DiFranco to take hiatus

The music has concluded, and the guitar retired to its stand.

Cheering from an audience of several thousand in the outdoor theater gradually subsides.

With a chorus of humming cicadas and chirping crickets providing a rhythmic backdrop on the balmy summer night, folk artist Ani DiFranco stands alone at center stage, and begins to recite “Grand Canyon,” her poetic piece about the essence of feminism, human dignity and patriotism.

It’s a moment flush with sublime atmosphere-and one put on temporary hold until 2006.

In July, severe tendonitis in her hands forced DiFranco to cancel her remaining tour dates in 2005, and step away from the road to allow her strained finger tendons and ligaments to heal.

Yet, the decision hardly means DiFranco will quietly retire from view. If anything, time away from live gigs will allow her to expand her artistic and activist interests, release recordings of her live sets through the Internet and, naturally, make more new music.

“Other projects, other projects-there’s just a myriad of ideas of that come along,” DiFranco says of her hiatus from the road. “Everything from going out to my friend Utah Phillips’ house and making another record with him to activist work or all kinds, and branching out and exercising different forms of creativity. You sort of become a one-trick pony after a while out on the road.”

An indefatigable creative spirit, DiFranco has produced 15 albums in as many years, accompanied by countless live performances. Her creative arc has gone from a gritty folksinger style in the early `90s to a stylistically expansive sonic palette, and then back to her folk roots. She approaches her art with an unflinching honesty and her music is as much about resiliency and redemption as it is about painful truths.

“I’ve always agreed with Woody Guthrie that a song should uplift,” the 34-year-old DiFranco says. “But sometimes I have a backhanded way of accomplishing that. But that’s exactly what the purpose that my music serves for myself, I guess, is to celebrate the good things, but also move through the dark places into something else.”