Musicians gather and rise up singing at monthly sing-a-long

By Bill Schlichting, Pilot staff writer January 11, 2012 08:00 am

Carl Rovainen, left, on fiddle is joined by Rudy Glen Spence on jaw harp, and Adam Taylor and John Lantz on guitars during Hootenanny Singalong Saturday. The Pilot/Bill Schlichting
For nearly as long as Carl Rovainen has been picking a banjo, he has been organizing hootenanny singalongs.

“I did it back in St. Louis on Sunday nights,” Rovainen said. This was before he moved to Brookings some 10 years ago.

When he lived in Missouri, he had taken up playing banjo, about 20 years ago, and was soon involved in the singalong circuit. People would gather in a circle and follow the words and chords in the songbook “Rise Up Singing.” Each in the group would take turns choosing a song to sing, and the musicians would follow along.

After retiring from being a biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, he and his wife, Leslie, moved to Brookings in 2001. Carl made contact with Crescent City musician George Layton and they began playing together in there. 

Other musicians joined in and formed The Book Dock Band, a group of musicians who played at Discovery Series events hosted by the bookstore at the Port of Brookings Harbor boardwalk at the invitation of then business owner Jo Mochulski.

Soon these musicians were meeting at people’s homes or any venue they could find, inviting anyone who wished to play along. One of those venues became the Chetco Activity Center in early 2004, which became home for the monthly Hootenanny Singalongs.

At the first Hootenanny Singalong, there were about 50 people who attended, Rovainen said.

“It took a long time to go around the circle,” Rovainen said of the event that retained the same format, and used the same book, as the hootenanny he was a part of in Missouri.

“It gradually went down to a comfortably-sized crowd,” Rovainen said. A good turnout is about 15 to 20 people.

Since establishing themselves in Brookings, the Festival of the Arts committee, which included Mochulski, purchased new copies of the songbook, so now it has become easier for everyone to be on the same page, Rovainen said.

In addition, Rovainen gives credit to his wife, who has organized the get-togethers and publicized the events.

The Hootenanny Singalong takes place from noon to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month at the Chetco Activity Center, 550 Chetco Lane, Brookings.

There is no charge to attend the event. All ages are welcome to bring their instruments regardless of their skill level. If a person doesn’t know how to play an instrument, they are welcome to sing, or pick up any of the instruments – a tambourine, maracas, spoons – that are provided. A washtub bass is also available for anyone who wishes to give it a try.

In fact, Rovainen himself came in one day and showed off his newest skill – playing the violin – which he began playing about five years ago. He proved that even a beginner can take part.

Most people who participate in the monthly singalongs play guitar, with Layton always playing his autoharps and, most recently, Rudy Glen Spence playing a jaw harp.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Rovainen said “We have a nice variety of instruments, voices and songs.”