Category Archives: Artisans

Concert and Swing Band Hits Many Right Notes

Community Ensemble Hits Many Right Notes from Kaley Perkins on Vimeo.

Bright and early Monday and Wednesday mornings is when Cary Pederson and his merry concert band meet upstairs in Beacock Music’s rehearsal studio to practice, laugh, and be together. Pederson took over the directorship of the band after the stores founder, Dale Beacock was killed in a tragic biking accident on the Oregon Coast. Russ Beacock, Dale’s son, asked Cary to take over when the band started to flounder with interim directors.

Pederson, a professional clarinetist and saxophonist, holds a Master’s degree from Portland State University in performance music. When the younger Beacock approached him, Pederson was just back from a stint in southern California where he tried to break into studio music and found the cost of living to be prohibitive.

While many of his fellow graduates have given up dreams of being professional musicians, Pederson has found a way to make it work. But not without cost. He credits his desire.

Pederson teaches over 50 students a week, directs the Concert and Swing Band and the jazz ensemble at Beacock’s, and keeps his own skills sharp by practicing at least two hours a day. He also volunteers at local high school bands and ensembles augment the band directors’ generalism with his woodwind expertise.

Talking about how he feels when friends tell him he is unbalanced and needs to introduce something else besides music into his life, Pederson responds, “Music is my ‘else’.”

Depression is a widespread condition that afflicts large numbers of us as we age. (Click the link ’10 Facts on Ageing’ toward the bottom of the article for a great slideshow factsheet.)

Studies show that some of the keys to maintaining physical and mental health as we age is to continue to contribute, keep learning, and incorporate creativity in areas that bring joy: it’s called active aging. And in Vancouver, this band is finding success.

For a podcast on Pederson’s thoughts on the plight of public school music educators, click here.

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Nothing Says Scotland Like Kilts, Bagpipes, Oats, and a Good Party

A spurtle is a glorious thing. Made of wood, it has long been used in northern Europe as an implement for stirring thick stews and porridge. In 2009, a representative from Bob’s Red Mill traveled to Corrbridge Scotland and won the coveted title of “Golden Spurtle” at the World Porridge Making Contest. Bob wants the spurtle back!

This August 16, 2013, Bob’s Red Mill held its third annual “Spar for the Spurtle” cookoff to find the contestant most likely able to win back the spurtle at this year’s international competition in October. Paula Todora won the honor with her apple-, walnut-, oat-stuffed golden eggrolls.

Tenth-grader and member of Sir James McDonald’s Pipe Band in Portland, Ore., Ruby Vise, and her mother, Amy Karecki attended the event where Amy provided a rich Scottish backdrop with her great highland pipe.

The “Spurtle Song” at the end was written by Peter McKee.


Not Just Anyone Uses an Anvil These Days

National park volunteer, (“Pecos”) Bill Evans staffs the blacksmith shop at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash., teaching local history to visitors and demonstrating the  area blacksmith craft as practiced in the early- to mid-1800′s. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

Activating the two-staged grand billow above and to the left of him, national park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, stokes the fire. Evans is making a lantern peg, and to reshape the bar, it needs to be malleable. According to Evans, temperatures in the Fort’s ovens reach 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to shape one end of an iron bar into a spike. Evans will be shaping the other end into a “hook” from which a lantern will hang. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer at Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith shop, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to reshape a piece of iron into a lantern hanger. Evans explains that contemporary iron work is often made in China and shows hammer marks in a bid to appear authentic. True artisans, Evans points out, would take pride in not having their work mar the finished product. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans shows a finished lantern hanger which he made using the ovens, Champion pliers, tongs, hammers, mallets, and the anvil from Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith’s shop. As volunteers in the only active blacksmith shop in the nation’s national park system, Evans and fellow volunteers make hardware for buildings on the national historic register, including those found at Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

A clanging staccato punctuates the gravel-floored workshop as Bill Evans strikes metal mallet to iron bar. Evans, a National Park Service volunteer and blacksmith at Fort Vancouver, scrapes ashes from the glowing metal bar with a screechy wire brush before resuming his rhythm, only to return the cooled rod to the fire a few seconds later. Evans beats the iron bar into submission the old-fashioned way, using fire, tongs, a mallet, and an anvil.

Over the stirring, cracking, clanking, striking, scraping, and billow-pumping that mark his trade, Evans narrates the role the Hudson’s Bay Company played in the settlement of the Pacific Northwest in the early- to mid-1800’s. A retired couple listens from behind a cordon as Evans speaks of Dr. John McLoughlin, and his 20-year tenure as Chief Factor over the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort.

Under McLoughlin’s leadership, the Hudson’s Bay Company monopolized the  fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains, and it was from here that beaver pelts and other trade goods were sent back to Great Britain. According to the National Park Service, thirty-five ethnic groups had trade dealings with the fort.

From 1825-1849, the fort’s blacksmith shop was responsible for making and repairing beaver traps, trade good axes, buckets, implements, and building hardware to support the company’s operations. The original shop, perched just north of the gentle banks of the Columbia River, provided metal-working services to anchored ships as well.

Great Britain and the expanding American nation disputed ownership over the land north of the Columbia River and south of the 49th parallel. The mutual signing of The Oregon Treaty on August 5, 1946 resolved the dispute, making the 49th parallel the border between the nations.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, one of Britain’s oldest corporations, eventually moved north to Canada where it remains active to this day.

After having been deserted, the fort fell into disrepair and was destroyed by fire in 1866. Though no blueprints of the original post remain, Evans reported that re-builders were able to locate the anvil stump and determined that the oven would have been positioned a quarter-turn away. Today, Fort Vancouver National Park is one of 401 sites included as part of the National Park Service.

Fort Vancouver is host to the only working blacksmith shop in the U.S. National Park Service system. Its volunteers fashion hardware for the historic buildings on the park service registry, including those for Williamsburg, Virginia.