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Gary Libman
Courtesy of Albuquerque Folk Festival


Voices of Memory

Gary Libman: A Tribute

Albuquerque Folk Festival and NM Folk & Dance Community Leader


The measure of a man can be understood through the variety of realms in which he has had a notable impact. Gary Libman made his mark as a family man, husband, father and grandfather. He also had a notable professional life in industry as a microbiologist, as a musician and as an extraordinarily outsized volunteer in our city as one of the long-time leaders of the Albuquerque Folk Festival community. A portrait of Gary would be woefully incomplete without noting that throughout his life was fondly known for his puns, his joke telling and especially for his spontaneous humor.

One hundred people gathered at a Four Hills home in Albuquerque to honor the memory of Gary Libman, a key leader of the ABQ Folk Music and New Mexico dance communities. Gary died on Oct. 18, 2016 after an extended illness.

During the memorial service singing was heard. It went something like this, "This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it Shine, let it Shine."

Hosts Peter and Trylla Esherick effortlessly welcomed the large group of mourners and celebrants of Gary’s life. Within an hour, a forty-plus person song circle broke out in the spacious backyard under three tent awnings on a beautiful fall afternoon. Instruments aplenty were pulled out from their cases and the music floated across the property to celebrate the life of an extraordinary man, leader and inspiration to thousands.

It was a fitting tribute to Gary, who for many years had been a force of nature in the folk music scene in New Mexico and beyond.

“Gary was the lifeblood of the Albuquerque Folk Festival. It will be a tremendous loss not having him around,” said AFF founding board member Linda Starr.

Earlier in the day, at a graveside service, people remembered both the personal and public sides of this influential man who presided over the resurrection and growth of the AFF from a local into a regional phenomenon— especially after AFF moved its location to the Albuquerque Balloon Museum in 2012. Gary focused on developing the relationship between AFF and the Museum, including becoming a board member of the relatively new Museum. Gary’s goal was to promote the growth of both the Festival and the Museum.

Leaders are people who are busy minding the future while many around them often dwell in the present or cling to the past. Leaders create futures that are distinctly different from the past. That is just a small part of the story of Gary Libman’s legacy in Albuquerque. Evidence of his leadership was visible throughout Burque and beyond. For example, under his guidance, attendance at the Albuquerque Folk Festival doubled from 2,000 to approximately 4,000 for each of the past three years.

Many people who knew and loved Gary were eager to share their insights about what made Gary so special. Here is some of what they told Weekly Alibi.

C. Daniel Boling—internationally known singer-songwriter, Grammy award nominee, and resident of ABQ—who knew Gary Libman since 2008 recalled Gary as “An amazing, smart, funny and unfailingly kind man ... Humor and kindness were Gary’s defining traits which he gently applied to make big things happen. When it came time to lead, Gary stepped up with grace ... His band and I shared a show last year to raise funds for the festival. At the time, Gary’s illness was in remission, and I’ll always remember the contagious joy with which he threw himself into the music and the jokes, and all the fun everyone had in the hall that evening. What a gift.”

Bill Balassi—Albuquerque Folk Festival Board Member and fellow band member— remembered Gary, saying, “Like many of us, I remember the first time I met Gary ... at someone’s house, this person comes in carrying an armload of instruments and exuding energy that immediately filled the room and transformed the evening. I said to myself, 'Who is this guy?' I’m deeply grateful that for the next twelve years I’ve had the privilege of finding out.”

Bill’s memories continued at Gary’s funeral, where he said, “For many here, you know Gary best as the director and spokesperson for the AFF. It is hard to imagine someone better suited for this position. Gary had the managerial skills, the encompassing vision to separate the essential from the trivial. He had unflagging energy and the patience to always respond with grace and kindness. And the enthusiasm to make you believe that the Folk Festival was about the coolest thing anyone could be associated with.”

