- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 18, 2000

Songstress Judy Collins insists her career is just slipping into its second act.

After nearly 40 years of caressing such classics such as "Send in the Clowns" and "Both Sides Now," though, she has a tough act to follow.

Yet her voice, that gilded instrument which propelled her to fame in the 1960s, remains unblemished by her 61 years.

It's a voice that sings out to stay tuned.

Miss Collins visited the District earlier this week to trumpet a bevy of projects, from two new albums on her debut record label to a WETA-TV special to air next month.

"I think it's been a great beginning, but I feel this is launching me into the second half of my career," says Miss Collins, a flowing mane of pale hair framing her graceful visage.

Part of her resurgence stems from a recent performance at Wolf Trap in Vienna, one of her favorite concert venues. Out of that came one CD and her television concert.

"My Washington audience has been very faithful," she says. "[Wolf Trap] has been a support place for me."

Delicate yet forceful, Miss Collins appears as energized by the swirling political climate as she is by her demanding schedule.

"The balance of power works," she says, enthusing about how confusion over the outcome of the presidential election shows how our democracy can withstand a crisis.

She finds her ongoing career just as thrilling.

"People tell me, and I believe them, that I'm singing better than ever," she says. A quick listen to one of her two new CDs, "Judy Collins Live at Wolf Trap," lends credence to those reports.

"My health has been better and better," says Miss Collins, now on a 22-city tour in support of "All on a Wintry Night," a collection of holiday songs.

She recalls starting her career and toting her guitar around to gigs with her white-gloved hands.

Even then, she was an artist to be reckoned with, aiding the burgeoning civil rights movement and speaking out against the Vietnam War.

"I made my opinions known, which I still do," she says. The troubadour with a conscience is a long-standing tradition, she says, from Bob Hope's tours on behalf of U.S. troops to Sting's concerts for the world's rain forests.

"[Entertainers have] always been called upon to talk of the social fabric," she says. "It was expected of you."

More recently, Miss Collins has visited Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia on peace-minded missions and served as an arts representative for UNICEF.

Miss Collins began her musical training with classical piano lessons at age 10 but later swapped her keys for guitar strings as the passions of the '60s grabbed hold.

She has been touring with a growing collection of songs ever since.

Her rigorous schedule isn't just for promotional purposes. She still treasures the chance to share her music with her fans.

"There's something that happens with live music that doesn't happen anywhere else," she says, her ice-blue eyes blazing. "It's a great privilege to be able to … do what you love, creatively. What an honor."

The "Wolf Trap" album, one of two she recorded for her new label, Wildflower Records, incorporates hits from throughout her career.

"It's been such an exciting journey," she says, alluding to both her past and present.

"I'm a bit of a control freak. I've always run my own business," she says of the decision to create her own label.

She even has her own Web site (www.judycollins.com), where she engages her fans in dialogues concerning music and current events.

"It's like having your own coffee shop again," she says.

Not many of today's popular artists will be able to match Miss Collins' perseverance. It's hard to imagine a modern chanteuse like Britney Spears packing 'em in at Wolf Trap in 40 years.

"Not being thrown by the illusion of what's fashionable has paid off," Miss Collins says. "I'm so glad I'm not Britney Spears. I don't think I could handle it."

Even her song-writing chops appear stronger than ever, by her own assessment.

"In the '60s, there was a bubbling over of issues and material," she says, which was quick fodder for anyone with a pen and a guitar. She says she finds song writing easier now. She promises her next album will feature mostly new compositions.

Her emotive songs would not resonate with the public if her golden voice ever failed. She says the constant touring — she performs 60 to 80 times annually — may be what has kept her singing so supple.

But the silkiest-voiced singer can be silenced without an audience, something Miss Collins has yet to experience.

Perhaps her longevity can be attributed to a herculean sense of patience.

Just take one of the tracks on her new album, the venerable "Danny Boy," as proof of her persistence.

"In the womb I heard 'Danny Boy.'" she says. "I finally recorded it [on the 'Wolf Trap' album]."

Or you can look to her career flexibility, from directing an Oscar-nominated documentary, "Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman," in 1975 to cavorting with Kermit and company on an episode of "The Muppet Show."

Talk about range — or, as she puts it, balance.

"My tendency was to balance, always … look not straight down the mouth of the problem, but look toward those areas of beautiful solution," she says.

These days, she has the luxury of time to do just that.

"I can take the time to go into the direction I wish. I'm very excited by what's happening in my career," she says.



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