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Hip music, cool women, hot time

September 19, 2002

Music at a medical center? Did you hear that right? The time is Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The place, indeed, is Robinwood Medical Center in Hagerstown - a perfect place for a festival of music by women - for women.

The place, indeed, is Robinwood Medical Center in Hagerstown - a perfect place for a festival of music by women - for women.

Proceeds from Saturday's concert support uninsured and underinsured women in the Washington County Hospital service area.

Annual exams and medical tests - including Pap tests and mammograms - and other women's health services are important. The festival will help women who think they can't afford such services, says Barry Nickelsberg, executive director of development, public relations and marketing, Washington County Health System.

The festival also celebrates the opening of Robinwood's new center for women's health, he says, a center for women of all ages - from teens to women dealing with retirement issues. The center offers a full range of services for women - from gynecology and obstetrics to psychiatry, he adds.

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Saturday's festival offers a full range of music - in many genres - a little something for every taste, for everybody.

And that includes men. And kids. There will be a children's area, Nickelsberg says.

WETA-FM radio personality Mary Cliff will serve as host. "I think it's a bang-up lineup - an absolutely incredible lineup," she says, a lineup well suited to the festival's fund-raising goals.

Cliff has worked with some of the performers, including Odetta, and although she doesn't know the music of headliner Carolyn Dawn Johnson, she's looking forward to her performance. The Burns Sisters' a cappella vocals send chills up her spine, she says.

"I think it's going to be fine," says Stage Manager David Fitzwater, who has organized the Mountain Green Concerts at HCC for the past several years, booked the talent and has assembled a crew of Western Maryland Blues Fest veterans to help move things along.

Marge Calhoun, a Washington, D.C.-area singer/songwriter, will take the 40-by-30-foot stage at 11:30 a.m. to open the day's program. Tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway will be there with her.

The Burns Sisters - Annie, Marie and Jeannie - grew up with nine siblings near Binghamton, N.Y., and claim there were no Irish records in their household. Yet, their music is said to have a Celtic component.

Deanna Bogart, who played at the Western Maryland Blues in Hagerstown, will be back with her rockin' blues-jazz piano. She has a new CD - "Timing is Everything" - Cliff points out.

Odetta, called the "Queen of American Folk Music," is celebrating 50 years in show business with her 27th solo album, "Blues Everywhere I Go," the first with a blues band in nearly 40 years.

Then look out; at 3:30 The Babes take the stage.

Sally Fingerett, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, speaks for her group The Babes - a quartet of four women singer/songwriters who are working moms and live in four different American cities. Fingerett describes the group - herself, Suzzy Roche of New York City, Camille West of Queensbury, N.Y., and Debi Smith of Falls Church, Va., - as best friends from childhood who didn't meet until after their kids were born.

The Four Bitchin' Babes - as they're officially billed - have an ensemble Web site, www.fourbitchinbabes.com, as well as individual Internet home bases. That fact reflects their individual as well as collective careers.

"We made this commitment in life that we would be artists," Fingerett says. "But we weren't willing to give up everything else."

So they do it all, with beautiful harmonies in lovely voices - and with a sense of humor.

"We pretty much write about what moves our thinking and feeling," she says.

For example, "Don't Mess With Me (I'm Somebody's Mother)," penned by Fingerett, paints a picture of no-nonsense-won't-put-up-with-any-foolishness women.

Being a mom is exhausting.

"If I knew how difficult motherhood was, I would have hired more people," she quips.

The satire and fun-poking social commentary is balanced with love and hope. Fingerett also wrote "True Love's Gonna Come Along," and the CD liner notes include, "I'm thrilled to report - it has!"

Fingerett defines the "Bitchin" of the Babes moniker as "tragically hip, cool" and "timeless and ageless." "I'd love to say we're madonna-like," she says. "We're holding up OK."

She is the "last surviving original member" of the group started in 1990 by Christine Lavin. Patti Larkin left to pursue a solo career, and the frequently changing cast has included other singer/songwriters who have come in and moved on. It's like a show that keeps going even when the players change, she explains.

Janis Ian, who's next on the Women & Music festival stage has performed with the group. "She has been a babe," Fingerett says.

Ian, nominated for nine Grammy awards, has maintained a composing and performing career way beyond "Society's Child," her hit at the age of 15. Her songs have been featured on movie soundtracks and television shows, and her Hagerstown performance will be a reconnection with Odetta, who sang on Ian's 1976 "Aftertones" album.

Award-winning Canadian-born country singer/songwriter Carolyn Dawn Johnson will headline the festival, bringing yet another flavor to Saturday's Women & Music event.

"We're promoting the artistry of women," Nickelsberg says.

But the festival is not for women only. "We're very men friendly. We love men," says Fingerett, speaking for The Babes.

Women & Music will benefit women who need health care, but it will do so with music for everyone to enjoy.

Nickelsberg is looking forward to the festival.

"I think it's going to be a blast."

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