Sunday, January 28, 2007

On Mary Cliff's Traditions

One of the casualties of WETA's format change was the dismissal of Mary Cliff and cancelation of her long-running folk show Traditions. Last night was Mary's final show on WETA after over 34 years. I worked with Mary for a short time, but I really feel she taught me a lot about what I know about the musics we call "folk." What impresses me is her deep appreciation of all music, and how open the boundaries really are between the genres and formats. Like jazz and rock, classical came to be because of traditional musical forms. Without traditional dance forms and entertainments, court musicians wouldn't have started writing operas, symphonies, and string quartets for royalty, and later the public. I'm babbling...I hope Mary's show will continue on another local station. The strength of her show is in building the local folk music communities into one.

Traditions was a place where singer-songwriters, bluegrass musicians, blues guitarists, sitar players, gospel groups, and sacred harp singers (among others) could find equal representation in one 5-hour show every week. It was a show directly aimed at the greater Washington DC area (broadly defined as far as I can tell as the mid-Atlantic region between Richmond, Philadelphia, the Eastern Shore, and West Virginia).

I don't know of another forum that could do that and provide access to everyone in the community in the same way--NOT EVERYONE IS ON THE INTERNET. (Okay, no more shouting). Mary, enjoy your week. You deserve a rest. Hope to hear you on the air soon.


At Mon Jan 29, 07:10:00 AM, Anonymous Mike Licht said...

The Sunday Washington Post published a great letter by Lisa Null, "Losing Mary Cliff's Music," at

There's even a place at the bottom to add comments. Why not do so, and keep this issue alive.

At Tue Jan 30, 01:30:00 AM, Blogger Thom said...

Well luckily, our voices were heard, and WAMU has come to the rescue.


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