About LaRena LeBarr Clark – Ian Bell
LaRena Clark was a folksinger in every sense of the word. She absorbed a huge repertoire of traditional and (once) popular songs from her parents and neighbours. She wrote her own songs about the things and places that interested her. She performed all those songs within her own community and, thanks to the 1950-60s folk revival, she performed them for audiences at folk festivals in Canada and the United States. She also recorded about a dozen lps of her songs.
LaRena LeBarr was born in 1904, near Pefferlaw, Ontario, not far from Lake Simcoe. Her father and grandfather were hunters and guides, who often worked further north. Both they and LaRena’s mother were singers with good repertoires, and in a world with no radio or phonograph, their songs formed the core of the family’s home entertainment.
LaRena was married three times – lastly to Gordon Clark, and during her first two marriages she bore six children. In 1961, while living with Gordon near Ottawa, she met folksong collector Edith Fowke, who recognized her for the great talent and resource that she was. Edith recorded many of her songs and arranged to have her perform at a number of folk festivals and other venues.
She pursued this new career on her own as well, releasing 10 lps recorded in the radio station in Orillia. She was truly an early “indie” artist. The recordings on this website are from these sessions. LaRena died in 1998.
Her amazing repertoire ranged from ancient British ballads to locally composed songs from the Canadian bush, and the popular songs of 19th century North America - including a lot of Civil War era material.
LaRena is a great traditional sing to learn old songs from. She sang unaccompanied, but she sang in tune, and in time, with great diction. The other thing that sets her performances apart from many folk field recordings is…she practiced.
I acquired a set of burned CDs of the old lps a few years ago and tracked down LaRena’s great grand-daughter Anne, who gave me permission to use them.
Edith Fowke and Jay Rahn produced a wonderful book about LaRena called “A FAMILY HERITAGE - The Story and Songs of LaRena Clark” – University of Calgary Press, 1994.
|Title||About LaRena Clark|
|Subject||Reference Material Songs of LaRena Clark|
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