Balassi added to those who had also commented on Gary’s “wide ranging and deep love for music" by recalling that Libman was the founder and leader of the Placitas Mountain Band. He played clarinet for Klezmer gigs with the Adobe Brothers, billing the group as Shlomo & The Adobes. He regularly played with the Albuquerque Megaband. He made music each week with the Wednesday Guitar Group. He was a member of the annual acoustic orchestra known as Carp Camp in Winfield, Kansas. And he played banjo, clarinet, and autoharp with the contra dance band Cheap Shots, with whom he played his last gig at this years Albuquerque Folk Festival.”

Bill Balassi closed his remarks by saying, “Gary left a legacy most of us can only aspire to. He made the world a better place. He was irrepressible and irreplaceable.”

Deb Brunt—Albuquerque Folk Festival Board Member also remembered Libman. “Whenever Gary was promoting the Festival, including when he was on KUNM, he always made sure to mention that AFF was an all volunteer organization and Festival. He was passionate about it being a participatory event. Gary was also a proponent of including dance at the Festival. He was a big part of FolkMADS , the New Mexico Folk Music and Dance Society. Gary was a leader of the late-night jams at the FolkMADness events in Socorro each Memorial Day weekend.

The Albuquerque Folk Festival partnered with the City of Albuquerque in a number of ways. In earlier years the city’s Special Events office was able to contribute funds to support the Festival. Later, the Festival moved to the Balloon Museum location for the last several years.”

Linda Hubley—Operations & Events Manager, Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, City of Albuquerque recalled Libman's talents. “It was easy to admire Gary for his amazing talents as a musician and also for his many contributions in his professional career. The one thing I valued most about Gary, however, was how he used humor in his everyday life to entertain and uplift friends and strangers alike. Gary loved to be funny and he was one of the best at using humor to unite people to work towards a common goal, even when there was disagreement. When working with Gary, you always knew there would be plenty of grinning and lots of head-shaking moments—a constant reminder that we need to laugh more and not take life so seriously. You just never knew what was coming next, but you knew it was going to be entertaining and you wanted to be a part of it. He was a genuine and caring man who embraced everyone and everything with a carefree spirit. It is a great loss to everyone who was part of his world.”

Paul Garver, Manager, Albuquerque International Balloon Museum also had something to say about Libman. “Gary Libman was not only a Balloon Museum trustee. He was our friend. In fact, anyone who met Gary could not help but like him. He was a delightful person and a gentleman. His memory will be cherished by many, including not just the Balloon Museum family, but also all of those with whom he worked as part of the Albuquerque Folk Festival.”

Peter Esherick, Past-President of the AFF Board and musical partner with Gary told Weekly Alibi, “Early on, the big idea behind the Festival, it’s purpose, was to build community through participation—through music, dance, storytelling and folk arts. Behind this thinking was the idea that our community has withdrawn into homes, behinds computers. Whereas people used to sit on front porches, and say hello, now we had the isolation of families. You may have mistrust of, say, Middle Eastern people. But if you learn how to belly dance or jam with them, you will not fear them.

Gary is the absolute embodiment of that.

And through his involvement with AFF, he suddenly gets to belong to a community and have a good time with others, and give back to the community through his volunteerism, learning about other people and other cultures: that was his great gift to our region.”

Debra Fortess, Apple Mountain Music Store Owner, and AFF Board Member was also able to comment about Libman's life and work. “Gary was happy we carried autoharps. He gave autoharp workshops here, which became among the most popular workshops we had.

He was a joy to have around; he had a million jokes. He was a great supporter of the store; he sent a lot of people to us. He was a great friend to me over many years. Also, he brought his autoharp hero, Brian Bowers, to do a workshop at Apple Mountain Music, and that was a real treat.”

Norma Libman, Gary’s former wife recalled, “Gary was an amazing person with music, could pick up about any instrument, and play it by feel. I was always in awe of that. When I was in college and required to play recorder, I never had lessons. Lack of exposure, so proud I could play a few notes . ‘Look, I can play,’ I said to Gary. Then, he picks up the recorder, and immediately, within seconds was playing recognizable songs. He was so talented, he could play anything. He was musically proficient in almost an instant.

“He was a very hard worker, whatever he took up, being a father to the kids, a volunteer, professionally, he got things done.”

Amy Cohen, Gary’s daughter remembered the man, saying, “Driving with dad, he used to keep a baton in the car, and he played classical music during car rides. Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and he conducted at the red lights; it made music more exciting.

I have one child, only three years old; he loves to sing and hear music. I’m really hopeful he gets that music bug. He loves music, and loved when my father Gary would play, he was mesmerized.

He was so kind and generous, with family, loved his children and grandchildren. For my three-year-old son, Gary bought an Explora Children’s Museum annual membership. Once a month he took him regularly.

And something else about him as a family man, not mentioned in funeral: Gary’s mom passed away two weeks before turning 100. She was living here, and he took such incredible care of her. He went to her every day, when he was not in the hospital himself…She noticed his absence when he was in the hospital very much. Gary was his mother’s only remaining son, and he was the center of her life. He was a daily visitor and that was all that mattered to her.

“Although we all gagged at some of Gary’s puns and jokes, he was dependable for making people laugh and feel good in his presence.”

Erika Gerety-Libman, Gary’s wife, said, “Gary was incredibly enthusiastic. Everywhere we went he tended to wear the Folk Festival t-shirt. He consistently promoted the Festival, and everywhere he went he encouraged people to find or revive their musical selves. He brought enthusiasm to a lot of people. For example, he’d play back up for and taught young kids how to play their instruments.

“The thing about wearing the shirt or hat of the Festival, that was who he was too, a passionate person ... If people gave him a present of a shirt, he’d wear it if was going see them again. It was his way of showing his love and caring.

“Gary was really excited, when the ABQ Folk Festival won the Bravo People’s choice award from the City of Albuquerque.

Interacting with the volunteers was the main job of Volunteer manager; and Gary collected and disseminated information to the volunteers, which became an army on the day Festival itself. Gary would put together letters, and named the people he was so proud of in announcements throughout his leadership of the festival. Whether it was by email or phone calls or in person, Gary would thank and acknowledge the importance of everyone—individually, letting them know what a wondrous thing they had just put together. He was particularly good at rallying people through his enthusiasm. I saw him do the same with Placitas Artist Series, of which he was the President. He made that fun.

What was also charming about him was his embrace of his Chicago family’s Jewish culture. He embraced that and taught people about his tradition. Gary had such a fun vision. He brought people into holidays through his love of telling jokes, old Jews telling jokes, with the accent, and through telling stories about how his family got here.

He was in touch with his family immigration story. And he was a leader in his family. One of the things he did was write a play about the immigration of the family from the old countries. He had his cousins play their parents. All the family watched, and as they played it, his aunt would yell out how true it was. ‘It’s true, it’s true.’ To create the play, Gary sat with a tape recorder and had the elders tell their story, and he prompted them with memories. An hour would go by of people correcting each other about the last boat out.”

This is just a sample of the many stories his friends shared. Some retold their favorite joke or story Gary told. So many people were at the ready to share their memories of this remarkable man, Gary Libman.

Gary’s passing will leave a huge hole in the spirit of New Mexico.
Our world will be dimmer. May his memory be for a Blessing for our community for years to come.

Douglas Cohen – Culture Writer & Essayist based in Corrales.
Concert & Music Festival Reviewer for

Barbara Takenaga


In Review: Darlingside

An awesome Americana ensemble

The room was filled with harmony enthusiasts as well as local musicians awaiting Darlingside. The Massachusetts-based quartet is on the western arm of a national tour and they performed at The Cooperage sponsored by AMP Concerts on Nov. 15th.

The crowd is "Ready for take-off" as the band takes the stage. Four men tightly surround the mic stand center stage, lean into a circle and blast out the first number, "My Gal, My Guy." Seizing the moment and galvanizing the crowd, their voices quickly blend into a soaring, curving stream of harmony. As the first song ends, explosive applause.

