Karen Beth BiographyA GENTLE SPIRIT, A GREAT STRENGTH
A review written by Barbara Ann Harris for Hot Wire magazine:
Karen Beth has always been a singer; she says singing means everything to her. "It's who I am. It comes through me like energy coming through the earth up into a tree. Singing is freedom, expression, emotion, communication, joy, love, passion, and power."
Early on, at the start of her musical journey, Karen made the conscious decision to use her music to bring comfort and joy to people, rather than adding to their sorrow and pain. Through the many turns of her recording/performing journey, she has remained true to her vision.
Karen's first instruments were those of voice and toy piano. At age seven she moved onto a real piano, and then to the guitar when she was twelve. The guitar was borrowed from her father who was taking lessons at the time. After the guitar came the banjo, and she's also played the bass on and off for years. The accordion was to follow, inspired by The Band's Garth Hudson and Roxy Dawn, a Woodstock-based musician who Karen heard play one night. "She knocked my socks off," says Karen, "and I immediately decided I wanted to play one too!"
Next came the zither, which she describes as "a mutated auto harp. I took off the bars from an old auto harp, and set it free." The kalimba, an African instrument, entered her life as a gift from her parents. The synthesizer was a natural addition to enable Karen to play and create many different sounds. Karen says that anything she likes the sound of, she wants to play. "I'm only limited by the hauling capacity of my car. I'm considering getting a harp next — not to mention all sorts of hand percussion instruments. Guess I'll have to get a U-Haul."
Karen's music is connected to spirit and the spirit of women. "The spirit of women," she says, is about "becoming aware of our strengths as women. It's an awakening within ourselves that says we can do anything we desire to do. It's learning about our fore-mothers. It's creating women's culture. It's about respecting and loving ourselves." The lyrics of the song "Womanspirit Rising" speak of the strength of being woman":
I am woman, I know the power of my spirit
Karen's music is also spiritual. "Spirituality is honoring the Self," she says. "It's listening to the voice that answers our questions and guides us on our journeys. Spirituality is behaving in ways that honor ourselves, each other, the planet and all beings. When we feel and give joy; when we help another being; when we wash our dishes in a conscious way we are being spiritual. Spirituality is life-affirming, nourishing. It is taking in and giving back. It spirals, it weaves."
"To Each One of Us," the title song of her 5th recording, summarizes much that Karen wishes to say about life. It holds her philosophy, her belief that each one of us has a purpose. "We're alive for a reason," she says. "Any one of us would be missed if s/he wasn't here now."
to each one of us a purpose, and I say turn turn turn
This song, as many of her others, is filled with nature images. When asked what nature is, Karen replied, "Nature is everything. It's all around us...it is us. It's the pulsing power of life on this planet."
Her connection to nature has been nurtured by living in the heart of New York's Catskill Mountains. It is a place filled with legends and lore, magic and mystery. There is an old Native American legend that says once you've come to the Catskills you'll always return. Karen moved away for a few years, and true to the legend, returned. "The mountains kept calling me. I kept feeling them. I kept seeing them." She says she's been deeply influenced by those mountains, by the turning of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon.
the wheel it moves, the seasons change
The moon appears time and again in the songs of Karen Beth. "Full Moonlight Dance" is a four-line chant that has found it's way into many song circles, rituals, concerts, and recordings in this country and others. Karen says she is "honored and thrilled" when someone sings one of her songs. "I love the subtle changes that occur as the singer makes it her own." Whether sung by many at a festival, by some in a ritual, or by one to the sky, it is a joyous celebration of life and living:
under the full moonlight we dance
There is a tapestry of gentle spirit and great strength woven throughout Karen Beth's living and performing. She says, "I appreciate my audiences so much. I am honored that people want to come and share my life with me, share my thoughts. It's very special, very tender."
I've been to several of Karen's concerts, and each time she said farewell with a gentle goodbye song, "Into the Glory."
know your uniqueness, love what you've been given
Spending time with Karen is like taking a long walk in the country. One experience such strength and spirit that one returns renewed, wanting to share that joy. May her musical journey continue — weaving together the threads of strength, love, and those of the spiritual into the voice that is uniquely Karen Beth.