I told her how much George and she had contributed to the Old Town School of Folk Music and how she and George were responsible for bringing in traditional folk music to the School. Horton Barker stayed at her house when he did the concert at the OTS.

George and Gerry graced our concert stages with their lovely dulcimer music and George always piped us in as a prelude to OTS events. I remember the record "Simple Gifts". Sandy, is that Folk Legacy or Folkways?

I was so moved at Gerry's wonderful attitude. An acceptance of that part of life called death that was inspirational came through the telephone wires in that warm, musical voice. It was like she was singing to everyone she knew that everything is all right, the way it's supposed to be and not to worry about her. What a brave lady!

Her lovely daughters will carry on the tradition that she and George loved, fostered and taught to us all.

Very sadly yours,

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 10:38 AM

The Golden Ring and the Five Days Singing recordings taught me so much about folk music and harmony singing. Goodby, Gerry- and thank you.
Allison


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 11:43 AM

"Simple Gifts" was their Folkways record, Frank. For Folk-Legacy they participated in the early "Golden Ring" and the two "New Golden Ring - Five Days Singing" albums, all three now on CD.

Yes, Gerry's calm acceptance of death was a reflection of her great faith, and also of the spirit of joy that graced her entire life. It's good to realize that her daughters and their daughters continue the family's musical tradition. Their life flows on in endless song...

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: dpara
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 03:54 PM

Very sad news, indeed. We came to know her bravery and strength later and her music earlier. The echoes of George and Gerry's harmonies live deep inside our hearts, and we have many times over the years conjured them up when we sang "Sundown" or "Rackensack," or "Lord Bateman," "The Waters of Tyne." And other times we find another song of our own search, sing it and find George and Gerry there, too. And a tenacious love for and deep understanding of traditional music, as it continues to live and breathe, we remember them for that, too. Bless her, bless them both.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 05:02 PM

Dave (and Cathy, too): I'm so pleased to find that you've joined the Mudcat family, although this, the first post I've seen from you, has got to be the saddest I ever hope to see. She was in Boonville this year, wasn't she, ainging and telling stories at your Big Muddy Festival? She performed at the Dulcimer Festival in Morris, IL, too, although between each of her workshops she had to take a rest in her car. Her spirit never failed her, but she was very quickly fatigued. She was an inspiration to us all.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: folk1234
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 05:41 PM

Dear Cathy & Dave: Welcome to Mudcat. I truly look forward to your input in the 'Cat. It's a sad occasion, but I think Gerry would want us to celebrate by singing. I don't suppose you know me as 'folk1234", but you may know me as Phil from OK.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: KathWestra
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 05:51 PM

I'm writing this from my office with tears streaming down my cheeks. I had learned of Gerry's death last night in a call from my ex-husband, Joe Hickerson. Reading these tender tributes makes the sad news fresh again.

Gerry and George's "Simple Gifts" recording was one I discovered around about 1971, shortly after Sandy and Caroline helped me discover this wonderful folk music community. I went to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, public library looking for folk music recordings, and found this one. I played it and played it, checking it out from the library on a regular basis until I practially knew all the songs by heart. I would not meet Gerry and George for another few years, but their warmth and love of this music -- and of the wider community of singers and sources -- was tangible even when played from a well-worn record on a cheap Sears turntable with a needle that had surely turned over its first 10,000 miles. Their liner notes helped open a window on a world that I would grow to love more and more with the passing years.

So thank you, Gerry, and farewell, with sadness and love. Kathy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 06:27 PM

I never got to meet George, but during a visit to Chicago 3 years ago I got a chance to meet Gerry and even hear her sing a bit. A wonderful woman who made me feel very welcome. Once again, thanks Sandy and Caroline for the many doors you opened.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Art Thieme
Date: 30 Aug 99 - 11:56 PM

Gerry and George were seminal influences on the Chicago folk scene. George had a wonderful radio show on WFMT-FM called THE WANDERING FOLKSONG---a show based on showing different variations of various folksongs and how they changed and morphed while passing through the ritual that the oral tradition process is. Gerry was Gerry Breen when the two of them met in the 50s. They were friends of Frank Proffitt's and got me to buy one of his dulcimers back in '61. I took a series of dulcimer lessons from Gerry about that time and I never stopped learning from the two of them. Their house in Wilmette, Illinois was a focal point for wonderful music for over 40 years. Personally, I'll never forget a surreal and amazing dinner at their house with George, Gerry, Carol and I and Joseph Campbell. They thought I ought to know the man so they set this dinner up to make it happen. That's the kind of folks they were. Both will be sorely missed at our house.

