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Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker/player2013

Related threads:
Lyr Add: Farewell to the House (Chris Caswell) (20)
A Concert for Chris Caswell (7)

open mike 22 Jan 13 - 03:50 AM
Joe Offer 22 Jan 13 - 04:25 AM
Dave Swan 22 Jan 13 - 08:48 AM
ClaireBear 22 Jan 13 - 03:40 PM
michaelr 22 Jan 13 - 07:38 PM
DebC 22 Jan 13 - 09:22 PM
Barbara 22 Jan 13 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Shauna Pickett-Gordon 23 Jan 13 - 12:45 AM
Zen 23 Jan 13 - 07:55 AM
Joe Offer 25 Jan 13 - 04:03 PM
wysiwyg 05 Dec 13 - 01:39 PM
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Subject: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: open mike
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 03:50 AM

I have not found any details of his passing or memorial, but have seen several posts by other harp players and musicians.

The Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival was held for several years on his family's vinyard.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 04:25 AM

I know that Chris has been very ill, but I have not seen any information to verify the report of his death. There will be a concert to honor Chris on Monday, February 4, at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.

Chris did a house concert in my area a couple of years ago, and it was delightful. His Website is

May he rest in peace.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: Dave Swan
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 08:48 AM

Chris Caswell – bagpipes, flute, percussion, trombone, accordion, concertina, harp, recorder, spoons, mouth organ

Above is his credit from A Glint at the Kindling, recorded with Robin Williamson when Chris was a member of the Merry Band. It begins to enumerate the instruments he mastered. Chris was also a builder of beautiful harps, a fine teacher of theory and practice, a gifted performer, a quick wit, and a good friend.

I treasure the memories of the times we shared the bill with Caswell Carmahan. I still frequently play their recordings.

He was frail when we helped him onstage last month, but seated at his harp his touch was sure and the tunes flowed as gracefully as ever I heard him play.

It was no surprise when I received the phone call last night, but it is a shock.

We've lost a good man and a hell of a muso.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: ClaireBear
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 03:40 PM

Few people remember Chris Caswell's first band "The Celtic Trio" (later "The Celtic Tradition"), which was local to our little town of Saratoga, California. They were wonderful. Chris was joined in that effort by mutual high-school pals David McCort, Alec MacLean, Jerry McMillan (who was later in The Merry Band with Chris), and later by local musicians Greg Burger and Larry Drummond, the words to whose wonderful song about Captain Nemo Chris will now never be able to send me -- alas.

Chris once brought a goat (named Titus Andronicus) to a cast party for a high-school play we were both in. It was held at my house. Our garden was never quite the same afterwards, but that's OK. Knew how to make an entrance, did Chris.

A 16-year-old Chris, clad in embroidered muslin shirt and greatkilt, once came and played pennywhistle outside my bedroom window to entice me out into the woods in the moonlight for a teenage tryst. I think he was practicing his courtship skills for the girl he really wanted to impress, but that's OK, too. Never one to waste an opportunity, was Chris.

Two weeks later, we all (he, I, AND the other girl) parted ways. Chris chose to accompany THAT occasion on highland pipes, played so loudly that as she and I walked from the stately Caswell home to my own humble woodland abode to drown our sorrows in tea and folksongs, we could still hear the pipes from 1/2 mile away.

That other girl was and is a dear friend of mine. She was in tears when she called me yesterday afternoon to tell me Chris was gone.

Despite that inauspicious beginning, Chris and I remained friends through the years. My Caswell harp was one of the instruments to survive my house fire, thank goodness. Chris' mother and father are my son's adoptive grandparents. I am honored to have known him, and if his journey to the Summerland be blessed with half the music and laughter he left here on this plane, he has taken a merry road indeed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: michaelr
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 07:38 PM

I'm very sad to hear this. When I first got into Celtic music (yeah, yeah, I know) I took some classes he taught - pennywhistle and pizza box bodhran. He was a great guy, a wonderful musician and harp maker. RIP.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: DebC
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 09:22 PM

What a beautiful memory, Claire. Thanks you.

I never knew Chris, but I certainly knew of his work, especially with Danny Carnahan.

RIP, Chris.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: Barbara
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 09:23 PM

Friends in the Bay Area gathered at his window last week to sing him on his way with one of his his songs.
He is missed,

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: GUEST,Shauna Pickett-Gordon
Date: 23 Jan 13 - 12:45 AM

We've lost not only a consummate Celtic musician but also one of the best middle-eastern drummers and wind players in the Bay area. He played with and for the best, and of course he shone on his own.

