JOHNY PLAYS CAPTAIN CARL’S FIDDLE
As part of the June 9 Town Hall Theatre Mural and Tribute to Wells C. “Captain Carl” Clarke, Johnene McDonald, the proprietor of Face the Music Studio will perform two songs that she wrote for “Captain Carl” entitled Carl's Last Waltz and Captain Carl's Ship Has Sailed on the violin that is now hers.
McDonald is an award-winning fiddle player and music teacher who trained countless students of all ages on a variety of musical instruments over the last several decades. Given this dedication and history, she was gifted a violin by Carl that belonged his mother. This is the story McDonald tells about how the fiddle came to be hers.
About a month before Carl died, Jack Brown and Carl came into her studio. Brown was carrying an old coffin fiddle case and Carl said it was his mother's violin. “Carl said it was my fiddle now.”
Coffin cases in general date back at least 100 years. When she opened the case the fiddle had no strings, the bridge was down and the fiddle was almost black with dirt. “First thing Saturday morning I got out my fiddle cleaner and cleaned all the grime off of it, put on some new strings and set the bridge back up. The first note I played on it set my heart soaring as I knew from that ONE note that it was an amazing old fiddle.”
McDonald has named the fiddle Captain Carl and she plays it all the time at her studio. “I really don't know much more about it except that it is probably a couple of hundred years old. I picture it coming across the prairies on a wagon and falling off because it has a lot of old cracks in its body, but someone cared enough about it to fix it up... Either that or it was in a bar room brawl or something, it has had a pretty rough life.”
“I have always wished that people would write notes about the fiddle and put it in the case so you could trace the history on these old instruments, where they've been, who's played on them, etc. It is such an amazing thing to have an old instrument that is as old as our country and was around when Beethoven was composing music.” She wonders, “Did Beethoven play on it, or Mozart? The possibilities are really up to the imagination when something is that old.”
For the June 9th Tribute to Captain Carl, McDonald will be accompanied by Dave Johns on guitar.
THE LEGACY OF A GENEROUS MAN
Plumas County lost one of our favorite citizens and characters in August of 2015, but the legacy of Welles Carlton Clarke, Jr., better known to us as “Captain Carl,” will live on through his magnanimous bequest to Quincy, Meadow Valley and beyond, for generations to come.
And so will the stories about him, and maybe even more, the stories that he told us in that voice of his that could only be the voice of “The Cap’n.” All of us got bits and pieces of a colorful past retold around campfires or at the bar of the Plumas Club… he worked: as a ship’s captain out of Newport Beach chartering trips for the likes of Richard Burton, for the Army Corp of Engineers bulldozing roads in (what was then) Burma and the creation of the Kawaihae Harbor in Waikoloa on the big island of Hawai’i. Locally we knew him as Grand Humbug for E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8, Chief of the Chute Crew for the Solar Cook Off responsible for the set up for that event, a heavy equipment operator and the guy you would call on to get things done.
No one would have ever guessed that he was a man of means. You could find him most evenings at the Plumas Club, most any Clamper doins’, the annual Solar Cook Off or Sunday afternoons at the Town Hall Theatre where he sat in that same seat, Captain Carl’s seat, to see every movie we showed from animated fairytales to the bang-bang action thriller shoot-‘em-ups and everything in between.
He loved the theatre and cared deeply for his community. We learned that in his final wishes he wanted to make sure that some of his assets made their way to benefit the Town Hall Theatre.
In addition to Plumas Arts and the Town Hall Theatre beneficiaries from the Estate of Wells C. Clarke (totaling $1.7 million) include: Meadow Valley Fire Department, Plumas District Hospital, Meadow Valley Schoolhouse and Plumas Corporation’s Watershed Program; Feather River College Foundation for: Rodeo, Women’s Volleyball, Sand Volleyball, Baseball, Softball and Basketball Teams and Feather River Fitness; Plumas Community Radio, Buck’s Lake Fire Department, Plumas County Search and Rescue, Plumas County Museum, Plumas Hospice and Quincy High School; the Meadow Valley Community, Our Savior Lutheran, Quincy Untied Methodist and St John’s Catholic Churches; Plumas Rapids Swim Team, Feather River Land Trust, Central Plumas Recreation District, Quincy and East Quincy Beautification Programs, Quincy MS Girls, Quincy Little League, E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8, Quincy Rotary, Dramaworks, The Common Good Foundation and Feather River Trout Unlimited.
