Members of the Love Israel Family performed at the 1976 Folklife Festival, while the Mad Robins took the stairs in 2018.
WE MEAN TO KEEP the text for this week’s feature restrained. We’re saving room for the 40 or so faces in our photos. We have learned most of their names — except for the two female onlookers, far right, in the “Then” photo, resting on the bench below a tall plate-glass window of the Flag Plaza Pavilion. (We will not, however, name the music-makers here.)
Both groups performed at Seattle’s now-venerable Northwest Folklife Festival. The earlier pleased performers were all members of the Love Israel religious community, then living near each other in several homes on Queen Anne Hill. They performed on the Seattle Center stairway, between the Flag Plaza Pavilion built for Century 21 (our World’s Fair of 1962) and the Folklife visitors seated on the plaza behind photographer Frank Shaw. Shaw was a skilled amateur who filled several binders with the 2×2 negatives and transparencies recorded on his camera, a Hasselblad I envied then and still do.
Posing for the “Now” photo, the contemporary players named themselves the Mad Robins, and dressed appropriately. Earlier, singing a cappella, they accompanied Contra dancers at the 2018 festival. By photographer Jean Sherrard’s accounting, they sang very well. The Mad Robins’ description of themselves is packed with joyful influences: “We are a group of Contra dancers who also sing in a variety of traditions: sea shanties, barbershop quartet, Sacred Harp, pub carols from the British Isles, folk songs, Broadway show tunes and choruses.”
Thanks to Mad Robin Melissa Coffey for help with the Mad Robins, and to Rachel Israel and Charles LeWarne for their help with Love Israel history. Historian LeWarne’s book, published in 2009 by the University of Washington Press and sensibly named “The Love Israel Family,” is in print.
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