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Curtis & Loretta shine folk light on Willmar 8

Submitted photo The husband and wife folk singing duo Curtis & Loretta will be performing Saturday night at The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar. One of the songs they will be performing is the "Willmar 8 (We Are All Equal You Know)", written about the Willmar 8 bank strike. Curtis & Loretta is made up of Curtis Teague and Loretta Simonet. 1 / 3
Submitted photo Loretta Simonet, left, interviews Glennis TerWisscha, one of the Willmar 8, in May 2015 in Minneapolis, as Simonet was working on the "Willmar 8" song.2 / 3
Submitted photo In 2017 Curtis Teague, far left, and Loretta Simonet, right, met with members of the Willmar 8, Teren Novotny, left to right, Sandi Treml and Irene Wallin.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Loretta Simonet and Curtis Teague, as the folk duo Curtis & Loretta, have traveled the country sharing the music they love. Saturday night they will take to The Barn Theatre stage. In addition to being the first show they have ever performed in Willmar, this performance will be extra special because of a song Simonet wrote for the group's latest project.

"I had the idea to make a CD about people who had extraordinary things happening in life," Simonet said.

"The project was inspired by traveling around the country and listening to people. There are those amazing and heroic people all around," Teague added.

One, actually several, of those amazing people Simonet decided to write about was the Willmar 8. In 1977 eight women working at a local bank went on strike to protest gender discrimination and unfair labor practices. While the strikers eventually lost their court base, they are considered pioneers in the fight to obtain equal pay and working conditions for women. When Simonet started writing the songs for the CD "When There's Good to Be Done" she remembered those brave women.

"I was so impressed by what they were doing," at the time, Simonet said.

The song, titled "Willmar 8 (We Are All Equal You Know)" compresses the complex and emotional event into eight verses, with the chorus looking back at the support the Willmar 8 received from women around the nation and world. The song event recalls the cold and winter weather the women stood out in, wearing snowmobile suits for some warmth.

"These ladies just did it because it was the right thing to do," Teague said.

To write the song Simonet did extensive research on the Willmar 8, including watching the documentary several times.

"It was a challenge. The legal case was so complicated," Simonet said.

What really helped was sitting down with one of the Willmar 8, Glennis TerWisscha. When the song was completed, TerWisscha told Simonet she had captured the essence of the Willmar 8 "perfectly."

"I was really happy with the results," Simonet said.

Following the performance at The Barn, members of the Willmar 8 will be on hand to speak with the audience.

Other songs on the CD, all with Minnesota connections, include stories about a Mayo Clinic nurse originally from Somalia, a woman giving her kidney to a Minnesota toddler, a WWII veteran and two songs about two men who grew up in the State Orphanage in Owatonna.

The project was funded by an Artist Initiative grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Simonet, from Stillwater, and Teague, from Dallas, Texas, have been playing music together since the day they met on a beach in Santa Cruz, California, in 1977. Both self-taught musicians, they decided to team up, first as a musical partners and then husband and wife.

"We started hitchhiking up the west coast," that first year, Simonet said.

Through the years they held a few part-time jobs, like guitar repairing for Teague and creating and selling jewelry at renaissance festivals for Simonet. But it has always been about the music. Now they are full-time musicians, currently based out of Minneapolis.

"Our angle has always been to focus on the things people have in common," Simonet said. "I love that these songs start discussions. Our goal is to get people to look around and see other people."

Old and new fans alike will be able to see Curtis & Loretta in the next few months as they travel the state. The concert tour is being partially funded by a grant from the arts board. The duo is going to 22 cities in Minnesota, to perform songs from the new album. The first stop is Willmar.

It was very important to both Simonet and Teague to play a show in Willmar, to be able to share the song about the Willmar 8 in the city where it all took place.

"Willmar should be proud of this whole thing," Teague said. "We are very excited about the concert. I am getting goosebumps."

**INFO BOX**

Who: Curtis & Loretta, folk music duo

When: Saturday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Barn Theatre, downtown Willmar

Tickets: $5 per person, kids under 12 free; tickets may be purchased at the door or by calling The Barn Theatre at 320-235-9500.

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