Over the course of one extended set, the audience is willingly transported by Darlingside into an enchanted world of musical dexterity and vocal harmony. The entire evening was a journey of collective musical discovery.

After a few songs, it’s time for meeting the band. They announce that it’s their first time headlining in Albuquerque. They had an enthusiastic first gig here last year as an opening act for Patty Griffin, and thus developed an following—many of whom came back tonight. Indeed, the room is filled to the brim. Since it’s just after the election, they mention what a long and strange week it’s been, and that there is no place they’d rather be than hanging out with their audience in a music club.

Their instruments include electric and acoustic guitars, bass, fiddle, cello, keyboards and percussion. During parts of the evening, they are joined by the opening act, a duo, Frances Luke Accord, who smoothly and ably contribute to the musical prowess of the performance.

Cello leads off the 4th song, "My Love," while a mandolin is being fine tuned. Two band members at the mic. The cellist sings along on the gorgeous melody even though his face is nowhere near the microphone. We imagine we are hearing him in spirit. Now, the mandolin player picks up a fiddle and the song turns a corner into a moody, beautiful instrumental bridge to closure.

The energy was contagious throughout the night right from the beginning of the show. On "The Catbird Seat," they deeply and easily weave their resonant voices. This is followed by one of the strongest performances of the night on "The Ancestor," during which they sing, “But I will find my way/ Out of the dark someday/ Into a crimson yellow sun."

The originality of Darlingside defies categorization. In a good way, however. It is three quarters through the evening, and I find myself at a loss for exactly what kind of band to call them. But, I would certainly call them spirited, immensely talented and a gifted ensemble.

They have been recording and touring extensively and have released four records. Several members of the band are multi-instrumentalists.

This tour is now taking them from the West (New Mexico, Colorado, Texas), to the East (Mass. Rhode Island, Vermont, and around New York state), and then over to the U.K. and Europe. This extensive schedule is an example of their popularity and enduring stamina for the road. As evidence of their growing prominence, Darlingside was name Artist of the Year for 2015 at the Folk Alliance International Awards in Kansas City.

Before they close, they speak to the audience again about how grateful they are to have this crowd join them in their musical feast. They leave the stage to rousing applause and are called back by the shouts and whistles. The encore number, "4th of July" provides a fitting close to a tremendous evening of song.

Follow Darlingside at Join their mailing list, and look for their return to Burque along with their local,harmonically charged up and enthusiastic fans.

Douglas Cohen is a Culture Writer and Essayist. His concerts and music festival reviews are at

Peter Mulvey
Courtesy of the Artist


In Review: Peter Mulvey

Peter Mulvey is easily the most earnest and honest singer-songwriter on the circuit I’ve seen in years.

He is a man just as natural and comfortable in an intimate setting as he is in front of a large radio audience being heard by thousands. Mulvey is a veteran, itinerant performer with over two decades of touring, recording, song-writing and co-writing songs under his belt.

Mulvey handcrafts songs with precision, delicacy and a flair for narrative depth. Rather than call him a folk singer, he looks at himself as a writer and a keen participant-observer of life. He has an ease with storytelling that he wears like an old, perfectly fitting corduroy shirt.

In fact, it is a sign of a great and wondrous entertainer when the stories and banter between songs is as engaging as the outstanding performance of the musical material itself.

That’s how it was with Mulvey's performance at the Cooperage in Albuquerque, Nov. 4, promoted by AMP Concerts. He excelled as a singer-songwriter with many gears, including overdrive. The audience was in rapt attention throughout the evening. Through two substantial sets Mulvey demonstrated that he is a tour-de-force as a one man song machine in human form.

Drawing songs from across the range of his repertoire, he expanded the room into the realms of personal and world history, art and literature, as well as current affairs.

Within a couple of songs, people in the audience were head-bobbing and toe-tapping away to the rhythms and vocals. Mulvey is a masterful guitar player which is why his set took off like a human-powered rocket. He continued to build the mood with a series of topical, humorous and political songs. Since it was within a couple days of the World Series, he told the story of the 108 stitches on a baseball, 108 beads on a monk’s necklace and 108 years of the Chicago Cubs' curse being broken that week.