I'll never forget a concert he did with my group, the Peninsula Scottish Fiddlers, in 1997. Just for fun, between songs, I sneaked in a bellydancer with a plaid veil and, as secretly agreed in advance, Chris wailed an Egyptian melody on a flute while I played a brisk maqsoum. Later in that concert he entertained the crowd with his ever-popular "C++ Chantey" (chorus: "Click and drag, click and drag"), and sent them dancing in the aisles with a virtuosic reel on the pennywhistle.

Oh Chris--you've left a huge void. Peace and joy in the Summerland.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: Zen
Date: 23 Jan 13 - 07:55 AM

May he rest in peace.

I also have and still play some of his recordings with Danny Carnahan.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker, player
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jan 13 - 04:03 PM

Here's an obituary from one of the local papers:

    John Burgess / Press Democrat
    Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.
    Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.

    Chris Caswell, Celtic harpist and harp maker, who died of cancer at age 60 Monday at his Oakland home, left behind a legion of fans, admiring colleagues and grateful students.

    He also leaves the many friends he made during his 15 years of living and working in the Russian River area.

    "He was noble and courageous and optimistic, even in the suffering of his last days," said Caswell's wife, Roxanne.

    Last month, Caswell played a farewell concert to a packed house at the Occidental Center for the Arts.

    "The Occidental concert is legendary at this point," Roxanne Caswell said. "It was obvious he was sick, but the moment he started playing, his vitality and love of life came to the forefront."

    Caswell grew up in Saratoga and graduated from Saratoga High School. He discovered the Celtic harp during a six-month stay in Scotland after high school.

    After three years of studying music composition at San Francisco State University, Caswell started making harps in the early 1970s with Bay Area craftsman Jay Witcher.

    Caswell also launched a performing career in the early '70s with Robin Williamson, who had achieved fame with the Incredible String Band, and Williamson's Merry Band.

    Caswell later formed the duo Caswell Carnahan, with musician Danny Carnahan of Albany in Alameda County, touring and performing from 1978 to 1983, and recording two albums on the Kicking Mule label.

    But it was harp-making that most shaped Caswell's life. In 1975, Caswell met Terry Hallowes, who also was making harps with Jay Witcher. They married the next year, and four years later, moved to Guerneville to continue making harps. The couple divorced in 1997.

    The Celtic harp was a rare and ancient instrument that had veered precariously close to extinction over the centuries.

    "You could count on one hand the people making Celtic harps in America when Chris started," Carnahan said.

    While living in Sonoma County, Caswell also worked with Sebastopol music promoter Cloud Moss to start the Sebastopol Celtic Music Festival and KRCB radio series "Eclectic Café."

    "Chris was a fun guy," Moss said. "He was able to entertain while teaching. He would teach people how to drum on pizza boxes."

    Caswell taught music every summer at the Lark in the Morning Music Camp in Mendocino, from its beginning in the early 1980s until last year. In 2003, while teaching there, Caswell met his second wife, Roxanne.

    They married the next year and moved to Oakland, and Caswell set up shop again as a harp-maker in Berkeley, continuing to build a reputation that went far beyond the Bay Area, both as a craftsman and musician.

    "To me, Chris' most marvelous contribution was in rooting into and revealing the deep spiritual, mythic underpinnings of the Celtic harp and its music," said Celtic harpist and storyteller Patrick Ball of Sebastopol.

    In addition to his wife, Caswell is survived by three children from his first marriage, Joe Caswell of Santa Rosa, Dondi Caswell of Chandler, Ariz., and Devin Caswell of Emeryville; his parents, Dwight and Helen Caswell of Occidental; his sister, Mary Caswell Walsh of Vallejo; his brothers, Phillip Caswell of Occidental, John Caswell of Turlock, and Dwight Caswell Jr. of Astoria, Ore.; two grandchildren; and eight nieces and nephews.

    A public tribute concert, "A Night for Chris," will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Freight & Salvage nightclub in Berkeley.

    --- Dan Taylor

    Subject: RE: Obit: Chris Caswell, Norcal harp maker/player2013
    From: wysiwyg
    Date: 05 Dec 13 - 01:39 PM

    A memory shared by Helen Caswell:

    "Chris wrote this in 1994."

    When I am gone,
    walk in some fallow field and see
    the clods and moss roses and beetles and branches.
    Don't forget our games,
    when I am gone;
    pooh sticks and magic wardrobe,
    Forts in the shoulder-high mustard
    and songs. Songs while we hiked.
    Play with each other
    when I am gone
    and don't forget to lie back in the wild wheat
    and feel the shadows of the clouds.......
    and I will be the little stream,
    and the live oaks and new grass
    and the smell of damp earth,
    the cool of the winter sun
    and the songs you hear while you walk
    when I am gone.



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