Art


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Ray Frank (inactive)
Date: 31 Aug 99 - 02:08 PM

Gerry came to the California Country Song and Dance Family Dance Camp a few years ago. She and I spent time making corn-husk dolls with a bunch of kids and sharing memories of being at Fox Hollow and music, of course. She was a geat lady and is missed by many.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 01 Sep 99 - 03:08 AM

Ray: I do hope you'll be a regular here, now that you have made your presence known.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: BK Lick
Date: 01 Sep 99 - 11:56 AM

Oh my, what precious memories! Horton Barker, yes, and Howie Mitchell, Fleming Brown, Ed Trickett, Sandy and Caroline -- so many wonderful folks Dodi and I had the good fortune to meet way back then through George and Gerry. One evergreen memory is of them dropping in unexpectedly at a party at our house, with Fiddler and Evelyne Beers in tow. Fiddler set up his psaltery and, after regaling us with "The High Wind That Blew the Low Post Down" and many bawdy verses of "Fuller La La", accompanied Evelyne and Gerry in "Dumbarton's Drums" -- I think it may have been the sweetest sound I've ever heard.

I've been listening to _Music in My Mother's House: Three Generations of Armstrong Women_. In liner notes, Rebecca writes: "I learned it to sing at a friend's mother's funeral and witnessed its healing power there. For all of us who learned the joys of music from the gift of having a parent who loved to sing!" George and Gerry surely passed that gift along to many of their fans' children over the years. (Although my daughter Kathy strayed from the fold into the world of bluegrass, yet her work is clearly influenced by all the traditional music she learned at her mother's knee, passed on from the Armstrongs and their many friends.) Now Rebecca, Jennifer, Suzannah, Georgia Rose, and everyone who admired and learned from George and Gerry are the lucky ones who get to carry the song.

-- Bruce

Carry the song, for you are chosen. The music that you hear is meant for all to share. Carry the song, so pure and golden. You're the lucky one to help carry the song. -- Bob Bowker


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Rich Warren
Date: 01 Sep 99 - 03:18 PM

The beauty of Gerry Armstrong was not only her voice, but her attitude, that the song was more important than the singer. She did everything possible to foster folk music in the Chicago area, while most of the time staying out of the spotlight. Gerry was one of the first performers on WFMT's "The Midnight Special" when it was a live program hosted by Mike Nichols, and she guest hosted many times after Norm Pellegrini took over. My great regret is that Gerry did not do more solo recording.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Sep 99 - 05:13 PM

Bruce Kallick,

Hello from Peru, Il. Nice to hear your voice. Our son brought Carol and I into Chicago last Saturday---and I caught a glimpse of Dodi crossing Lincoln Ave. or Halsted (whatever)--just like in other times. The town has changed, but the melodies linger on!

Give our best to Kathy--for old times' sake---and tell her she's got her mom's phrasing. Must be genetic. Sure does sound grand to hear those similarities. What a fine warbler she is!

Art


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Mary Elizabeth Colmer
Date: 02 Sep 99 - 08:26 PM

I met Gerry and her husband George when I lived in New York City with my first husband Steve Addiss. Gerry taught me to make the cornshuck dolls that I now make for a living. She had learned them from May Ritchie in Viper KY. The last time I saw her was after my shop was hit by a tornado. She came down and spent a week with Neil and I, painting a beautiful stencil on the kitchen ceiling. It is called..."With a Song in My Heart"

I too am a member of the Golden Ring and will miss her very much. She and George will be making a very special Golden Ring now in Heaven that I hope I will be able to join when I get there. With Fond Memories Mary


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 03 Sep 99 - 03:28 AM

Art, or Rich, Can youtell us where to send condolences to Jenny and Becky?

I'vve written elsewhere hoe I miss Georg piping the U. of chicago Folk Fest open every winter. I learned many wonderful play party games from Gerry at the OTS, which I use in my work all the time.