In an interview with Weekly Alibi, Mulvey spoke about his early influences and formative years as a musician. As a child, growing up Catholic, he was exposed to Greek myths and stories in church. He added that, in his opinion, if people are lucky they come to see the stories in their Catholic upbringing, retrospectively, as myths.

Musically, he began playing guitar at seven years old and was exposed to rock and roll in high school. Early artistic influences included guitar specialists Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges. As a very young man, he began performing on the streets and in the subways of Ireland and Boston. These experiences in his youth were the most indelible and formative of his early musical career.

What cemented his path was that he fell in early with people who are the singer-songwriters that do this for a living. Mulvey wanted to become someone that made "live music for live people." “When I encountered these people," he continued, "I wanted to play music the way they play music.”

Between the ages of 20-22, he was exposed to the seminal Emmylou Harris record, Wrecking Ball, the wonderfully moody and atmospheric albums by Ry Cooder, the highly esteemed Tom Waits, and one of the giants of the folk festival and singer-songwriting scene, Greg Brown. It was at this time that Mulvey also had close encounters with the jazz genre.

“It’s the myth and dream realms, that is what we’re after. I feel like of all the musicians, it’s what the jazz players can say that’s more profound than any lyricists.”

Mulvey is a busy and prolific artist. He stated, “I can think easily of next four records I’d like to make ... with a violinist, with a string quartet, another with a group of female singers and a party record of old folk tunes.”

“I actually need to goof off and give those projects room to grow. Time to play, that’s what art is, play. American puritan ethic, we narcotized ourselves with work, avoiding the real business of being a human being ... caring about the people around you, sitting with the uncertainties of life. That’s what’s important.”

It's melodically clear: From Peter Mulvey we not only get entertained, we get educated.

Look for Peter Mulvey to return to our area on March 11, 2017, when he’ll be performing at the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, N.M. Tickets for that springtime show are now available by clicking on this handy link.

Anda Union
Courtesy ¡Globalquerque!


In Review: Globalquerque!

A Moment from day two at Globalquerque 2016,final set:

Those of us on the farthest right side edge of the audience in the Albuquerque Journal Theater last night witnessed a notable and magical "behind the scenes" glimpse of the international flavor and inter-generational composition of the ¡Globalquerque! performers community.

During the majority of the set of the remarkable Inner Mongolian group Anda Union, a five year old Mongolian girl, costumed in a regal, royal blue outfit, danced backstage in the wings, gently performing her careful footwork, body swaying and arms in motions while the adult members of the band masterfully entranced the room. For nearly an hour, we got to see this poised child practicing her craft, cradled by her extended artistic clan, while we took in the hypnotic and classically arranged musical pieces of Anda Union.

Just being in the presence of their instruments was transportative. Hand crafted modern versions of traditional Mongolian instruments that resembled cellos, stand up basses, flutes and violins were just a portion of the exotic instruments on display. Additionally, most of the players wore traditional Mongol plains costumes.

Their music ranged from full orchestral pieces to voice and throat-singing solos, to flute and throat-singing numbers. The packed auditorium was filled with an enthusiastic audiences treated to best that ¡Globalquerque! has to offer–a world assembly in a beautiful setting in the South Valley of Albuquerque.

Globalquerque is a community in the disguise of an international music festival. One enters and wanders the grounds, running into old friends and warmly welcomed by vendors in the eclectic bazaar and food cart area. Such quality purveyors as Jambo Café, the East African restaurant from Santa Fe, to the Vivac Winery, and the Santa Fe Brewing Company are but a few of the booths in The Global Village.

We got to sample a handful of the approximately 17 acts featured in this year’s fest. During dinner on Saturday evening, the Austrian brass band ensemble Federspiel was in mid-set on the main Plaza Mayor.

