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Marian’s Did You Know…that the Mimi Fariña roses are blooming?

Did You Know…

That it is spring and the Mimi Fariña roses are blooming? The roses are just one of the creations that have been inspired by Mimi’s example and the mission of Bread & Roses. Here's a tribute to a few supporters who have dedicated creations in Mimi's honor. It's also a recognition of the musicians who have composed songs inspired by our program as well as other like-minded friends who have started similar organizations in other geographic areas.

The Marin Rose Society dedicated a hearty, fragrant rose in her honor in 2005. The Mimi Fariña Rose is a hybrid tea rose from England with a golden center and creamy white petals. We hear from our supporters that the roses are blooming at the Marin Art and Garden Center, the Berkeley Rose Garden and elsewhere.

Supporter Susan Hyde Greene, a fine arts photographer and multi-media artist, volunteered for Bread & Roses for over a decade. When she moved to Carmel, she brought with her one of the rose bushes named in memory of Mimi. She recently shared, “It is one of my most treasured plants. Last week it bloomed for the first time on what would have been Mimi’s 75th birthday. I will always be grateful to Mimi and the Bread & Roses family for those extraordinary years… Somehow having this rose in my garden feels as though the music has come to my house now that I cannot go out.”

With the continuing shelter-in-place, it’s a good time to get out on a local trail and visit Mimi’s Bench. Former board member and long-time supporter Dan Nowell reported that he and his crew recently replaced the bench on the Redwood Trail below Panoramic Highway. This spot was one of Mimi’s favorites to visit and take in the spectacular view. Paul Liberatore of our Circle of Advisors was instrumental in the original creation and dedication of the bench in Mimi’s honor.

Our mission to bring live music to those who need it most has also inspired the creation of a number of songs. Former Board member Greg Beattie, with his wife Victoria Blythe of the group Calaveras, wrote the beautiful song “Ready to Fly,” which has been sung at many memorials with its poignant chorus; “I am standing on the edge of the water, And I am watching the wild birds fill the sky, and I am longing to be lifted up among them, I am not dying I am getting ready to fly.”

Inspired by a Bread & Roses institutional concert that Calaveras performed at a senior convalescent facility in Mill Valley, Greg recalled that after the show, “We spoke to several members of the audience who told us how the music brought back memories – of dancing at the Avalon ballroom, or of loved ones they had lost, or just of feeling young and alive. Knowing that they were nearing the ends of their lives and would probably never leave the facility, their stories, smiles and tears were deeply profound to me. A couple of weeks later I was thinking of them, and the song nearly poured out of my guitar and onto the page—essentially finished in half an hour. It was as much a gift to me from them as a work of my own.”

Jackson Browne has been a supporter of Bread & Roses and friend of Mimi Fariña since the early days. He performed at her Celebration of Life at Grace Cathedral on August 7, 2001 with many other artists. He debuted an original song that day inspired by our mission called “Don’t You Want To Be There?” It was published and recorded in 2002 on his album and songbook The Naked Ride Home. The song expresses the power and poignancy of playing music for those who need it most. "Don’t you want to be there? Don’t you want to see where the angels appear? Don’t you want to be where there’s strength and love in the place of fear?"

The late Audrey Auld, who was originally from Tasmania, Australia, wrote “Bread and Roses” before going in to San Quentin for a concert we had arranged. In the preface to the song in her book Write Out Loud she wrote; “I was not permitted to bring anything to the inmates. The things I brought in to the prison had to be accounted for and taken with me when I left. ‘Bread and Roses’ is what I gave to the inmates.” She sang in her closing verse; "But all I could bring was my guitar and these songs, Bread and roses for the wayward been hungry so long. I’ll take with me the memory of the day my life was changed and the hope that when you leave this place You never come back again. If I could bring you anything." The song was originally recorded on the demo Music With the Dirt Left On (Reckless Records 2008).

For the song and album of the same name, “Bread and Roses.” Judy Collins recalled looking for songs for an album project in 1976. In her 1998 memoir Singing Lessons: A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope and Healing, she wrote; “After the death of her husband, Dick Fariña, Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez’s younger sister, had started a nonprofit organization in San Francisco called Bread & Roses, to provide free entertainment for people in homes, jails and hospitals in the Bay Area. She wrote the “Bread and Roses” melody to a poem written by James Oppenheim in 1912 and I recorded it, using a choir of voices in a church in New York.”

