The tour began smoothly enough. We drove to Trinidad, Colorado to St. Joseph’s Catholic parish where Father Clarence welcomed us and helped us get set up for the evening performance in the parish hall. It was our first experience performing with the new p.a. system and it was somewhat unnerving. I was used to singing as loudly as I could in order to project over ringing gongs, shimmering Sanctus bells and a cacophony of percussion instruments. Now my voice sounded strained and grasping when amplified by the microphone. Not only that, coming too close to the mike caused popping and feedback. Oh boy. Everything I had learned had to be unlearned! We gave two performances and what struck me most was how cool and reserved our reception was, in contrast to all our enthusiastic experiences at Pecos. Great. A little disheartened, we left for St. Anthony’s Church in Pueblo, Colorado.
For the next five weeks we stayed with friends, parish families and some of the people we had met while they were on retreat at Pecos. The tour was a real learning curve and taught us to structure the performances to more directly match each audience. For example, when we played for a group of young school children, we discovered it was better to include upbeat charismatic songs as well as songs that used a wide variety of instruments to help hold their attention and involvement. When performing during a mass, we arranged songs that fit more smoothly into the liturgical structure of the service.
Another surprise was the wide range in peoples response to our music. Sometimes we experienced a cold even hostile reception. At other times, we were warmly and lovingly received. Usually, the most conservative parishes had the hardest time with our concert, particularly due to our physical appearance. We performed barefoot, the men had beards and our instruments were unusual and exotic. At times that was all it took to alienate some folks. Furthermore, the music itself was unorthodox and very “in your face.” There were strange, twanging instruments like the sitar and tamboura or the discordant, jarring notes of The Chance Chord. There were other unusual sounds such as The Split (sounding like 2001 space odyssey) or a percussion and bell section which could be deafening it was so loud.
Eastern Sky, Birth (Isaiah 9)
Lift your Weary Hand (Psalm of Comfort)
Daughters of Jerusalem
Fervently we pray (with raga in middle called the Resurrection Waltz)
Jesus He Knows
Pentecostal Chant (O Hilarious Light).
On September 30th, we headed to Trinity Ranch and parked at a beautiful spot between two mountain ranges with expansive, grassy green fields extending to the base of Pike’s Peak. It was astoundingly beautiful there!
Parked near Pike's Peak
Renewed and in high spirits, we left for St. Raphael Episcopal Church in the mountain city of Security, Colorado where we met Father Duel and his wife, a delightful couple. The liturgy was old fashioned, traditional, “pre-Vatican II” with the 1940 Prayer Book and Gregorian melodies. Lovely! The evening concert was very well received. Then Father Duell invited us to his home for sherry and a splendid dinner. The rest of the evening he regaled us with tales of his experiences with Canon West and a delightful yarn about his conversion from a tough old wrangler into a highly respected priest.
In the morning Father Duel fired off a letter of recommendation and we were on our way to Denver. We pulled up to St. Andrews Episcopal Church and were quite surprised to see a number of street people milling around inside and out. We were soon introduced to Father Stark and his unique religious order called The Order of the Holy Family. They had established a street ministry to help the homeless and hippies in the city. During evensong, the brothers and sisters of the Order processed into the church dressed in blue denim habits with belts dangling beads and bells and long hair. I had the odd sensation that I was looking into a mirror at the image of myself two years before. It seemed amazing to me how much I had changed both mentally and spiritually.
As we prepared to leave, once again, catastrophe struck. Somehow David L. accidentally dropped the Peavey mixing board cracking its circuit board. Oh oh. Luckily it was easily repaired! We finished packing (much more carefully) and followed Sister Sara James (whom we met in Pecos) to the home of Paula and Bill Duthette in Boulder, Colorado. Paula was one of the Sacred Dancers we’d encountered in Pecos. Bill and Paula treated us to dinner and we swapped stories about touring and life on the road.
Friday October 6th - a concert for the Ecclesia Prayer meeting for about 200+ charismatic believers. It was one of those rare concerts that I truly enjoyed doing because the audience was so outwardly enthusiastic, smiling and singing along. I felt uplifted by their support and buoyed up seeing our message so joyfully received. Shipen recapped the success of our first week on tour in a letter to Canon West.
Dear Father West:
Today we are in Boulder, Colorado after our first week out on tour. So far it has been rewarding and frustrating. Our response from the Episcopal Church is enough to discourage anybody – few are willing to take a chance on a motley crew such as ourselves and we feel welcome only after we have been allowed to talk face to face to some priests. Then they become a bit braver, even enough to chance scheduling a concert. The Romans are a little more able to take the plunge it seems.
In our nine days out we have played seven concerts and one mass and slowly we are filling in our concert calendar by last minute, “excuse me for not paying attention to your letter” concerts…In Denver we have six “emergency” concerts.
Our great blessing in Denver was to meet Father John Stark at St. Andrews and his Community of the Holy Family. We found he had been reared in the same garden and felt a deep rapport that we had nearly forgotten in our travels through America and middle class society. Also we were able to perform twice for Bishop Frey and enjoy him along with his enthusiastic support of our ministry. He led a standing ovation at a charismatic women’s luncheon where we gave a half hour concert yesterday. From that concert we gained a full concert date at Redeemer Temple in Denver. They were holding out until our spirits were sufficiently checked, then we got the invitation. I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but things like petty fear really aggravate me – especially when one’s Christianity is called into question. I’m afraid on most points I agree with Father John, as Liberal as he is, because at least they are feeding and housing the lost street hippies and runaways – even if they are looked upon as pagans by surrounding Christians, they are serving, and in the way that was natural to them. We have decided to lend the donation of the big concert at Redeemer Temple to St. Andrew’s because they have only $200.00 in their treasury with inadequate facilities, and they feed at least a hundred people a night. We are not all that powerless to help.
The family is holding up well in spite of the pressure and we are learning many things, among which is a more meaningful presentation. The piece is nearly complete and has a unique message concerning birth, death, and the resurrection. There is a birth of the unfamiliar in our music which tends to convince people that the familiar may safely be buried, and with that there is a resurrection of new life in a new appreciation for something that was once scoffed at and feared. It is a grand message and we give thanks to the Lord for letting this come about without giving us the theme until the end. For a long time we didn’t think we had any continuity at all. Over and over again we hear that what was expected was a rock and roll concert or a folk mass, both under the weather now due to their overuse. They are refreshed to find us involved in neither, but instead an eclectic music that respects all forms of expression. We have appeal both to the stuffy sophisticate and to the Pentecostal yeller – because the final message is as in the mass – The peace of the Lord be with you.
We still have not found sufficient literature on St. Gregory of Nyssa. Maybe you could suggest a source for us to write to. We are anxious to continue our studies and to arrive at a more solid order. We were impressed by the formality of St. Andrews, which was a switch from the rebellion against formality characterized in the monks at Pecos. The Holy Family can’t wait to don the tunics and Pecos can’t wait to get out of them. We have been innocent bystanders to the parade of Christian banners and political marchers. We are also more able to decipher Christ in all the missions of the church. Praise the Lord! [end of letter]
Our next stop was the family of Ralph and Gloria Buscarello in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver. This was another contact we had made at the married couple’s retreat at Pecos and they graciously invited us into their home for the duration of our Denver concerts. These performances proved to be a delight! The children of All Soul’s Parochial Grade School quickly joined in singing along with us, clapping their hands and filling the room with their spontaneous joy and laughter.
Unfortunately, this was contrasted with the evening concert at Spirit’s Runaway Coffeehouse for a noisy, restless crowd of teenagers. Most left after the intermission and afterwards, Father Roger Malleson remarked he was surprised we had held their attention as long as we did. We returned to the Buscarello’s for an elegant dinner of cheese, wine, bread, salad and lasagna.
Friday the 13th - a day of troubles and mishaps. We picked up the revamped Pevey then drove the bus in for allegedly minor repairs. After paying the bill, Shipen climbed in and turned the key. Nothing. He turned it again. Nothing. He marched back into the repair shop and $100 later it was deemed driveable. We rushed to Redeemer Temple in Denver with just minutes to unload, set up, tune, dress and set up the sound system. On the heels of enthusiastic charismatic songs, the concert went so-so. I think they were expecting more conventional music.