Federspiel is on a mission to redefine and modernize the Austrian folk tradition for current audiences. Their spirited set showcased their journey from earlier forms of Austrian folk styles into contemporary interpretations of a long standing approach to big band music. They also featured original compositions in their set packed with panache. Bravo!

Then we entered the Theater for an astounding experience, the music of Baladino from Israel. As we learned during their set, Baladino refers to the land and culture of the Sephardic Jews who populated Spain up until the 15th century, then migrated throughout Europe and the New World.

Their set was mesmerizing from the first notes. This 4 person band consists of a percussionist, a reed player, a mandolin-like instrument player and a vocalist. Early in their set, as the singer explained, they did a ballad about a bride being summoned by a wedding party to reveal herself to her groom. This atmospheric number showcased each performer to great effect, each of whom are ambassadors for Middle Eastern artistry.

this tune kicked the performance into a high gear they were to maintain for the remainder of their time onstage. At one point, the reed player was introduced as about to perform on a PVC-pipe-crafted instrument. He surprised and delighted the crowd as he hopped up and down, dancing while he played. The pulsing, and rhythmic prowess of Baladino delivered a wallop of world music while engendering admiration and enjoyment throughout the theater. Screams and yelps greeted the finale of their set.

It was also a treat to see all the members of Baladino hanging out on the grounds, visiting with people and attending other performances throughout the evening after they were done playing. Such is the spirit of ¡Globalquerque!

As luck would have it, we were able to stay in the Theater, in our front row of the main section for the next act. My wife and I were so happy to discover that the original, quirky and topical Jill Sobule was booked for !Globalquerque! as the sole representative of the American singer-songwriter genre.

We both knew her from earlier periods of her long, 11 album career. Sobule is a kick and a character from the moment she is at the mic.

She builds her sets in a somewhat democratic fashion by either asking the audience if she should play a certain type or song on her mind, or by giving a multiple-choice outcry of songs or song-styles, to the crowd and listening for the response. Of course in true contemporary folk music style, she tells little stories to introduce all her numbers.

Jill Sobule presents as both a self-aware and social-activist modern American, navigating troubles and life-stages via her uncanny, of the moment songwriting abilities.

Early in her set she played "A Good Life" and described it as a "Love song for the Apocalypse." As a nod to her audience and a request, she did her New Mexico song, a beautiful ballad of a road trip and a relationship story all rolled into one.

After telling us about losing her beloved mother this year, she played the first song she wrote for her. "Death in Venice Beach" is about hoping her mom would come to her in her dreams. It is a poignant, lovely and tribute-worthy song which portrayed her bond with her mother and her journey forward, going on without her.

True to her style of crafting numbers from life experience she played "San Francisco." a song about a "massage gone bad." She told the crowd a story of going to get a massage with a friend and feeling a bit of an off vibe in the establishment.

Turns out the masseuse was a dominatrix in another alt-universe of her life. And so Jill was treated to "too much information" about the fetish world. And that story finds its way into the song. As was said at the outset, this performer is a highly original artist and an outsized entertainer. Bring her on for more!

Back out in the Plaza Mayor afterwards was the Brazilian singer Dona Onette. She has quite of life story. She was discovered as a performer later in life after her career as a history professor and Secretary of Culture for a Brazilian state.

This soulful woman holds her audience in a hypnotic state as she traverses from traditional, regional tunes into carimba at the root of the famous lambada style. Dona Onette has the commanding presence of–as my old teachers used to say–a big self. She is worth seeking out musically and I highly suggest listeners look for her recorded work.

¡Globalquerque! delivers a diverse and extremely well curated array of music and culture. During the day Saturday, was a free fest within a festival. there were participative workshops, demonstrations and performances in the main plaza of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Between those events and the two nights of major programming, its no wonder  ¡Globalquerque! is now a draw not only for Albuquerque visitors, but for a great many international music festival fans who travel from other cities and states to attend.

Not surprisingly, it is already on our Calendar for next year. So, check the dates for next year, then, don your ethnic garb, and we’ll see you next time in the global village.