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Heidi Muller and Bob Webb at Opera House


--Photo courtesy of Karen Robertson.

Bob Webb and Heidi Muller perform folk music on a selection of different instruments at the Harrington Opera House on Saturday, April 29, 2017.

The Harrington Opera House Society presented Heidi Muller and Bob Webb at the Opera House April 29 at 7 p.m. Muller became popular as a Seattle recording artist in the '80s and '90s, when her name was easily recognized. She was a finalist with "Matters of the Heart" in the prestigious Kerrville New Folk songwriting competition in 1989. She is recognized as "one of the dulcimer community's best songwriters and performers" per the Dulcimer Players' News. While working and performing as songwriter and guitarist, she taught dulcimer workshops across the Northwest. She is noted for her finger-style acoustic guitar and mountain dulcimer melodies. Eventually, she went on tour nationally and recorded five solo CDs prior to 2003, when she began performing and touring with Bob Webb.

Bob Webb settled in West Virginia "as part of the 1970s back-to-the-land movement," he says. He is viewed as "a talented multi-instrumentalist. He toured with the folk-rock group Stark Raven that became the house band for the Mountain Stage radio show. There he backed up many of the greats including Odetta, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton and Shawn Colvin. Webb also taught music, designing a cardboard box dulcimer that he helped over 700 children and adults make and play in schools and summer camps. He became a recording engineer with his own studio, where he recorded music CDs and helped create documentaries for public radio, including 'In Their Own Country' produced by Kate Long, which was nominated for a Peabody Award."

Heidi Muller and Bob Webb have perfected the blending of each other's influences from the Pacific Northwest and the Appalachian Mountains, creating their own special sound. Together they have released four recordings: "Up Hurricane Creek," "Dulcimer Moon," "Light the Winter's Dark" and "Seeing Things."

Before an appreciative audience of about 50, Muller and Webb stood amidst their array of nine instruments while being announced. At an early opportunity Webb grasped the microphone and acknowledged Harrington's star radio announcer Peter Davenport. Webb went on to tell the audience that he had listened to Davenport for years, watching the night sky for UFOs.

Near the end of the program Muller played her famous song "Good Road," still heard weekly on Northwest Public Radio and KPBX-Spokane, where it continues as the theme song of the Inland Folk show after 25 years. Muller has a song for absolutely any topic one might find in nature. The audience heard about "knowing those back roads like the back of one's hand," dairy farms in New Jersey and apple trees along the way. The audience had to listen carefully to ascertain when their leg was being pulled. "I put this guitar in the dryer, and it shrank; but it still plays." The music just kept coming. "Up Hurricane Creek" invited audience participation once she got past the butterfly and the spider and began singing about the little black tick. Muller mentioned a book, "Bold Spirit," about a Spokane woman who had 10 children and a house on the prairie. On a wager she walked from Spokane to New York City to win $10,000. As the song goes, she walked through 32 pair of shoes. Only the audience knows the ending of the story.

Muller teased the audience with her look-alike dulcimers with noticeable differences in tones, playing "My Old Cat," followed by an old British folk song. Muller didn't steal all the glory. Webb brought out his electric cello, made from West Virginia maple, and the audience applauded for more. Next he switched to his baritone guitar and performed a song originally by T. R. Richie, "How Long Was I Fooling Myself." Muller sang about the Mariners in a song titled "Summer of '61." Just prior to intermission, Muller sang "Keep an Eye on the Moon."

During the intermission, CDs were sold along one side of the auditorium. Many were scurrying with their purchases to make sure they were signed by both Bob Webb and Heidi (who manned the table). The audience found them very personable and enjoyed speaking directly with the performers. Following the intermission, the performance continued with as much vitality as at the beginning. Topics for these final songs included road-trip into song, no guarantees, hummingbirds, spring, the Palouse night sky, Cassiopeia and a medley of West Virginia tunes. Muller attempted to end the program on her "Good Roads" song, but the encore roused Webb to respond: "That was your chance to escape." They graciously gave the audience "Over the Rainbow" as the conclusion to a spectacular evening. A frequent attendee was heard to comment, "This is the best performance I've heard here."

Heidi Muller's mother played classical piano music of the 1920s and '30s. Her father loved to recite poetry, and her uncle played East German folk music on the zither. Heidi learned to play the guitar at age 11. Her music was a natural part of her life while she pursued other career goals. She kept her talent and skills alive with volunteer performances. The Harrington Opera House Society readily welcomes these two artists to a return performance.


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