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Do you think 2020 has been kind of a disaster so far? Well, you are not alone. But it's worth remembering that human history can be described as a few calm moments in a series of disasters: Wars! Plagues! Shipwrecks! Fires! Tornados! Floods! It just goes on and on. And most often, people took solace in writing songs about their hardships.

It's kind of comforting to revisit those songs and realize that somehow humanity made it through all those dark days. In that spirit, we have a theme for the Virtual Song Circle on Saturday November 21: Disasters!

Come and sing your favorite songs about when things didn't go well. And of course, as always, you are free to sing your favorite song about anything, because the theme is totally optional. And, you can just listen - some people do that and it's fine. The PFS Virtual Song Circle has been described as "the best live free Saturday night radio station around"!

More info here.

Welcome New Members

PFS is all about its members, and we like to celebrate when new people join. Despite COVID19 and the absence of in-person events, our membership keeps growing - slowly but steadily. 

Some people have asked how they can meet the new members when they join, so we have invited people who have joined recently to send us a picture and a brief write up which we could post on the website for a while. Here are the first four new members who have done that. Thank you all - It's always a pleasure to see the brave people who step up first for something new. So, Welcome to PFS, Tom May, Gayle Myrna, Betsy Fogelman Tighe, and Kevin Nordlie!

Tom May

I have been a professional folk musician for nearly 50 years, and have performed across the US., Canada, and overseas. I have 14 albums of original material to my credit, and founded and produce Portland's largest annual folk music event, "Winterfolk". 

I also produce a weekly folk music radio program, now in its 35th year, "River City Folk", heard on and many public stations across the country.

I have done shows for PFS in the past, and greatly admire its sense of mission and determination to keep this important music alive and vital.

Gayle Myrna

Gayle Myrna started writing songs as an angsty adolescent and has performed off and on during her adult life. Despite adult onset moderate to severe asthma making consistent performing unrealistic, Gayle continues to sing when able and enjoys sharing her distinctive voice and songs. 

Betsy Fogelman Tighe

Betsy Fogelman Tighe is not a musician, actually, but a poet, who has published widely in literary magazines, and received some notable accolades. She works as the teacher-librarian at Roosevelt HS, and pays some notice to her SE garden. She dotes on two young adult children, both still in Pdx.

She does love to sing, though there is some question about her ability. She has enjoyed song circles since junior high when the daughter of Jackie Pack, a well-known Philadelphia children's folkie, got her started. She has been to at least 3-5 PFS circles in previous years, and hopes to find some occasional fun in them now.

Kevin Nordlie

I reside in the Washington DC area and am a member of the Folk Club of Reston-Herndon (in Northern Virginia, during non-Covid times we have a Tuesday night Open Mic and a monthly concert series from September through June). I work with several singer-songwriters and am particularly interested in the house concert scene around Portland. 

Oh Boy! New Local Lore!

A new edition of the PFS newsletter, Local Lore, is always a treat, and this end-of-the-year edition is particularly special. We asked you, the readers and members, to share your memories of PFS, and you came through with a treasure trove of insights and anecdotes, mostly good times but also the challenges. Thank you thank you thank you. We are delighted to have articles by Rick Meyers, John Ullman, Jack Bohl, Meryle Korn, Kate Power... well, the list goes on and on. See for yourself. PFS not only is home to some good singers, but lots of good writers too. 

As always, thanks to the Local Lore team that skillfully and lovingly put it all together: Editor and Designer Kim McLaughlin, Proofreader Ruth Bolliger, and Logistician and Mail Maven Jeanette Warner.

Local Lore is one of the benefits of PFS membership. Members can have a paper copy if they want, and if they don't need paper they can download it as a PDF from this site under the Resources Menu. You can also pick up a copy at most PFS events, even if you aren't a member. But we're not having any in-person events for a while, so if you would like a paper copy of Local Lore, just look up in the menu bar for Join PFS. In addition to Local Lore, you get reduced prices on events, access to members-only parts of the website, and the pleasure of supporting the music you love! Now is a great time to join - we even have a special rate for people who are stressed during the COVID times. Check it out, and thanks!

