The music never stopped


Last updated 8/15/2023 at 12:53pm

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken

Perhaps they’re better left unsung

I don’t know, don’t really care

Let there be songs to fill the air

—“Ripple,” Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia

Songs filled the air everywhere in Sisters last weekend. The Sisters Folk Festival packed the lawn at Sisters Art Works with a “community hang” featuring some of the best of Sisters Country’s local musicians. At Hardtails Bar & Grill, the classic rock band NightLife served up some stunning lead vocals from Jessica Kiaunis. At Sisters Depot on Sunday, the stage was commanded by jazz musicians jamming the afternoon through. Marilyn and I spent a lovely evening dancing to the music of the Grateful Dead, served up at Sisters Saloon by Bend’s Call Down Thunder.

I was struck at the Call Down Thunder show by the number of young men and women dancing and singing along with the lyrics of Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow, both now gone to the other side. These folks were little kids — perhaps some not yet born — when Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995. Yet, here they were, living evidence that the music lives on.

It reminded me of being at the front of the stage at the Under the Big Sky Festival in Montana a couple of years ago, amid a horde of 20-somethings who seemed to know the words to every single Emmylou Harris song.

This makes me happy in a way I can scarcely articulate. I guess it’s just finding joy in a moment when — in a world where so much is disposable — things I value deeply show they are going to last.

Sisters Folk Festival just wrapped up a series of creativity camps where young people experimented with music and theater. I saw joy in a young banjo player who spent long, hot summer days picking with new friends. This is the way the torch is passed. Robert Sposato is doing the same sort of thing bringing young players and seasoned adult jazz musicians together to jam Click here to see related story..

Marilyn actually teared up watching a tie-dyed fellow who was clearly of original Deadhead vintage shaking his bones in the company of the young folk on Sunday evening.

“That’s pure joy,” she said. “That’s real. That’s authentic. No AI can do that.”

Sure enough. And perhaps it felt poignant because that authentic joy is threatened by the potential that art — and the creative spark that burns in it — will be reduced to a technologically recycled product, stripped of the struggle and triumph that goes into making something of value.

The songwriter Nick Cave recently articulated this quite pointedly:

“As humans, we so often feel helpless in our own smallness, yet still we find the resilience to do and make beautiful things, and this is where the meaning of life resides. Nature reminds us of this constantly. The world is often cast as a purely malignant place, but still the joy of creation exerts itself, and as the sun rises upon the struggle of the day, the Great Crested Grebe dances upon the water. It is our striving that becomes the very essence of meaning. This impulse – the creative dance – that is now being so cynically undermined, must be defended at all costs, and just as we would fight any existential evil, we should fight it tooth and nail, for we are fighting for the very soul of the world.”

It sure felt like we were winning the battle in Sisters last weekend. And I know that we’ll continue to defend the creative dance and the very soul of the world here in our little corner of it.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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