Two longtime Ashland folksinger-songwriter — Irene Farrera and Alice DiMicele — will play together publicly for the first time, displaying their work individually and with some duo work on Thursday, June 22, as part of a months-long women’s music festival at Havurah Shir Hadash.
The two longtime friends have contrasting styles, with DiMicele offering Americana folk, influenced by jazz, blues and R&B, she says, while Farrera does classic Latin music, boleros, bossa nova and, she says, “I love singing in all languages.”
DiMicele says, “My hope is to get lots of people coming, to bring out people who have loved her for the 14 years she lived here — and to get her new fans. I love her. She has one of the sexiest voices on the planet. I want everyone to hear her.”
Both performed at the old Jazmin’s club in Ashland, play guitar and have many CD albums. DiMicele has been in the valley 31 years, while Ferrera hails from Venezuela, came here out of high school, became a U.S. citizen, won a scholarship to then-Southern Oregon State College, graduated in fine arts, lived in Eugene some years and, 12 years ago, went home to be with her family on its farm in Venezuela.
Farrera has known DiMicele for decades and says, “We’ve always been very supportive of each other’s music over the years. I love her and love her audience. It’s an honor to play for her fans.”
When Farrera graduated from SOSC, her teachers encouraged her to start performing right away, starting with Jazmin’s, which was on Lithia Way for years. It’s owner, David Zaslow, now the rabbi of Havurah, says he loved her performances immediately and snapped her up as a regular. The story is similar for DiMicele.
“Alice and Irene and wonderful musicians, but it’s the way they draw in to their audiences that makes them so special,” says Zaslow. “Of all the solo performers at Jazmin’s, no one held the audience like Irene. It was magic the way she got the entire room in the groove of her rhythms.
“Alice adds brings the extra gift of being an incredible songwriter who has become beloved performer in southern Oregon. Together each of these unique performers promise to create a fantastic evening of music that spans the northern and southern hemispheres.”
Notable in Farrera’s life now is the whirlpool of street protests, financial crash, hyperinflation, food shortages, crime, emigration and implosion of the Venezuela’s branches of government.
She supports the government, not the protestors and, while the situation is bad, she says, it’s not as bad as you see in the media.
“I feel that for 18 years, we’ve been trying to transition to a more social justice system, but it’s not been easy,” she says. “The government has done great social programs, with 70 percent of the budget going to health, free education, public housing. It’s a lot of advances for the poor who make up the majority of the country.”
It’s frustrating that the “old state” is still in place, she says, and food production is being done by private interests. “It’s a struggle between two systems.” Another obstacle, she notes, is that 40 percent of the country’s huge oil reserves are owned by other nations.
“Venezuela is under siege … Since April, there have been a lot of street riots. There are a lot of efforts to overthrow the government and there are efforts to get all parties to the table and ask ‘how can we make this work’ and to write a new constitution.”
The country has nationwide elections coming up and Farrera hopes they will bring stability. Food has come back on the market, but much of it is high-priced black market food. There’s a lot of anger and insecurity in the population, she says.
“But I feel optimistic about Venezuela. It’s not an easy battle. When we get the Constitution by the end of the year, we’ll be much more clear about how to do things … I think we’re on the right path. People are supporting this socialist process.
“There will be a beautiful outcome. We have the good things you need. Most people are doing their thing, going to school and work. It’s a beautiful place and people are coming together.”
Tickets for the performance are $20 or $25 at the door. They are available at brownpapertickets.com or the Music Coop, 268 E. Main, Ashland. It’s at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the Havurah Synagogue, 185 North Mountain Avenue, Ashland. Call 541-488-7716 for more information.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.