Music to Protect Ashland’s Open Space

Cynthia Whitty
Richard Thyng (left) and Hakansson perform at the Warren Center in 1987.(Photo/supplied)
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

Veteran concert-goers remember a concert series that started in Ashland 50 years ago

Folks are traveling from as far as Memphis, Tennessee, to be a part of an event that will most likely be the last one of its kind, according to the organizers.
On Saturday, Nov. 24, the Ashland Land Stewardship Committee will host a benefit concert at Hayden Lodge, Warren Conference Center. The concert, to benefit the Warren Woods Stewardship Fund, sold out a week after being announced in early September.
The benefit concert will feature Ashland’s Carl Hakansson and various musicians he has performed with over the past 50 years, including Richard Thyng, Cliff Young, Craig Campbell, and Jeff Chanonhouse and the Cadillac Horns.
The Warren Center concerts have a long Ashland tradition. The first concert took place in 1972. They were sponsored by the Mandella Coffeehouse at the Federated Church and then “The Barn,” a youth center in downtown Ashland, and subsequently they became fundraisers for causes as varied as Oxfam, the Pine Street Inn, and Easter Seals, and Henry Warren clock repairs in downtown Ashland. The last three concerts in 2011, 2013 and 2018 have benefited the Warren Woods Stewardship Fund.
Playing for Causes
A resident of Ashland for over 50 years, Ed Hart first heard Hakansson and his band play at the Warren Center in the early 70s.
“I didn’t know Carl at the time, but I still remember the concert because the music was so good,” Hart said. “I was impressed mostly because everyone was so young and the level of playing was as if they were all consummate professionals signed to record contracts. A few years later I saw an album by Carl’s band named “Dancing Fools and Loving Heroes”—or perhaps it was “Loving Fools and Dancing Heroes”—anyway, I bought the album—it was in vinyl—and I still have it. It was good, but it pales in comparison to his music today.” [“Lonely Fools, Dancing Heroes” is the actual title].
“I certainly will be attending the November concert. I remember Carl wore a poncho at the first concert back in the 70s. It would be fun if he dug it out and wore it for at least one song. In any event, I’m sure that those in attendance will be rewarded with an evening of good music by a good musician who has also worked hard to protect and preserve the land and improve the quality of life for the town of Ashland.”
Playing for Love
Cliff Wilson, an Ashland native and current president of the Ashland Historical Society, also first heard Hakansson in the early 1970s.
“Carl’s music tells stories. They come from his heart and his experience. As listeners, we can relate to his music as we all share the basic emotions involved. We can be joyous, or sad, we can love the experience of nature,” Wilson said.
“The upcoming concert, as well as several in the past, is a benefit for the Warren Woods Stewardship fund. Carl and the other musicians generously perform to help preserve our past, to allow beauty and nature and open spaces to continue to exist. Their dedication to Ashland is greatly appreciated.”
“The concerts also serve another purpose. They reunite people who have, over time, scattered to the far ends of the earth. Many of the audience will travel great distances to attend. Most of the audience has carried their love of Ashland with them wherever they may have gone. These concerts are magic. They are love.”
Playing for Meaning
Doug (Dog) Green will be coming up from Memphis for the concert in November. Green, an Ashland High Hall of Famer, heads an immunology lab at St. Jude’s Hospital.
“I’ve known Carl Hakansson and Richard Thyng since I was in grade school. Then in high school I met Steve Buzell, the third member of Seabyrd [Hakansson’s first band], which formed at that time. In high school I would hang out with Richard and Carl (who I have always known as “H”), often with guitars (they were MUCH better than I was—MUCH). They would often play at Mandela, ‘our coffee house,’ on Saturday nights (actually in a church basement—this was a stop on the folk circuit where many great musicians played back in those days) and Seabyrd (or only H and Thyng) were often on stage, playing original music. I was also close friends with Carl’s first wife, Maria, who tragically died just after high school. This terrible trauma was the inspiration for H’s first album, ‘Candle’s Glow.’ I have that album, as well as every other album H produced (in later years, he would just send them to me—always a great surprise and treat). So, hard to say what the first time was that I heard H play, probably close to 50 years ago.”
“A few years ago, our great long-time friend John Fitzgerald (Fitz) died, and H and Seabyrd decided to have a concert to raise money for his widow. I was in town and dragged along two friends, one from Boston and one from Rome—both serious music lovers. They were extremely skeptical but came along. I was doing a few songs to open the night, so they came in support but warned that they would leave if they didn’t like my old high school friends’ music. A few songs into their first set, they admitted, to their shocked surprise, that these guys are simply terrific. ‘Why are they in Ashland?’ asked my Italian friend, ‘they should be everywhere!’”
“I have always loved H’s songwriting, as well as Thyng’s. Even early on, his songs were authentic; heartfelt and meaningful, and that continues to today. Musically solid and original, these were also tunes that have stayed with me all my life. I could say that H’s music recalls my childhood, but that would not be correct—it is more accurate to say that it is something that has been in my life for decades, and something I treasure. But don’t get me wrong—it isn’t like I’m a fan or anything (kidding).”
“Not only will I be there, coming up from Memphis, but I will be joined by my wife, Rona, my daughter, Maggie, who has never heard H play in person, and her partner, Adam. Looking forward to it very much.”
Hakansson said that though this benefit is likely the last Warren Center concert, he will continue to perform, as he has been, nearly every weekend throughout New England.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the maintenance of Warren Woods may make a check payable to the Warren Woods Stewardship Fund and send it c/o Carl Hakansson, 346 Chestnut St., Ashland, MA 01721.