Oyster Crackers make music, feed the hungry

Left to right: Bette Lu Krause, Rita Smith and Christl Mack are the Oyster Crackers. The musical trio will perform a concert to benefit the Ocean Park, Wash., Food Bank in Ilwaco, Wash., Feb. 9

Bette Lu Krause has a perfect answer when asked about why she loves making music.

“I think singing in harmony is the highest human endeavor,” she said.

It’s a view shared by all three members of the Oyster Crackers, a group formed more than a year ago combining the talents of Krause, Christl Mack and Rita Smith.

“I agree,” said Mack, who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1978. “Singing in harmony with others is personally one of the highlights of my life.”

The group will perform in concert 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at the River City Playhouse in Ilwaco, Wash. The event will benefit the Ocean Park, Wash., Food Bank. Admission is by cash donation; the performers hope people will also bring nonperishable food items to donate.

Smith spends a lot of her time in the playhouse, a former American Legion Hall that is the home-base theater for Peninsula Players, one of the Long Beach area’s two year-round theater troupes. As a director and performer, the stage is familiar territory; Krause has appeared in a couple of the group’s musicals there, too.

Smith scheduled the benefit concert to take place before jumping into directing the troupe’s latest musical, “HMS Pinafore,” which opens at the end of March.

The trio are all vocalists who have performed with the Bayside Singers choral group on the Long Beach Peninsula.

They discovered they shared a common delight in Rory Block’s “Heather’s Song” — about the wish for young to repay the care they have received from their now elderly kinfolk. They especially enjoy the interpretation by the Misty River Band, a country/bluegrass women’s group from Oregon, which includes a mother and daughter in its quartet.

They also draw on inspiration from the Wailin’ Jennys, a Canada-based women’s trio.

“When Christl and Bette asked me to join them, I don’t think we ever thought we would come as far as we have come, where now people ask us to perform,” Smith said.

Since they united, they have performed at a house concert hosted by North Peninsula writer Sydney Stevens and at the Peninsula Performing Arts Center. Their 2019 schedule includes a fall appearance for Stevens, as well as the Empty Bowls community fundraiser in April and a session during the summer vespers series at the historic Oysterville Church.

The performance Feb. 9 will feature two musical sets, with an opportunity for the audience to enjoy coffee and dessert at intermission.

Bluegrass, blues, Celtic and other styles will be featured. A large portion of the repertoire will be a capella, with the remainder accompanied by guitars, violin, mandolin, harmonica and even a penny whistle.

Smith and fellow musicians hope those attending have as much fun as they do. “Even when we are together in the car, we will start singing some of our songs,” she said.

Mack echoed the sentiment.

“We enjoy each other’s company, and we have such fun,” she said. “We end a lot of our songs simply laughing.”

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