The Mummer's Play at christmas was also always a special treat.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Maddie MacNeil
Date: 03 Sep 99 - 10:11 AM

The first time I met Gerry was at a concert I did in the Chicago area. I noticed this woman sitting in the front row, singing along during audience participation songs...but most of all she was "with me," following the songs in her heart.It was one of those lovely moments, fulfilled through the years as we talked and sang songs together. I'm one of those blessed by her presence and I will miss her.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 03 Sep 99 - 11:42 AM

Gerry seems to be bringing many of us together even now. Mary, Rich, Maddie, Bruce, and all: please continue with your contributions to the various Mudcat threads, now that we know you are here.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Sep 99 - 08:25 PM

I just heard a wonderful piece remembering Gerry on All Things Considered on NPR, with an interview of norn Pellegrini and audio clips of her singing Simple Gifts and Lamentation of the Soul/How Can I keep from Singing(?)(I'm still a baby phoakie when it comes to history & titles!).

Made me cry my eyes out. What a beautiful soul and voice. They said Studs Terkel said if he was going to cast a voice for the Virgin Mary it would be Gerry's.

When I checked they didn't have the audio file up yet for this evening's broadcast, but here is the link for later, if anyone wants to listen.

Thanks for teaching me more and sharing your memories. Wish I'd known about her, and the rest of you, years ago.

katlaughing


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 12:41 AM

Thanks for the link, Kat m'luv. Caroline heard the broadcast, but she was upstairs on the other side of our barn and couldn't let me know it was on so I could hear it, too. We plan to order a tape of the program.

"How Can I Keep from Singing," by the way, was learned by Pete Seeger from a woman here in Sharon, Connecticut: Doris Plenn. Things do manage to come full circle sometimes, don't they?

Art: can you post that lovely obituary to this thread? It would be nice if the Mudcat folk could read it. You may want to get permission from the newspaper first. I dunno. I doubt that they'd object.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: BK Lick
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 12:43 AM

Rich Warren will have a tribute to Gerry on his folk music program, The Midnight Special, tomorrow evening, Saturday, from 9PM to 12 on Chicago's WFMT, 98.7 FM. It will be available live on the Web (with RealAudio) as well as in archival form for one week beginning the following Wednesday. Follow the link "Listen on the web" on the Midnight Special home page.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:36 AM

Thanks, Bruce. Sue Kessell just posted the Tribune article to the FOLKDJ-L, so I assume we could add it here.

FOLK SINGER LEFT A LASTING MELODY IN MANY HEARTS
Eric Zorn.

The tune "Gay Gordons" changed Marjorie Ann "Gerry" Breen's life on a hot June night in 1952. She was an aspiring 22-year-old Chicago folk singer and had been invited to appear on a live performance program on radio station WFMT, then a very obscure FM station that broadcast a hodgepodge of programs from studios in a West Side hotel. Among the other performers that night was George Armstrong, 25, a bagpiper who she later said struck her as a "glamorous creature." She was looking for an excuse to speak to him, and found it when at last he played something she recognized--"Gay Gordons." She said to him, "I know the dance that goes with that tune. Do you?" He did. Armstrong put down his bagpipes, and, with both of them humming, they danced Gay Gordons up and down the hotel hallway. Less than two years later they were married.

And so began what many call "the first family of Chicago folk," a partnership that both nurtured and produced traditional music for four decades until George Armstrong's death in 1993.

Gerry Armstrong had a voice "of soaring purity," remembered Studs Terkel, who often emceed shows in which she sang. "If you needed to cast someone to sing the role of the Virgin Mary, it would have to be Gerry," he said.

The Armstrongs were never big box office nor did they sell millions of records or write famous songs. Instead they collected, performed and recorded the best of the old material and helped prevent the local scene from straying too far from its roots during folk's commercial boomlet in the late 1950s and early 60s.

"They were the keepers of the flame, the folk conscience of Chicago," said former WFMT program director and folk-music host Norm Pellegrini, who engineered their early recordings. These recordings include a 1961 album titled "Simple Gifts," from a Shaker hymn that became their signature song.

They performed at the opening of the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1957 and guided the booking for the first University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1961--two institutions that also guarded tradition. Gerry added storytelling to her performance repertoire and published several storybooks for which George, an illustrator by trade, did the artwork.

"(Folk) was just sort of a hobby that gradually consumed our lives " Gerry told local folklorist Paul Tyler in a 1990 interview, the tape of which is punctuated frequently by her merry laugh.

"Their house (in Wilmette) was always full of music," said veteran singer Art Thieme. "They were a real inspiration."

Several hundred of those who were inspired or otherwise touched by Gerry Armstrong turned out Wednesday afternoon to say goodbye to her in a "ceremony of joy" at what her daughter Rebecca Armstrong said was her mother's "favorite spot on this green earth," the beach at Gillson Park in Wilmette.

