Harmonizing with social awareness

Folk duo host Second Sundays Salon Society Series

By Jessica Corey-Butler on October 4, 2007

Steve and Kristi Nebel met as students at The Evergreen State College “when it was mud,” recalls Kristi of the school in 1972.

He studied poetry at the brand new liberal arts college; she studied theatre. The two married in 1974 and combined their loves together as they began writing and playing music; “We were both late bloomers,” Kristi admits, “we learned together.” Kristi adds, “I taught him harmony.”

This harmony wasn’t just a musical concept; together the two musically examined peaceful, natural themes in settings like Anchorage and Longbranch, finally settling in Tacoma in 1997; in 2003 Kristi heard of a march for peace happening, and became involved in United for Peace, Pierce County, signing up Steve for the effort without his knowledge.

“I was not an activist at that time,” she remembers, “I was scared to death.” But to her delight, Steve “jumped on the bandwagon” and the two now work to promote world harmony even as they harmonize on stage.

Professional musicians, they tour extensively and have discovered a surprising fit for their genre in the United Kingdom. “That’s just what their passion is all over Scotland and Cornwall,” Kristi explains; each county has its stories told through its folk music, and a following of people interested in listening. Consequently, the areas they tour boast more folk venues per capita than the United States, with an open-eared interest in the Americana style the Nebels bring to the table.

Locally, the duo plays a variety of coffeehouses and festivals; Sunday they will play at the Steilacoom Museum Association Apple Squeeze, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Along the lines of the SoJust Festival, which aims “to declare a day of social justice through art, music, and dance,” the duo created the Second Sundays Salon Society Series, which seeks to examine progressive ideas in a social setting.

Kristi formed this series with a purposely pretentious name, “It’s a Hilltop event, I wanted to get people who originally wouldn’t set foot in this neighborhood.”

The salons, open to “all ages, all proclivities,” per Kristi, feature discussion surrounding a set issue with entertainment that generally includes music, and can also include a variety of entertainments ranging from plays to slideshows.

The salons were originally intended as a fund raiser for United for Peace, Pierce County, but Kristi chuckles wryly, “We rarely come out ahead, because I believe in paying the musicians.”

The next salon is set for Oct. 14, 1-4 p.m., at the home of Frances and Mario Lorenz, 816 S. L St. in Tacoma.

The evening will feature turn of the century, "tin pan alley" music on banjo, ukelel, washboard, and double bass, as well as discussion on the works of Kurt Vonnegut led by PLU English instructor Jason Skipper. The cost is $15, at the door, with funds benefitting United for Peace, Pierce County. Refreshments and wine will be served.