01 April 2014

( ryan marie rettew: an angel’s wings tucked into that voice )

by jennifer hetrick

anyone who has heard ryan marie rettew perform knows that music and healing mingle like two peas in a pod, if music and healing were brightly green garden veggies for in-need bellies. and they just might be, if imagination stretches enough for the better around sound, soul, and earth—in this case.

rettew resides in coatesville, chester county but will be moving to bowmansville, lancaster county in the next few months and grew up in on the edge of berks county in elverson in her childhood days.

she easily reminisces about those first music memories.

“my dad played guitar, so there were always guitars in the house, and he writes his own instrumental songs,” she says. “as a little girl, i remember sitting around having my dad play his guitar. and i took piano lessons when i was eight.”

her grandfather played guitar, too, but more in the electric persuasion. she described him as looking a bit like an old rocker, to boot.

her dad is an acoustic guitar kind of fellow, just like his daughter who lulls crowds with an easy and genuine magick at her shows.

when her school friends began signing up to learn to the play the clarinet, she wanted to tag along on that same wagon, but in the end, she decided to stick with piano.

one year, she received her first two cassette tapes as gifts: ace of base and no doubt. “as soon as i got them, i was always listening, playing the songs over and over,” she says. “i’d have the order of songs and the words memorized.”

she soon fell for the beatles, shortly after her first decade of having joined the world, this round. a track from “rubber soul,” released in 1965, swam through her in full swing of lyrics in her preteen days.

“my family went to the community pool one day, and i sang ‘norwegian wood’ from start to finish and knew all of the words. as we were getting out of the van in the pool parking lot, to go swimming, my dad said, ‘you have to be the only 11-year-old who knows all of the words to that song,’” rettew reflects.

she soon began attempting to teach herself how to play the guitar and then took lessons in shillington and began writing her own music and lyrics. writing poetry in high school and college had great ties into her lyricism, which carries an often uniquely simple yet deep, soul-tugging appeal to it, getting to the heart of those who hear her music, all for the better. many who hear her listen in awe and have agreed that there is something mystically healing about how her plucking of strings and voice whisk together to bring songs to the air.

( ryan marie rettew at the other farm brewing company in boyertown 
this past january - photograph courtesy of samantha stoltfzus

“i think that music has the ability to carry a message even in the wordless parts.  a rest, or a pause in a piece of music is just as powerful to me as the notes and the lyrics. i think part of the reason i'm drawn to music of past generations is because i'm fascinated by the timelessness of it. i know that people listening to these songs when they were first written were as moved as i am, listening to them now, and i like that music can connect my present to the past. it gives me a sense of belonging with the world that i don't normally experience.”

upcoming shows: chaplin’s cafĂ© in spring city on saturday, may 24 @ 8 p.m. | the fujiyama japanese steak house & sushi bar in pottstown on friday, june 13 @ 6.30 p.m. with fellow songstress & guitarist emily neblock of downingtown, chester county.

( an award-winning waterway in our own backyard )

portraits of nature
( an award-winning waterway in our own backyard )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

it’s been a major transportation route and helped to fuel the early manufacturing operations that built the communities which we call home today. it provides opportunities for recreation and socialization, from pulling out that big bass, to cooling your fanny during a meandering inner tube adventure. and now, the schuylkill has received accolades as pennsylvania’s 2014 “river of the year.”

( the schuylkill river's hamburg section )
this is no small feat, and it took much work to achieve this prestigious designation. decades ago, in less environmentally-friendly times, this river served as a major dumping site because of the old adage “the solution to pollution is dilution.” everything from household garbage to open sewage and multi-colored chemicals emanating from riverside-based plants sent their own pollution contribution downstream to let someone else contend with it.
we fortunately live in more enlightened times that include a tip of the hat to the federal clean water act and much “sweat equity” invested by caring folks and organizations which exist to ensure that our waters are given well-deserved appreciation and gratitude. pennsylvania boasts of about 86,000 miles of waterways and ranks second in the nation (only alaska has more) for this bountiful natural resource.
“hidden stream” is the dutch translation of “schuylkill.” seafaring and wanderlust dutch (the holland-sprouted variety) visited the philly area in the 1600s and took note of the very wet and swampy forests at the river’s nexus with the delaware. this area of discovery is purported to have been around the former philly naval yards which is now a major business park near philadelphia international airport.
the river commences in an abandoned strip mine outside of tuscarora in the highlands of schuylkill county. it then winds its way to port carbon, pottsville, hamburg, reading, birdsboro, pottstown, valley forge, and then philly, all the while gaining width and depth as tributaries enhance its flow. these river towns owe their early existence to the power and might that flowing water brings to an area. mill wheels turned, boats floated, logs pushed, coal washed, pots filled – the list of benefits received in gratitude of this waterway is endless.
it is the most major of all tributaries to the delaware river and its bay, while each county within its over 2,000 square miles of watershed hosts smaller “tribs” which help to build its flow. the little schuylkill is one, while maidencreek is another.
you can also count on the tulpehocken, manatawny, french, and perkiomen creeks to be aware of their important role in feeding the schuylkill. there are numerous even smaller “tribs” and some un-named waters adding their sometimes slightly quiet-subtle, sometimes a bit faster-moving rushes of donations.
your opportunity to celebrate this river is more than ample. whether it is a gentle stroll or long bicycle ride along the schuylkill river trail, or a kayaking excursion and fishing experience, we are drawn to water perhaps because quite a large percentage of our bodies is made of it !
and appreciating the schuylkill river should be on everyone’s task list this year. we have a responsibility to the river and to ourselves to be certain that a heightened awareness of the river – through this award – creates actions continuing to improve its quality and the great gift of water that is so easy to love.


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