In her liner notes for the album, Judy said: “Songs come from many places, unexpectedly, amazingly.” She relayed how Mimi had sent her a copy of the “Bread and Roses” poem and Judy thought it was so beautiful that she asked her to set it to music.

Judy Collins has long been a supporter of many nonprofit organizations including Bread & Roses. She performed a Bread & Roses institutional concert in 1985 at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. She sang the “Bread and Roses” song with Holly Near and Maria Muldaur at Mimi’s Celebration of Life. Following the service, she released a dove on the plaza in Mimi’s memory. "Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew, Yes it is bread we fight for but we fight for roses too."

Throughout the years, Bread & Roses has inspired many like-minded organizations to start-up throughout the U.S. and beyond. Heart & Soul was founded in 1994 by Janna Lauer and Doug Jenson in Salt Lake City. They first became aware of the loneliness and isolation experienced in nursing homes when their mother broke her hip and needed rehabilitation. Vascular dementia complicated her recovery. She had a beautiful voice and played piano and violin.

Doug had been living in California and told Janna of Bread & Roses’ mission to bring healing music to isolated people. The rest is history -- he moved back to help her start Heart & Soul which has now been bringing music to isolated folks in Utah for over 25 years. Janna recalls that at the time Bread & Roses had a “how-to” pamphlet to help others start similar organizations and that Doug would call Mimi from time to time when they had questions. Janna was the executive director of Heart & Soul until recently and still plays an advisory role for the organization during this uncertain time.

Many other performers have started bringing music to isolated people in the neighborhoods close to where they live. Ron Morrissey, a former banker and economist who lives in Santa Monica, CA, first saw a Bread & Roses ad for performers in Acoustic Guitar Magazine in 2012. He responded and found out that our nonprofit program service is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also discovered that there was a tremendous need in his own backyard for volunteer musicians to perform for isolated/shut-in seniors near his home in Southern California.

For the next six months he worked on three sets of pop music from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. During his summer break from teaching high school economics, he contacted senior facilities in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles arranging thirty shows over a ten-week period.

He is now retired and performs 18 different sets of vintage pop songs in close to a hundred shows a year for isolated seniors in areas as varied as Culver City and West Palm Beach, Florida. Sometimes he also performs for shut-ins on his travels to places as far-flung as Tuscany, Italy.

Of his experiences on the show road, Ron says “The biggest joy I get is when I show up for a performance and most of the seniors are staring out into space or at a television screen. After I begin, their attention focuses in on my playing music and they become engaged by singing along, clapping, making requests, talking to each other and asking me to come back next week. They are always a great audience.”

We are so grateful for all our wonderful friends who continue to bring joy in like-minded ways through “a sharing of life’s glories.” (From the poem Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim).

Don't miss our bonus playlist of "Songs Inspired by Bread & Roses"

By Marian Hubler, Communications Manager/Producer

Photo Captions:

1) Mimi's Birthday Rose April 30, 2020. Photo by Susan Hyde-Greene.

2) A) Panoramic trail above Mill Valley below the ridgeline facing west. B) Mimi's refurbished bench. Spring 2020. C) Mimi's favorite view. Photos by Dan Nowell. 

3) Greg Beattie and Victoria Blythe at the Kerrville Folk Festival some years ago where "Ready to Fly" won the New Folk award. Photo courtesy of Calaveras.

4) Calaveras band members (l-r) Sam Bevan, Greg Beattie, Victoria Blythe, Mark Holzinger and Dave Decker at an Acoustic Vortex house concert in Larkspur. Photo courtesy of Calaveras.

5) (l-r) Lily Tomlin, Mimi Fariña and Jackson Browne at our 25th Anniversary Benefit Concert at the SF Opera House. Photo by Jay Blakesburg.

6) Audrey Auld during her songwriting workshop at San Quentin State Prison in 2007. Photo by Peter Merts.

7) Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music Book Cover, Judy Collins 2011

8) Judy Collins releasing a dove for Mimi Fariña at Grace Cathedral, August 7, 2001. Photo by Marian Little Utley, Courtesy Marin Independent Journal.

9) A) Janna Lauer of Utah's Heart & Soul with her stand-up bass. B) Heart & Soul Directors Present & Past (l-r) Ainsley-Marie McLaughlin and Janna Lauer. Photos Courtesy of Heart & Soul.

10) Ron Morrisey rehearses in his living room in Los Angeles. Photo by Marian Hubler

11) Ron Morrissey with Marian Hubler at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.


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