On Saturday we helped the Buscarello’s prepare their home for the evening concert. They rolled out a beautiful Persian rug around which we arranged lanterns, candles and incense. At 7pm, various neighbors and other guests arrived including Shipen’s parents who were in town for an Ace Hardware convention. The living room was intimate and more inviting than the impersonal ambience of most churches. It felt warm and cozy being surrounded by dozens of people seated around us curled up on couches and cross legged on the floor.
We drove directly to Sister Sara James for a quick lunch. We presented her with a poem and a beautiful gift, a clear glass blown tree with slender, entwining branches. We said our goodbyes and then we were off to Golden, Colorado.
At Calvary Episcopal Church we met Father Bruce Montcrief. There we played for Bishop Frey’s family, Shipen’s parents, the Pains, and other friends along with about 60 people. Halfway through the concert David Karasek stepped back and fell off the stage. That was a shock! Sheepishly, he scrambled back up and we finished the show. Hungry and tired, I looked forward to the reception afterwards. For some reason, Shipen had instituted a strict new rule: No Eating before the Concert. Famished, I rushed over to the reception area envisioning all kinds of delectable potluck dishes. Alas, all that was left were stale cookies and Hawaiian punch. After politely socializing and answering questions, we finally slipped away to a nearby sandwich shop for a not-so-tasty dinner. Then the men slept on the bus and the women slept on the floor of the church.
We traveled to Lookout Mountain School for Boys, a reform school in Golden, Colorado and met Father Hennessey. The boys sat quietly for the concert and loved the up tempo songs: The Captain, Bird Song, and Our Father’s Beard. As I looked out at the boys, I couldn’t help remembering long-ago visits to Ohio Boy’s Town where my father was the Director. Looking out at the smiling, appreciative faces of the young boys, I felt more connected to them than I had to the disrespectful, snobbish students at Holy Family High School. Surprisingly, the delinquent boys were much better behaved.
On returning to Denver, we took our ailing bus to a garage owned by a friend of Mr. Lebzelter’s for an opinion we could trust. The verdict was it needed a new transmission and brakes, $600 worth, so we left it to be repaired. We hitched a ride to St. Andrews with the Lebzelters where we relaxed and celebrated with Father John, trying to forget our bus woes.
October 19th found us rolling through the never-ending cornfields of Kansas. The farmland seemed to stretch on and on like a vast and restless sea. We came upon three hitchhikers who joined us for lunch and dinner and then unrolled their bedrolls on the linoleum floor of the bus, finally leaving the next morning. On reaching St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, Kansas, Sister Rose escorted us in and made certain “her girls” at the college would watch over us for the next eight days. All week long the young college women did everything in their power to make us feel at home. Friendly and kind, they kept trying to persuade us to stay over for another week. They left us notes and handmade signs for our doors and often stopped by bringing pop or snacks. The best part for me was having my own room and bed, hurrah! How wonderful to be so pampered! I relaxed and enjoyed a Felini film in the evening called Julliard of the Spirits.
Sister Rose had arranged a concert at Mt. St. Joseph’s Catholic rest home. The residents were charming, dressed in their best Sunday hats and clothes. Noticing the surprise on their faces because of our bare feet, Shipen explained why we didn’t wear shoes (it was easier to play our instruments that way, especially the sitar). They smiled and clapped, sang and prayed with us. Then Sister whisked us off to sing for several bedridden patients, then off to Ward High School to meet Sister Agnus. She was quite animated and babbled on about how she had printed up 600 copies of the lyrics and was sure there would be a large crowd because she had done so much advertising. Great! Finally we’d reach a big audience. Sadly, only 40 people showed up. I think Sister Agnus was even more disappointed than we were.
We returned to St. Mary’s quite late so slept in the next morning, then rehearsed, sewed and prepared for the evening concert. That night as we walked on stage I was thrilled to see a packed audience – it seemed as if the entire school had turned out. It was a grand success. The students were enthusiastic and gave us a standing ovation! We were up again!
October 25 we gave our first prison concert at Kansas Correctional Institute, a women’s prison in Leavenworth. I was somewhat apprehensive to be singing for inmates (too many Hollywood movies). Yet the Lord worked an amazing transformation that day. As we sang, gradually the hardened faces softened and the tension in the room dissipated. Midway through, the women were either smiling or sitting peacefully with their eyes closed. By the end, they were laughing and clapping throughout the resurrection section. It was immensely gratifying – Praise God!