The Virtues of Virtual
PFS Song Circles in the age of COVID

You must know by now that PFS is holding Saturday Evening Virtual Song Circles every Saturday Evening. We held the first - with little preparation - on March 14, when we were all waking up to the reality of COVID19, and we realized we couldn't responsibly go ahead and hold the scheduled in-person song circle. So, with 24 hours warning, we met on line. The technology was new to a lot of people, we didn't know much about how to host the event, and it was rough - but people had a good time, and someone asked, "Can we do this again next week?" We thought, "Why not?" And we haven't stopped. We marked our 25th VSC on August 29, and they are still going strong. 

Please consider coming; you will be welcomed and feel welcome, no matter your skills or equipment or whatever. A few of the regular participants have good set-ups, with separate cameras and mics. Most use laptops. A few just come in by phone. It doesn't matter.

Check out highlights of a recent song circle here.

We have forty to fifty people every week. Many are regulars, but we're also delighted when someone new pops in. And they do: not just from the PNW, but from the East Coast, other countries, other continents. And in this way, at least, the virtual song circles are much better than in person song circles. In fact, a lot of people prefer the virtual song circles: they don't need to drive anywhere, people mute themselves when they tune their instruments, and you can see everyone's faces. There are drawbacks too: you can only sing harmony with people in your pod; no potluck super; no hugs and handshakes. Our world's not perfect, but the VSCs are pretty good.

Every Saturday, we open the room at 5:30 PM and start singing at six. (Please note that this is thirty minutes earlier than we used to start, in deference to some folks from the East Coast and Europe, and others who like to sleep). Come when you can, stay as long as you like. All kinds of music and all kinds of people are welcome. We follow the song circle practice of letting each person sing a song in turn and it is perfectly fine just to listen. Get a computer with a camera and mic, light up your face, and point your browser to Always the same link, always posted here.

Please click here for logistics information, and for information about how to connect by phone.

But that ain't all...

There is a LOT of other online folk music now, with opportunities to listen, take classes, and sing.

PFS volunteer Barry Gorden has been doing a super job posting the events he hears about, and if you have others, let him know at

Look at the Upcoming Events calendar to find out how you can stay connected, during these disconnected times!

Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events


Joe Hickerson's
Joe's Jottings
Back again! 

PFS Members who have been around for a while will remember the thirteen articles that Joe Hickerson wrote for Local Lore, back in 2014-16. These were wonderful! Unique! Delightful! They covered: 

Joe's experiences with a traveling folk group, The Folksmiths.
His memories of folksingers from Pete Seeger and Jean Ritchie to the Kingston Trio.
The evolution of the song Where Have All The Flowers Gone, which Joe co-wrote. 
Joe's thoughts about saying "close enough for folk music" (warning: tune your instrument and don't go there). 
Marlene Dietrich even makes an appearance.

These short articles are informative and fun to read. And, unfortunately, they have been hard to find since we migrated to this website. But no longer: now you can find them on Joe Hickerson's page. Enjoy!

The Original Folksmiths

Pictured are (back row) Ruth Bolliger, Jim, Joani, Bo; (middle row) Joe Hickerson, David, Ricky; (front) Sarah.

You'll find Ruth and Joe at most PFS events, including the Virtual Song Circles


Not a member?

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Join PFS
Since 1976, Portland FolkMusic Society has been active preserving, presenting and promoting folk music and arts in the greater Portland Oregon area. PFS sponsors song circles, concerts, workshops and retreats, and helps its members and the whole community pass the word around about folk music events, from old time ballads to sea shanties, from 60’s protest folk to contemporary singer-songwriters.

PFS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. 

Portland Folkmusic Society
P.O. Box 1448
Portland, OR 97207-1448

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