For this astonishing distribution of funds we all have Carl’s long time friend Jack Brown to thank, because right up to the end Carl did not care much about the money. It was at Jack’s suggestion that money be given to the community and he handled the arduous task as executor of Carl’s estate without compensation. So here again we recognize a labor of love by another community-minded citizen.
With his donation to Plumas Arts, we were given a foundation that we had only dreamed of before. We still need to write grants, do fundraising and manage earned income programs. Memberships are still the backbone of our support base. Annual membership donations of $40, $50, $100 or more from hundreds of individuals, families businesses and organizations validate the importance of the work we do building community through arts programming in addition the essential aspect of covering annual operating expenses.
But what we now do have, with heartfelt thanks to our Friend Captain Carl, are funds to take care of the historic facilities that we have been tasked to manage: the Town Hall Theatre circa 1936 and the former Capitol Saloon circa 1872 which is now the Plumas Arts Gallery). So now we do not have to have a panic attack when something breaks or needs repair.
We also established a Plumas Arts Endowment with funds held in public trust and returns invested in community arts services. That endowment also provides opportunity for others who may be interested in a legacy donation to help to keep local arts thriving in our community for well into the future. As an organization that has worked hard and struggled for decades to do the good work that we have become respected for, this is all something that we can still only barely believe.
Plumas Arts will offer a tribute to our most unexpected and beloved benefactor with as part of our 36th Anniversary Celebration on June 9th. At 3pm join us as we give tribute to Captain Carl and dedicate the mural on the back of Town Hall Theatre where his likeness smiles out to passers-by.
At 4pm the celebration moves to the Dame Shirley plaza for a party with Free admission circus fun and games provided by QUIRCUS and dance-inspiring funk, rock, New Orleans style jazz music by the eight-piece, horn-heavy band RIGMAROLE. There will also be a no host beer, wine and beverage bar and a barbeque meal available for purchase.
Thank you Captain Carl for giving us so much more to celebrate!
2018 Artist in the Lookout Residencies Announced
A project of Plumas Arts and the Plumas National Forest, the Artist in the Lookout Residency 2018 was awarded to painting pair Lenora Herndon and Wendy Wayman and science illustrator Megan Gnekow . The Artist in Residence program provides a unique opportunity for an artist to spend four nights at the Black Mountain Lookout to draw upon the breathtaking landscapes of the Plumas National Forest for inspiration.
Megan Gnekow (pronounced knee-cow) earned an undergraduate degree in Art from Portland State University and completed the Science illustration graduate program at UC Santa Cruz. She has exhibited throughout the US and regularly offers workshops to inspire people to connect to Nature through artistic practices.
“I believe that it is my responsibility to honor the beauty, wildness and value of every species on this planet. My mission is to celebrate these connections and honor the role each plays in sustaining the ecosystems where we live.”
Meagan currently lives in Paicines CA (near Hollister), but has local ties. “My grandmother lived in Portola in the 1980s and 1990s and is buried there. We visited her a lot in the summer time and I remember driving up along the Feather River, admiring the power of water to shape rocks. I loved swimming in the rivers and lakes! My mom, brother, sister-in-law, and niece all currently live in Chester, right on the edge of the Lassen National Forest.”
She spends parts of June and July conducting butterfly surveys at Mt. Lassen, in Quincy's Butterfly Valley, and on Mt. Hough - along with many other locations in the mountains of northeast California.
Gnekow’s project for the residency will be to produce a book of drawings that illustrate the ecosystems surrounding the Black Mountain Lookout and within the Plumas National Forest. Her public presentations will bring her into Plumas County elementary schools.
Lenora Herndon (r) & Wendy Wayman (l) are life-long artists pursuing artistic interests and refining their skills as painters through private lessons and in artist workshops and classes at Feather River College. Both have been teachers. Wayman taught English at several colleges. Herndon served for nine years as the art instructor at Plumas Christian School and is currently an Artist in the School with Plumas Arts.
The approach to their residency is entitled “Plein Air par Deux.” With it they challenge the notion that aesthetic engagement with Nature need be a solitary activity. To describe it they use an oft-quoted saying in Plein Air circles “it takes two artists to paint: one to paint and the other to tell her when to stop.”
“We have found this to be true. In both inspiration and execution, working together helps us meet the demands of chasing the light, working quickly, and battling the hostile elements: like turpentine-seeking horntail wasps or late afternoon winds.”
Work produced by this artistic duet will be the featured Plumas Arts Gallery show in November of 2018.