There were two more stops, Kansas State University in Lawrence and Canterbury House, before we returned to St. Mary’s College for one last night of delicious privacy and rest. As I opened my door on that final morning I was touched to find our new friends had decorated it with streamers and goodbye poems. Reluctantly, with hugs and kisses, we left Sister Rose and her loving entourage.
Our next stop was Shanti Vanam Prayer Farm where Father Ed Hayes ambled up and pumped our hands, his grasp warm and inviting. Like a proud father, he guided us around the farm. Quaint, one-room hermitages sat hunched like little Buddhas around a dark, languorous pond in the midst of a serene emerald green forest. Father Hayes explained that their unifying purpose was to provide a place for retreat, prayer, seclusion and meditation. What a picture we must have made, melodies and exotic sounds drifting amidst incense and candlelight, surrounded by robed men and women, quietly meditating as we played. Afterwards, we gathered together around heavy wooden tables and passed around oat bread, black beans, brown rice, coffee and homemade cookies. Father Hayes entertained us with stories of his pilgrimage to Israel and India and his newfound Judeo-Christian faith. What a peaceful oasis, a place of refuge from the vast desert of middle class America – there we found kinship with other world-weary seekers.
Sunday morning we met again in the grassy meadow with Father Hayes reading from the Old Testament while we played Baruch Atah Adoni and other songs in a refreshing blend of Jewish and Christian religious traditions. Before we left, Father Hayes handed us an armful of woolen beige and brown1930 Veteran’s Administration blankets.
Off we drove to Mount St. Scholastica Benedictine Convent in Atchison, Kansas, to play for a Benedictine convent of retired and infirmed nuns. Dressed in their traditional habits and we in our white muslin costumes, the music became our common language of devotion. After dinner, we drove late into the night headed for Amarillo, Texas until finally we stopped at a roadside park to sleep.
October 30th. Icy fingers of wind laced through cracks in the bus windows. It was bitterly cold! David tuned in the weather report on the radio and learned a major snowstorm was fast approaching. Quickly we rolled up and stowed our sleeping bags, splashed water on our faces and nosed the bus back onto the highway for the long trip to Oklahoma City where we were due for a scheduled concert. As we jounced along, Sarah and I sewed capes out of the woolen Veteran’s blankets by cutting an opening in the middle and sewing in hoods. They were comfortable, easy to throw over clothes and delightfully warm!
Newly outfitted in our strange looking blanket-capes, we dodged the rain and city traffic and traipsed up to knock on the door of the Episcopal Cathedral in town. The Dean greeted us stiffly and his demeanor was cold and aloof. Shipen asked if he’d received our letter confirming the evening concert? Curtly he replied, “I don’t know.” David Lynch then asked if possibly someone else had arranged the concert since it had been confirmed by mail. He glared back and responded a bit more tersely, “I don’t know!” As we stood there a bit rebuffed and trying to decide what to do, his face grew mottled and stormy. Angrily, he snarled, “This roof will need repair if your bearded, guitar wielding bodies ever enter this cathedral!” Then turning on his heel, he slammed the door in our faces and that conversation was over. We drove all the way from Amarillo for this?
We wiped the dust off our feet, piled back onto the bus and left. Determined to make the best of it, we pulled into a nearby park where we enjoyed a savory dinner of canned venison (a gift from the Sacred Dancers), rice, mushrooms and tamari soup. Afterwards, we listened appropriately enough to the Firesign Theater tape “We’re all Bozo’s on this bus” and finally some Aretha Franklin. I was actually relieved to have a night off. His loss, our gain.
The next morning we turned around and drove 260 miles back to Amarillo through the drizzly, cold weather. Along the way we spotted three hitchhikers looking miserable and chilled to the bone so we pulled over, waved them onto the bus and warmed them up with steaming hot coffee, soup and fresh bread. We shared good food and conversation with them until we reached Amarillo, Texas where Father Moreland greeted us and invited us all (hitchhikers included) to warm baths and dinner. He set up a place for the hitchhikers to sleep in the church and even a carpeted room for our cats. After dinner, we Trees were disbursed to various parishioners’ homes for the night. During the early 1970’s, most Americans had no qualms about picking up hitchhikers - it was a much more innocent, naive time. There were a lot of youth on the move, on their way to Haight Ashbury or just traveling around America. For our part, we trusted on the Lord to keep us protected and safe, oblivious to any serious danger. I recall that the people we picked up were quite impressed with our bus and lifestyle, and often decided to stay with us long after we had passed their original destination point.