Armstrong, 69, died Sunday afternoon at home after a three-month illness. The family has tentative plans for a public memorial concert on Sunday, Oct. 31, at the Lake Street Church in Evanston.

She died "her face aglow with triumphant passion," according to a poem written Monday and read at Wednesday's service by Maureen Flannery, a friend who attended the all-night singing party that followed Armstrong's death.

Armstrong's other daughter, Jennifer, a professional folk singer now based in Boston, sang an emotional tribute. So did Jennifer's grown daughters--Susannah and Georgia Rose--who have recently released their own CD, a recording that demonstrates the Armstrong family tradition is in no danger of fading away.

In the end, the gathering sent Gerry Armstrong off on the same note on which she came in, figuratively speaking. On a hot September afternoon in 1999, Jennifer Armstrong picked up the bagpipes and, just as her late father had 47 years earlier, began to play "Gay Gordons."

And as she played the song that started it all, she began to march. The procession followed her several hundred yards out to a pier that juts into Lake Michigan.

Rebecca Armstrong stood on a high rock and faced everyone. "A blessing on all of you and on my mother's spirit," she said, casting a flower into the waves. "May it sing on throughout eternity."

(ericzorn@aol.com)


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Alice
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:43 AM

very touching, sad, inspiring,


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:47 AM

And Joel Mabus sent this message to the FOLKDJ-L. I don't think he'd mind my passing it on here:

Gerry Armstrong was a wonderful person. I knew her only these past few years. When I would play Hogeye Concerts in Evanston she put me up for the night in her house. She insisted I take her bedroom because she "slept better on the couch." On the Sunday morning she was up early and off to sing in choir. Even after staying up late to listen to her friend, Studs Terkel, on the radio.

She showed me the wonderful children's books she and her late husband, George, wrote and illustrated in the 1950's. He was taken by Alzheimers some years ago, but his marvelous books (which should still be in print but are not) attest to his fine mind, which must have been such a sad loss to her.

The Golden Ring (and the sequels) were landmark recordings in the folk movement, in my book. In one gentle recording, the folk bubble was so elegantly deflated. Folk music was reclaimed from the big names and hyped record companies and all the hoo-ha. It was real people, with human talents singing real songs with no pretense of stardom nor any bookish claim of authenticity.

It set the tone for a whole generation of singers in the 1970's who kept the flame alive when commercial folk music retreated to the corners of church basements and America went disco. It inspired countless lovers of song to try their own voices on for size.

The Golden Ring was un-hyped then and remains so today. But it still shines. Maybe that's why I am so sure it is real gold.

Gerry was a lovely lady and she is missed.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sourdough
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 04:36 AM

Because of this thread, I learned about Gerry and George Armstrong. The warm and wonderful things said about them made me suspect that I had missed something special so when I heard that National Public Radio was going to do a feature on All Things Considered about a Chicago folksinger who had recently passed away, I listened to the afternoon broadcast only to find the piece had been cut out of the local feed. Tonight, I listened to the rebroadcast and finally, a few minutes before one, there was the piece. It was so moving. I heard her sing "Simple Gifts". Everything people had written about her voice, so pure and clear, didn't prepare me for what I heard. There was this beautiful vibrato in her voice. It seemed so artless but it was filled with meaning. And people say her voice was a good rendition of her spirit. I may have missed knowing her but now that I know of her I can hear Simple Gifts whenever I want because of the Golden Ring recordings she left behind. The big disappointment of the radio program was learning that she only made this one record album.

An introduction to Gerry Armstrong is one more thing I can be grateful to Mudcatters for.

Sourdough

Maybe Mudcat radio could do a longer appreciation of her and George Armstrong.


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 10:54 AM

When Win, Dawn, Gert and I started the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1957 we relied on Gerry and George to help us in the struggle to keep authentic folk music alive at the School. Dick Chase and Horton Barker were staying at her house. George and Gerry were visiting them in the South. If I wanted to know some obscure question about folk music I would go to George. I was unhappy to learn that when I talked to Gerry about two and a half weeks ago on the telephone that the OTS had not had her back for a concert or any appearance. A few years ago, Jenny, Becky and Gerry had an appearance in a benefit concert at the School for Ray Norstrand that included their remarkable and memorable version of the song "Bedlam". Gerry's spirit had graced the School from it's inception and we fought like hell to keep the real folk music in it alive. Gerry epitomized that spirit that we were fighting for. Gerry's passing is a great loss fot the Old Town School as well as the rest of us.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 11:36 AM

