Music and Filk
More details forthcoming on other
|Music Guest of Honor - Mara Brener
(Sponsored by the Phoenix Filk Circle)
Mara Eve Berlin Brener was
born in State College, Pennsylvania the day after the Broadway opening of
“New Faces of ‘52“. Her parents were Brooklynites, but did not sound it,
having been both speech majors and actors. Mara first picked up the autoharp
in nursery school, and has been picking it up and putting it down ever since.
The growing up years involved lots of folksongs, show tunes, and Gilbert
and Sullivan numbers with piano-playing Dad, who also introduced Mara to
the records of Tom Lehrer, Victor Borge, Stan Freberg, and Allen Sherman.
(In the event that you are too young for these names to mean anything, think
“Weird Al Yankovic“.) The influence of multiple years of the perverse repertoire
of Girl Scout camps also had its effect. In a sixth grade talent show, she
tied with the Beatles.
An earth-and-space science project assignment in 1970 found Mara concocting
a bawdy ballad about the metamorphism of the local Tuscarora quartzite, until
an emergency at NASA brought a change of course. “The Ballad of Apollo 13“
(though NOT the song you know by that name) earned an “A“, and had the further
distinction of being Mara's first filksong, although she was not to learn
the word “filk“ for another fourteen years.
At the Penn State University, Mara studied art education, hung with the Penn
State Folklore Society when she could find it, sang in the odd coffee house,
and met Dr. Harry Brener, whom she eventually married. Through the next few
years in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Harry took postgraduate medical training
while Mara decorated ice cream cakes and made occasional musical appearances
in clubs, festivals, and private parties, until they ultimately landed in
southern California for the weather.
When the first annual Summer Solstice Dulcimer Festival was held in 1981,
Mara basically took over the bawdy songs workshop, and in subsequent years
was either put on staff for that event or asked to assist by others who were,
until recent political correctness removed it from the schedule. She continues
to attend the festival, now in its 22nd year, and known as the Summer Solstice
Folk Music, Dance, and Storytelling Festival.
In 1984 the Breners attended their first science fiction convention; LACon
II in Anaheim, for the once-in-a-lifetime Star Wars Trilogy Marathon. They
chanced upon the word “filksinging“ on the schedule, and spent most of the
rest of the con in the indicated room. Of further note, during the same hours
that the above-mentioned Marathon was going on, Mara was also, via cassette,
making her debut on KPFK Radio's occasional “Smut Unlimited“ program, with
a six-hour hit song that you will only hear if you catch the midnight bawdy
Contacts made there led to publication of songs by both song-writing Breners
in “The Philk Phenomenon“, and the marvelous experience of ConChord II in
1985. Later that year, daughter Madeline was born. There is no known connection,
But Maddy has shown herself to be an excellent singer, song-writer, poet,
speechie, and actor for much of her eighteen years.
ConChord III brought the first Totally Tasteless and Tacky Review, wherein
Mara performed the two songs rumored to have been one of the inspirations
for the event. However that may be, the TT&T continues faithfully to
this day, and Mara continues to contribute, often accompanied by her husband
The Breners live in Arcadia, California, and when not filking, Mara helps
Harry in his medical practice, teaches after-school art classes, watches
and discusses spiritualistic fantasy TV shows with Maddy, and does paintings
on canvas, paper, and rocks. This is the first time Mara has ever been a
convention Guest-of-Honor, and she is thrilled to pieces, and delighted to
be able to visit this home of history, Native American culture, and Leslie
Fish. She wishes to thank all of the present and past southern California
filkers for their positive vibes, and hope everyone at the con has as much
fun as she intends to have.
If you have any questions send them to: