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Christina Duane interview page oneGreat songwriters have the ability to create stories into which the listener can literally step into, a place where they can go for a stroll, look around, touch the leaves on a tree, smell a flower, hear the sounds of a small child playing, feel the sun warm on their skin or feel the pain and emotion that comes from suffering a loss. Like Gordon Lightfoot and Judy Collins, Oregon singer-songwriter Christina Duane possesses the enviable ability to create those images and to allow the listener to experience her world through her senses, but she is much more than a good songwriter, for she has a beautiful voice and her arrangements are lush and pretty.

Shimmering percussion courtesy of drummer Michael Saint John and Nick Garrett Powell’s spellbinding guitar introduce us to “Sunset Over Jacksonville,” a song that provides great insight into the life and character of Christina Duane, as she paints vivid images of Jacksonville, the small Oregon town which she calls home.  The first verse opens by paying tribute to the historical importance of Jacksonville as one of the Gold Rush cities that sprang up in the 19th century and in the last half of the first verse we find ourselves walking with Christina Duane, through the streets of Jacksonville.

My life lay before me, an unwritten story / We waded through leaves down her historic streets,” that harkens back to when I first came here, I had a little baby girl and we were walking down the historic streets and the leaves had all changed and I hoped that I could paint a picture for (the listener) of a place that I love or any place that they loved, when their life was all ahead of them. That is the picture that I was trying to paint from when I first came here at a time when my life was all before me. I returned here, because of my love for it, all of those years later. It is a special place that you would want to return to,” explains Ms. Duane as she talks about the two times in her life that she has called Jacksonville home.

There is a serenity in Christiana Duane’s vocals as she sings of “a fritillaria hill,” (a type of wild flower) and she says that her peace comes from her strong faith in God. She is also a sensitive woman who says, “I love the cemetery, because people leave their carvings and notes on their granite stones about faith, what they believe and how they lived. I love to go up there, because all of the deer are up there and I find peace in the cemetery.”

In her song “Sunset Over Jacksonville,” Ms. Duane also seeks to preserve the memory of those who went before us and not always just because it was a pretty picture. “I like the cycles of life, how people leave marks of their faith and what they believed. It saddens me when people aren’t remembered. I love the fact that we honor those lives by remembering them. We learn from history too. We learn from the mistakes and we learn not to repeat them, like the massacres (that took place) here to the native Americans. I don’t touch upon that in the song, but I honor the native Americans in another song about Oregon that I wrote.

Jacksonville is very important to me, because we learn from history and we honor the lives that filled the air and the sounds of the people that filled the air. They lived beautiful full lives, and some of them shorter lives, because of the medical problems they had back then and everything, but we learn to be grateful for the fact that modern medicine has brought us so many things which can help us live longer. You walk through the cemetery and there are many young children who died of diptheria, so history teaches us and inspires us. It is also wonderful to feel that we will be remembered when we pass too.”

There have been some magnificent stories of families in the entertainment industry down through the generations, such as, the Barrymore family or in music the Carter and Cash families, but Christina Duane’s family also has a legacy that begin with her grandparents, Ronnie Mansfield and Harriett Mansfield.

“My whole family was in show business. My grandfather, Ronnie Mansfield was a radio personality, who started off as a milkman in Reading Massachusetts. He was always singing on his route and that is how he was discovered. Later, he became a Boston radio show person, who was in the George Olsen Orchestra, frequented the Fibber McGee and Molly program as a tenor and he hosted a NBC radio program, The House by the Side of the Road. My grandma met my grandpa when she was with another comedy team Olsen and Johnson, as a chorus line girl and that is the couple that you see in Heart of Maureen, the song (and video) that I wrote for my mother. Heart of Maureen has all of them in it. It has my grandpa and my grandma in her chorus line outfit.  After they had been on the road performing for about eight to ten years they had my mother. Maureen O’Hara (the actress) was actually at my mother’s christening. Maureen O’Hara was promoting her movie This Land Is Mine and she came through my grandpa’s radio show at the time, so she came to the christening and she held my mom. They named my mom after Maureen O’Hara and I wrote the song Heart of Maureen for my mom as a tribute to her. She had the same fiery spirit that Maureen O’Hara had,” she says. Read more