Actually, George and Gerry made only the one album of just the two of them - Simple Gifts on Folkways (now available through Smithsonian/Folkways, I assume). They also produced a record that came out on the late Bruce Kaplan's label, Flying Fish, which is now a part of the Rounder group of labels. This was called Wheel of the Year. They were at the very heart of the original Golden Ring, and The New Golden Ring, so those three CDs each contain some of their music. Hope this information helps to carry on their inspirational work.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Big Mick
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 11:52 AM

I am just sitting here thinking of how blessed I have been by the Mudcat. Max, if you ever wonder about your good work, read this thread. I am a guy who sings, but when I look at this thread, and read the postings of people that I would have given anything to meet, it just overwhelms me. I was saddened to hear of Gerry Armstrongs death because I was a fan. But through this wonderful place, I have been able to become friends with, and watch quietly, as Art, Sandy, Caroline, Mary and all the rest have said a farewell to a fellow traveller. I don't know if I am being clear or just rambling, but I am grateful for the chance to share in all this.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 12:32 PM

And to reiterate what Sandy also said, many of the people who have appeared on this wonderful thread are not Mudcat regulars, but we all invite them to stay around and join us in this wonderful place. There is lots of great music, wonderful discussions, and some fun nonsense too. This is a loving, caring, funny, intelligent, compassionate, and humane group of folks here and we'd love to see you all here with us.

Mary Elizabeth Colmer --- Does "Snoopy," the little elf you're married to, still have that Gibson with the MOP fretboard? I was thinking of him a few weeks ago when I passed through Pomeroy.

Spaw


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Subject: Lyr Add: SUNDOWN
From: Art Thieme
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:22 PM

I'm compelled to print my paraphrase of the story Gerry told at the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival in Morris, Illinois a couple of weeks ago. She was so open about her impending death that it was awe inspiring---for me anyhow. I just sent this to Rich Warren as he wanted reminiscences of Jerry from me for his memorial to her that he is writing for SING OUT! On stage that beautiful afternoon in Morris, Gerry was working out her attitude towards death. She pulled no punches. Told about her mastectomy and about finding out she had cancer in all the lymph nodes. But being influenced by folklore and tales (some undoubtedly from Joseph Campbell), she saw all of the hard times in one's life as DRAGONS that had to be confronted and fought. From loss of a parent to childbirth to the loss of her husband to alzheimer's to hardships of any kind---illness, even the prospect of death! These were all dragons that had to be bested. And then she realized that, as she vanquished every one of them, one by one, they seemed to lose their power over her. She saw that they weren't really dragons. They were benign.

The last dragon was the angel of death. And saying that, she thought, "If it's an angel, it simply cannot be a bad thing!" Also, she saw that all of the dragon's she had fought in her life had, on being faced squarely, turned into angels. So, in the end, she had no fear of death! It was just a part of life---a thing to be, if not embraced, thought of as a final adventure leading wherever it leads.

Then Gerry sang "SUNDOWN"---a song that I've recorded twice after learning it from George and Gerry Armstrong at the Frank Proffitt memorial concert at the Old Town School OF FOLK MUSIC in 1966 (I think). I sure never had those words mean as much to me as they meant right then. George & Gerry had learned "SUNDOWN" from Paul Clayton who had learned it from Bascom Lamar Lunsford---and I tought it to Cindy Mangsen. We truly are links on the chain...

Hi, my little darling,
Smile upon your face,
Gonna buy a ribbon bow
To tie around your waist.

chorus) It's nearly sundown, sundown,
The sun is almost down,
I'm bound away to leave you
Before the sun goes down,
It's nearly sundown, sundown,
The sun is almost down.

The roads, they are muddy,
The mountains, they are steep,
I'm bound to see my darling,
Before I get to sleep.

Well, hi, my little darling,
Meet me at the gate;
I want to kiss you one more time,
Before it gets too late.

Hi, my little darling,
Meet me at the door,
I'm bound away to leave you,
Unto some foreign shore.

It's nearly sundown,
The sun is almost down...

Love,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:31 PM

Simply beautiful Art.........What a wonderful way to view death..... "an adventure to wherever it leads".......

