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Songs for social change

In her autobiography, anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman recalls how she was reproached by a colleague for dancing at a party with reckless abandon, unbefitting a serious activist. Goldman's retort: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Goldman's brassy words have since become the anthem of many of her disciples, including Pat Humphries and Sandy O.

The acoustic duo, emma's revolution, presents its songs for social change at peace and justice events and demonstrations across the nation.

"We really appreciate the spirit of those words," says Humphries. "Here we talk about and sing about a lot of difficult issues ... and it's not possible to communicate that information without a sense of connection to the players in these issues."

The pair conveys their social and political convictions through music and will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at the Unitarian Center in Ashland.

"We understand the importance of not only focusing on issues and being involved as agents of change, but also celebrating the success of movements and enjoying the music along the way," says Humphries.

Both Humphries and O, play guitar and sing. Their music lands somewhere between folk and pop with elements of rock.

Their songs touch on a variety of issues from peace and environmental awareness to women's, workers' and immigrants' rights, as well as reflecting what is going on in the news.

Songs reference Korea's North-South Joint Declaration ("We Are One"), global warming ("Kilimanjaro") and worker's rights ("Stand Together," written specifically for the recent demonstrations in Madison, Wis.).

After 9/11, their song "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" became an anthem of the anti-war movement and was sung at peacekeeping assemblies, schools, churches and synagogs worldwide. Another song, "If I Give Your Name," was the duo's response to news regarding undocumented, immigrant workers killed in the World Trade Center.

"Being undocumented, they could very well have been erased in the tragedy, as corporations would refuse to admit they had hired undocumented workers," says Humphries. "Sandy and I couldn't contain the horror of these stories and on a drive to the next concert, we wrote the song spontaneously."

Out of 24,000 entries, "If I Give Your Name" won the grand prize for folk in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2002.

emma's revolution has released two CDs of original work: "one × 1,000,000 = change" and "roots, rock & revolution."

Humphries and O will teach an intuitive songwriting workshop from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 20, at the Unitarian Center. Songwriting is just "taking our voices and the way we speak and going one step further to the sung line," explains O.

"You just add a note to it, and suddenly you're singing," she says.

Tickets to the workshop are $25. Tickets to Saturday's concert are $18 in advance, $20 at the door, $10 for ages 12 to 17 and free for children younger than 12; available at www.stclairevents.com, Music Coop in Ashland and by calling 541-535-3562. The Rogue Valley Peace Choir will open the concert.

Sandy O, left, and Pat Humphries play music that lands somewhere between folk and pop with elements of rock. - Photo by Tom Wolff