Posted August 1, 2013 by Marg Herder
Beth Whitney will be performing at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival on Saturday, August 10, at 12:30 pm on the Performance Café Stage.
This post is an introduction to Beth Whitney, I hope you’ll read our email discussion here also.
“I had a dream some years back where I saw a sea of people turning into a violent war. I knew something needed to be done so I climbed up on a stage, took a deep breath, and sang with all my might. When my voice hit the crowd, they changed instantly from a blaze of mad hornets into a still and unified people. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
Those are the words of Beth Whitney, a 29-year-old singer/songwriter and Children’s Ministry Director from the Pacific Northwest.
She had the dream before she started performing, but she believes its underlying vision has been happening, “but on a much smaller and, of course, less dramatic scale.” She says, “I hope that God uses this music to slow down internal hurricanes and help others to see God and each other more clearly—or at least, differently. Music can be a powerful avenue for true peace and healing. I want to walk that street.”
Beth will have another opportunity to “walk that street” when she be performs at the Wild Goose Festival in 2013. I loved her song, “One Man,” on the free Wild Goose Compilation. Here are a few lines from that quiet, contemplative piece:
Are we all one heart
Beating fast and broken apart
Learning how to be, and to love, and to see
Take this bread
Take this cup
And stay a while with me
Beth Whitney is a new mom to baby Oliver, and as you might expect, she and husband Aaron are “unrested and overjoyed, bewildered and in love.” When I asked her what she loved the most in her life she answered, “At the moment, I love our willow tree’s shadows in the front yard and this baby boy sleeping in my lap.” She has a way of drawing attention to real moments of our lives, in words and in her lyrics.
Beth’s husband, Aaron Fishburn, Youth Director at First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish, Washington, performs with her on stage (he plays a variety of instruments but his primary instrument is the upright bass). The family will be traveling to Wild Goose together, including baby Oliver.
Beth has released four CDs, “Mud, Rock And Clay” (2005, under the name Elisabeth Rose), “Leave Your Shoes” (2007), the “Yellow” EP (2010), and the “Ukulele” EP (2012). I’ve only heard tracks from the last three releases (though I finally tracked down the first CD, and it’s on the way to me now). Each is a strong effort, and I think each release will appeal to a broad range of listeners.
My favorite is “Leave Your Shoes,” with the “Ukulele” EP being a close second. Beth’s musical strengths, her lovely lyrics and gentle, breathless vocals shine brightest on these two efforts. Production is restrained and spare, and the songs settle into you, your attention carefully directed to the subtle inflection of her voice. That, friends, is where the emotion lives. In the silence between the notes, the quiet sounds of indrawn breath, and the million ways a note can come forth and fade away. It is a delight to hear work crafted with such loving care.
The “Yellow” EP is more upbeat and more fully fleshed out instrumentally, with confident vocals and interesting arrangements.
When I asked Beth about how she came to music, She described getting her first guitar:
I started playing guitar at 16 when a gentleman from my little church said, “Beth, can you use this?” and he held up “Lyle,” a beautiful classical guitar. Though I’d never been any kind of musician, I decided that, yes, I could use it. I started writing songs that week.
Beth’s other instrument, her baritone ukulele, belonged to her mother-in-law when she was a little girl. I like that. Instruments used to be treasures shared between people, between generations. This imbued them with meaning, implied a separate existence of their own in which the instrument was a connection to something more than the player herself. I think Beth gets this.
Beth found the Wild Goose Festival though David Lamotte at a Princeton conference in January. He encouraged her to apply, and on Saturday, August 10, at 12:30 pm, Beth will be performing on the Wild Goose Performance Café stage.
I suggest downloading and enjoying a couple of Beth Whitney’s songs from iTunes and watching this YouTube Video of her song “Sweet on You.”