It's my day for crying at the keyboard...........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 01:54 PM

Mick, you said what I've been feeling all week. My heart, kind phoaks, is filled to overflowing with love, gratitude, awe, profound peace, and courage from knowing all of you and counting you among my very dear, dear hearted friends.

Thank you just seems so inadequate, but they are the only words I have, repeatedly, in my heart and mind. Thank you, thank you,

kat


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 02:12 PM

Before we let this thread drift away into memory, as I suppose it must, and should, let me share with you part of the letter Gerry wrote to us on June 1st of this year, just three months ago.

After a personal opening paragraph, she wrote:

"A routine blood test, then a cat scan, then a biopsy show that I have liver cancer. There's no cure for that. The average life after diagnosis is 6 to 12 months.

"Be assured that I feel peaceful about this. Since the soul is eternal, I know I'm going on to something else -- heaven or reincarnation or something I haven't even imagined. I'm eager for my new adventure. The hardest part is telling friends and family.

"This is a short letter because I have quite a few to write. I love you and wish you well.

Peace,

Gerry"

And now you know how right it was for all of us to sing her on her way. Sandy


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 05:14 PM

Lovely Sandy......

Has anyone got a picture to forward to bbc? She has a section on the resources page.......might be kinda' nice.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Barbara
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 06:04 PM

It never fails to amaze me how some people, when they know they're dying, just fill up with light; it's like they drop all their personal baggage and fill to overflowing with calm joy, love and acceptance, so that it reaches out to everyone near. People like that are a gift, and it sounds like Gerry's one.
Thank you, Gerry.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 06:09 PM

I'd only add or change that Barb in one respect. It seems the ones who "fill with light" the most are the ones who have shone the brightest before.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Big Mick
Date: 04 Sep 99 - 08:52 PM

All that's left to say is...........Amen.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Mary Elizabeth Colmer-murry2@mis.net
Date: 16 Sep 99 - 08:47 PM

Dear Folks, Yes I am still with the Elf from Pomeroy...but who are you. Can anyone go to the Oct31 gathering for Gerry?Love and Song Mary


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 16 Sep 99 - 08:58 PM

But does the Elf still have the B with the MOP fretboard?...(This is fun!!!!)

Mary, perhaps you'd post the information here about the gathering for Gerry....details, etc.

Spaw (catspaw49)


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Subject: RE: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: catspaw49
Date: 17 Sep 99 - 08:41 PM

Dear Mary Elizabeth,

Rather than add silly games to a beautiful thread, I created a new one called "Mary Colmer--Who is Catspaw?" I'll try to get you there easily by just CLICKING HERE ,but if it doesn't work, look for this by using the filter box and refresh. Just a fun way to renew an old friendship with the elf.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: OBIT: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Apr 04 - 11:31 PM

refresh---April 8th, 2004

I'm missing old friends tonight.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: OBIT: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Apr 04 - 11:49 PM

I know how you feel, Art. It has been a tough couple of months for survivors. Perhaps we have reached the age at which we must expect the frequent loss of dear friends. It helps a little if we can say "they had a good go 'round." Some "go 'round" far too briefly, but they may still leave us much the richer for having known them. Gerry was certainly one of these, as was Rick, and Merritt -- and, sadly, even more who were not known to our fellow Mudcatters. Fare well to all, wherever.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Apr 04 - 12:05 AM

Sandy,

It was great to be in Chicago last Saturdsy for the Memorial celebration of Fred Holstein's musical odyssey here below. So many old friends.

Onward and upward !!

Art


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Amos
Date: 09 Apr 04 - 12:17 AM

Art:

If you feel like it I would love to hear your stream of consciousness from the memorial for Fred.

A


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Apr 04 - 01:22 AM

Me too, Art. If it's too hard to type, you could tape it and send it to me and I would transcribe it and post it.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: Ebbie
Date: 09 Apr 04 - 01:37 AM

Art, I think I know how you feel. I'm never sure how I should feel- on the one hand I miss so many of them almost every day of my life and on the other I'm not in a great hurry to join them. (But I have told friends that if my body is found dead, just assume I died smiling. Because I plan to.)

I keep thinking of you in connection with a blues singer here in Juneau. He's of the same ilk as Bruce Phillips and as how I picture you - crusty with a sweet center. His name is Patrick Henry (Pat) originally from San Angelo, Texas and he writes wonderful songs. These days a great many are political commentary - 'Get Stuffed' is one of them. It tells about how 'Dubya' tells us to go out and spend money and get more STUFF- and ends up telling the administration what they can do.

