Last summer, more than 4,000 people showed up at Takoma Park Junior High School for Sisterfire, an all-day outdoor concert featuring well-known performers (Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Sweet Honey in the Rock) and others up to then not-well-known (Women of the Calabash, the Harp Band).
Among those attending was filmmaker Victoria Eves, who works for Storer Cable of Prince George's Inc., a local cable franchise of the Storer Communications network. Working within the limitations of a single camera and a very small crew, Eves shot the entire affair, including interviews with the performers. Storer has run two programs, a 30-minute version featuring performance and talk, and an hour-long concert film.
Tomorrow night at 11 p.m. on Channel 26, WETA will broadcast the concert film as a second Sisterfire festival is readied for Saturday. Performers this year include Meg Christian, Teresa Trull and Elizabeth Cotton. Sweet Honey in the Rock and Women of the Calabash will make return appearances and Eves once again will have a camera trained on stage.
"For the half-hour documentary, I interviewed individual performers about their personal and spiritual evolvement and how they were going through that process with their music, what drove them to perform and, particularly, to write music," Eves says. That program was part of an ongoing series Eves has been doing for Storer titled "The Question of Balance," which she describes as being about "people on personal paths who are doing something to bring a feeling of integration and harmony into their lives and/or environment."
"But the music at Sisterfire was so wonderful, too, that I wanted to do an hour-long show of that, just wall-to-wall music," Eves says. Working with a single camera mounted to the side of the stage didn't allow much cinematographic leeway, so there is a slightly static feel to the film.
But "Sisterfire" has a number of delightful segments: the Women of the Calabash, whose rhythmic suppleness and grace on African instruments is illuminating; Ratumba Con Pie, an exuberant trio of Afro-Caribbean dancers who mix sensuality with playfulness; Susan Freundlich, who signs for the deaf, dancing all her lines full-bodied and warmly eloquent; and Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers, working together and presaging the major tour that took them cross-country last winter.
There are many shots indicating the celebratory spirit of the day: women (and some men) dancing to the salsa rhythms of the Harp Band; the smiles of a community aware that, in Near's words, "we're not the first and we're not the last to sing of freedom"; listeners energetically singing and signing along to many of the songs. "A lot of women in the community have been learning sign language," says Eves, "and they were invited to emulate the signing. A lot of them did."
Eves is both an independent producer and a full-time employe of Storer Cable.
"I produce for them constantly, but I also have individual projects that I work on by myself or in collaboration with others," she says. As an outgrowth of her two Storer programs, she originally had been asked to produce a number of spots to help promote Saturday's event, but when WETA looked at her footage, it decided to run the concert film in its entirety.
Also in the works for Eves: involvement with a new national cable group called "The World Good News Network." "It's not good news in the religious sense," she says. "It's basically being started by some people at the World Future Society and we're talking about doing mobile broadcasts on subject matter related to new age, holistic kinds of topics." The first program will focus on the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.