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Claremont Heritage launches music archive

Claremont Heritage is introducing the recently launched Treasury of Claremont Music archive with a 6 to 9 p.m. musical celebration Saturday, February 15, on the Garner House courtyard at Memorial Park, 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont.

“It’s kind of my love letter to Claremont,” said   Treasury founder Tom Skelly. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

The evening is both a culmination of the seven years of work it took to bring the archive to life, and a dedication to two beloved Treasury inductees, Norma Tanega and Chris Darrow, who died December 28 and January 15, respectively.

The celebration will include performances by several of the musicians in the archive, including Vineyard Touring Opera Company, Falcon Eddy, Sugar Mountain Mama Serenade, Michael Ryan, Hai Muradian and Ken Soderlund. KSPC DJs DiA Hakinna, and Junor Francis will be spinning in between bands.

Tickets are $10 and are available at www.claremontheritage.org, (909) 621-0848, at Garner House Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., or at the door.

With two Claremont music icons conspicuously absent, it will be a bittersweet gala.

“It’s sad, but it’s one of the reasons why this Treasury of Claremont Music project is so important,” said Claremont Heritage Executive Director David Shearer. “When Tom Skelly first thought about it I think it was due to the passing of some of the musicians he had been involved with that were probably just going to be gone and all but forgotten, if not for some sort of an archive or repository for their history.”

The digital “living archive” showcases the cultural heritage of Claremont’s musicians past and present, providing context for the vibrant music scene that exists to this day. The Treasury will be continually updated to highlight the region’s most notable and important musicians, with biographies, photographs and music clips.

The site, at www.treasuryofclaremontmusic.com, went live in October.

“There have already been a lot of hits and people commenting and asking questions and wondering about various artists,” Mr. Shearer said. “It’s been very good in order to kind of find out who some of the missing characters or players are that need to be added.”

The hope, Mr. Shearer said, is to grow the Treasury to incorporate artists who may have a connection to the city, but may not necessarily be directly associated, such as the late Frank Zappa. Mr. Zappa briefly attended Claremont High as a teen, and was later a Pomona College dropout.

Another is Joan Baez. Her link to Claremont is less immediate—her parents lived at 12th and Berkeley in the early 1960s, and the cover of her second album, “Joan Baez, Vol. 2” was shot in the front yard—but still, it’s a loose tie.

And while the big names are certainly a draw, there are lesser-known players who will get their due as well, Mr. Shearer said.

“And it’s even going way back into this incredible history of composers who taught at Pomona College,” Mr. Shearer said. “So even going back to the very beginnings of Claremont. There’s a lot to cover and we’ll keep working at it.”

Mr. Skelly lived in Claremont from 1977 to 2017, when he moved to Portland, Oregon. He’s an artist and DJ, and hosts a Portland radio show, “The Sound of Pictures,” on XRAY.fm, which is also heard locally on 88.7 KSPC Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon.

He began assembling the project in 2013. The inaugural inductee was Chet Jaeger, of the Night Blooming Jazzmen. He began collaborating with Claremont Heritage some time prior to his move to Portland.

He said it’s gratifying to finally see the Treasury getting off the ground.

“It really is,” Mr. Skelly said. “I think it’s a long time coming. It’s like putting lightning in a bottle. It needed to happen. There’s so much talent that’s being forgotten and drifting away, you know, that needs to be contained here and grown too.”

There were some hard-to-pin-down artists; that rascal David Lindley, for one.

“I couldn’t get a hold of him,” Mr. Skelly said. “And Ben Harper I couldn’t get a hold of. The Folk Music wanted to do it on their own, somehow, so I just sort of backed off of that. And there’s a lot of other people that I have listed but I just didn’t have the time to get to.”

Since the website launched, Heritage has had several suggestions for new Treasury artists.

“And that’s a good thing,” Mr. Shearer said. “It’s an important aspect, and one of the reasons why we wanted it to be a very public archive, so that we would get that kind of feedback. That’s what’s going to keep the it alive and keep it going, when people have the opportunity to interface and interact with it and experience the history.”

Mr. Skelly said he’d like to see the Treasury grow to include scholarly, deep historical and critical writing.

There are immediate plans to add video and audio clips to the website. Heritage is also looking to create an accompanying blog with regular updates, new and archival concert footage, and listings for live music.

“We want each musician to have their own page with their own little archive,” Mr. Shearer said. “It’ll just keep growing and growing, and eventually have a chronological list of tours and things like that. We want to get as much as we can on each artist and have kind of a living document that tells their stories and as we get new information it can be added. It’s not going to just be once it’s done, it’s done. It’ll never be done.”

The fact that Ms. Tanega and Mr. Darrow won’t be there to see the launch is all the more reason to keep the Treasury robust, Mr. Shearer said.

“It is for this reason that it exists, to remember the people who have passed through Claremont and left an indelible musical mark on this community.”

The launch party is 6 to 9 p.m. at Garner House, 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont. Tickets are $10 and are available at www.claremontheritage.org, (909) 621-0848, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at Garner House, or at the door the evening of the event.

More info is at www.claremontheritage.org.

by Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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