Aug. 1, 2018 — Nostalgia is in vogue. The sense we get as we look to our collective past, placed in the context of the present, often helps to provide direction moving forward.
Area residents have the opportunity to spend some time with visitors from Florence’s past as they share songs and stories from yesterdays long gone on Thursday, Aug. 2, at City Lights Cinemas.
The Heritage Players, a group of actors affiliated with the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, and the New Folksters, a musical ensemble that reinterprets traditional and folk music, will be performing together in a benefit performance for local community radio station KXCR.
The musicians and actors will be recreating a live radio show, complete with a master of ceremonies, period music and biographical stories from area pioneers entitled, “The Siuslaw Pioneers: Yesterday and Yesteryear.”
Nin Bebeau is a strong supporter of KXCR and she is producing the benefit for the non-commercial station, which is completely staffed by volunteers.
Bebeau said she hopes that the event will draw individuals that are both interested in local history and in helping to support local radio.
“The Siuslaw Pioneers benefit will include performances from the Heritage Players telling stories of the early settlers. It will be presented like an old-time radio show and in between pioneer stories, there will be musicians and singers,” she said.
The hope is that attendees will learn about real people telling stories from the lives they led in this area a century ago, interspersed with music from that bygone era.
“Each member of the Heritage Players picked a person who lived in Florence, or in the vicinity, and then they researched each one. They dug up all the research they could find about the life of that person — how they dressed, what their interests were, what were some of the important events in their lives and what were their conflicts and their loves,” Bebeau said. “They take the original newspaper articles from the Siuslaw News and they digest them and interpret them and then they create the dialogue and the stories they share.”
While the primary purpose of the benefit performance is to generate funds to support the operation of KXCR, there is also the added benefit of learning about the struggles and challenges faced by early white settlers to the area. There is also a recognition of the place native peoples occupied during this time.
“David Dumas plays Indian Dan, a native American that was a very important person at that time, as many of the settlers here had interactions with him, and David’s performances are wonderful,” Bebeau said.
She said the main source of entertainment during this period in the Siuslaw region’s collective history was live music.
The musical component for the evening will incorporate traditional instruments and tunes from that earlier era into Thursday’s show.
Steve McVay is one of Florence’s talented musicians, and he will bring a number of traditional folk tunes to add to the show, along with an original tune or two, based on traditional themes.
Also a longtime supporter of KXCR, McVay wanted to contribute in the best way that he knows, by playing music.
“Primarily, I want to support KXCR. I think they are a great alternative voice to those that do not have easy access to the internet or to alternative ideas in their day-to-day life,” McVay said. “I am going to be playing a few fiddle tunes that go way back and are tunes that every fiddle player in the 1800s would have had in his repertoire for barn dances and weddings. I will also be playing one tune that I wrote, which is about the Oregon Trail and the battles they went through to get here.”
Bebeau and McVay are just two of the 20 or so individuals that have committed their time and energy to coming up with a unique approach to sharing the history, music and people of our area, with current residents that may not be familiar with local traditions and culture, while generating funds for community-based radio.
Bebeau wants to bring two of her passions, history and music, to the public in way that highlights the importance of both.
“We go to the Pioneer Museum and we step through those doors because we want to step back into the past. We ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the old photos and the objects that were part of their lives. And we do that because it’s fun to look at Florence in its grandness and see where it was when it was just beginning and started becoming what it is today,” Bebeau said. “When you plant a seed, it defines how the tree grows. Our past often defines how we live. We may rebel against it, but it remains the root of our being.”
The “Siuslaw Pioneers: Yesterday and Yesteryear” will be presented on Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at City Lights Cinemas, 1930 Highway 101.