We rose at 6:30 a.m. and gave a special concert for the children of St. Andrews Day School. The local TV station taped the performance and it was a special treat to see ourselves on the 6:00 evening news. Wow! The evening concert went even better and for an encore we played Sweet Jesus. Afterwards we were showered with gifts and cake. Then we were whisked off to sing at a drug rehabilitation center called Kairos Drug Rehabilitation Center for about 7 youth. Tired and with hoarse voices, we sang a few a capella songs. At midnight, truly exhausted, we hauled everything back onto the bus and were about ready to leave when both cats dashing out the bus door and disappeared into the darkness! It took 45 minutes to finally locate Maurice and then Tom (one of the hitchhikers) was nearly run over as he lay under the bus attempting to fasten in the bell stand as Ariel pulled away! Frazzled and tired, Sarah and Steve cooked dinner as we drove through the night. I was beyond starved when we finally ate “dinner” at 1:30 in the morning. The rest of us crawled into sleeping bags and Ariel drove on then parked at a rest stop somewhere near Las Vegas around 2:30am.
It was time to break out a ceremonial cigarette to celebrate the end of our first official tour. We passed it around as we swung back onto the highway for the short one hour drive back to Pecos. The monastery was a blessed sight and it was heartwarming when the brethren came out and excitedly welcomed us back. We unpacked the bus and threw off our worldly weights, relieved to finally be home. At this point, every single one of us was completely exhausted and bone tired. The first tour was grueling with back to back performances, packing and unpacking, little privacy, and too many stressful arguments that strained the fabric of our lives together. I was wiped out.
In his letter to Canon West, Shipen recapped our tour experiences and his concerns for the group:
Dear Father West:
I had a letter to send you two weeks ago, but decided not to send it. It was written in the middle of the tour and we were quite discouraged with the response of the Episcopal Church to our requests for concerts. Out of fifteen letters sent, we received two replies; both no! Luckily, however, out of 36 concerts performed in the five-week tour, five were in Episcopal congregations. The majority of concerts were performed for Roman congregations and institutions. As a result, we figured our tour to be successful and tremendously encouraging. Bishop Frey (Colorado) was an enthusiastic supporter and in a critique, compared us to an experience equal to GODSPELL. But still something inside was lead to a deep concern for the needs in the Episcopal church. For what reason we were avoided I am not sure, but upon inquiry in Oklahoma City (where we had been refused) the Dean told us that the appearance of beards and guitars in the church were a sure sign of lay backfire. I was at a loss for words or thoughts, and so we left quietly, shaking off water like a wet dog.
We are hoping for vocal support from the Cathedral in New York for our California tour. It is a request we are making for help. I must say in truth, and with love, that the Cathedral has been as silent as a cold stone, save a letter from the Bishop which tended and soothed a bunch of confused and unconfirmed Episcopalians. It is difficult to attain to an identity separate from those we were called into association with.
…We had an unusual thing happen to us in Kansas City while we were visiting a Roman Prayer farm for modern day hermits. On Sunday morning, just before we were to play for the Mass, the director of the Abbey Players in Dublin Ireland happened in and requested a short concert. He only had ten minutes and so we played a few pieces. Afterward he said that he had been looking for something of this sort during his six month stay in the States, and said that he would like us to come to Ireland to occupy a small intimate theater there for a season. He said if it got approved, they would sponsor our trip. Also Rodney got a letter from a priest in Ireland who had read the article written by Michael Harper on us and wondered if we would consider a trip to Ireland. It seems he has a large mansion, and is very interested in promoting Christian community in his area. Both of these things happening in one week tended to make us wonder.
Rodney had hopes that we could spend a good time in the Cathedral family, and of course, this is our fervent desire also. The New staff Mass sounds exciting and stimulating and we are in dread that the splendid Love of God get so strong as to crumple the old thing. Can you imagine the headlines. LOVE OF GOD CRUMBLES CATHEDRAL.
David K is developing as a graphic artist and we are all in awe. Thank you for your prayers, we remain faithfully, by God’s grace,