I was in Oregon last month and Depoe Bay hasn't changed all that much. Lot longer town than it used to be but it's not much wider. The ocean was wild the day I was there, but the sky was blue.

Elva B


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news
From: MAG
Date: 09 Apr 04 - 10:04 PM

It is entirely possible (it is under active discussion) that WFMT radio will release a CD of the Remembering Fred Holstein concert. It went on for 3 hours, so they would probably have to trim it -- although I don't see how. There was hardly a moment of slack time, with one person or persons introducing the next, who walked right out.

I can tell you hearing Art do the Johnny Cash story in his inimitable dry wit voice was a kick.

Barbara Barrow sang a song her husband, Mike Smith, wrote with Fred in mind.

the title said it all. Remembering Fred Holstein.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 99)
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 10 Apr 04 - 12:23 PM

That was supposed to prime the pump, Art. I would love to have your impressions.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 99)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Apr 04 - 01:47 PM

MAG,

For me it was a sublime experience. Seeing so many old frinds. Hearing so many old friends do the music so well. Celebrating Fred Holstein's life and music rather than only mourning for him. And all this was tied into my personal baggage with Fred (good and bad) and how hard Steve Goodman had tried to LIVE while Fred chose the slow downslope road of self abuse out of this consciousness like too damn many other incandescent fires of life. And I do miss the folk road scene. Never thought I'd say that. Chicago looked so lovely coming in from I-55 and heading North on LSD past where I grew up, along Lake Michigan, past where I blew out my knee playing football for Lake View High at Waveland Park, then the site where the Plaza Hotel stood once where I first loved and was loved. (Now Latin School is there.) The Plaza Hotel at Clark and North Avenue was Chicago's version of New York's Chelsea Hotel I've always thought---. That's how a venerated old hotel with all so many tales to tell ought to smell---musty and old--pheromones and death and life and heat. It's a wonder it didn't ever burn down.

None of this was sad!! If time is the fire in which we burn, bringing back these moments will stay with me to enlighten my way for a long while I am sure. Photography and singing the old folksongs have always been very similar I have always thought; A few of the ways to hold stuff close.

This be thread creep me thinks. Well, whatever. I doubt Gerry will mind. ;-)

All the best,

Art


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 99)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM

And here is the old thread---for those in 2009 who want, because of a recent thread on the Shaker song "Simple Gifts," to know a bit about George and Gerry Armstrong and their music.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 9
From: Stringsinger
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 04:02 PM

I talked to Gerry just before she passed. She was upbeat, brave and understanding of her
life and environment. She added so much to the traditional folk music that many of us grew up listening to and has been co-opted today by the ubiquitous and not always edifying "singer/songwriter/groaner/pseudo philosopher-preacher/self-centered and affected lyric writer" and I will qualify this by saying there are wonderful singer/songwriters out there who grew up in folk music and have incorporated their knowledge into great songs.
I cite Jean Ritchie, Steve Earle, Utah Phillips, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. If I leave others out, it's because I am unfamiliar or ambivalent about their output.

Gerry knew the traditional ballad style and was extremely effective in communicating this to an audience. She knew the style of "Simple Gifts" and did not attempt to embroider it with
inappropriate harmonies or flashy accompaniment.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gerry Armstrong--very sad news (29 Aug 99)
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 08:23 PM

Art, Old friend- Thank you for bringing this thread out. It was written before I found Mudcat, I think, so that's why I didn't contribute to it.

The Armstrong home in Wilmette, with George and Gerry and the girls, is so very much a part of our lives. This was the time we (us singers) were all traveling the country. Well, their home was kind of mid-country, so you can imagine what a great stopping place it was! There was always music, a comfortable bed and simple, good food. Our place on L.I. is that kind of place too, but it's not as central. We've had so many wonderful gatherings there, made many friends, passed on songs and learnt songs from others- what a Meetin Place that was....

and I'll always be joyful that Gerry came to our Kentucky cabin to visit us, less than a year before she died. Her George had gone before her, and she was lonely. The first thing she did was to pin a lovely Indian Prayer Web onto our doorbell, to protect our house. She spent a lot of time that weekend with my three older sisters who were in their eighties, making cornshuck dolls with them. They told each other tales, hummed and sang, and we all learned from each other. She never talked about her illness, even though I knew about it, and when she left to go home, we smiled and hugged and slapped each other on the back just like two old mountain women who knew a secret. She was one of my best friends.


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