Dentdelion to Play in Camp Hill, October 2nd

Traditional Québécois music, still enjoyed throughout French Canada, is a style of folk music characterized by lively jigs, reels, and colorful call-and-response songs sung in French. It is generally performed on fiddle and accordion and accompanied by percussive foot tapping. One of the finest practitioners of this style is Claude Méthé, a self-taught fiddler and singer who has been playing and singing traditional Québécois music for over 35 years. After an explosive sold-out performance last season, Claude Méthé returns to the Harrisburg area with his band Dentdelion for a concert to be held 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 2 at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church located at 417 S. 22nd Street. The concert is preceded by a 4:30 pm French-Canadian fiddle workshop taught by Claude and daughter Béatrix, and a potluck dinner at 6 pm. The programs are sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

Dentdelion, which was formed in the early 1990s, includes Claude Méthé (fiddle, guitar, vocals) Dana Whittle (guitar, vocals, foot percussion, accordion), and Denise Levac (flute, vocals). The group has been augmented in recent years with the newest generation of Québécois musicians: 16 year old Colin Savoie-Levac (banjo, mandolin, guitar, mandola, foot percussion, vocals) and 14 year old Béatrix Méthé (fiddle, vocals). Both these young people are exceptional musicians who have clearly benefited from living in homes and a community where folk traditions are kept alive. They play regularly together in a group of young musicians called Les Poules à Colin (Colin’s Chicks). As a highlight of the Susquehanna Folk Concert, Colin and Béatrix will play a short set on their own.

Dentdelion’s emphasis is on original music that is still heavily inspired by tradition, with familiar form and delivery. The latest incarnation heads into what is perhaps best described as “folk-trad” territory, strictly due to its newness, but without ever straying far from the essential Québec sound with its omnipresent fiddle, tapping feet, and unique swing. Guitar accompaniment, flute, vocal harmonies, a cappella arrangements — the raw and the refined come together to create a rich sound that is both intimate and energized, seemingly bigger than the sum of its parts but inescapably Québecois.

Dentdelion has performed throughout Canada and the United States and was recently featured at Memoire et Racines, a festival held annually in Joliet, Québec that explores the folk culture of that region. 

Claude and Béatrix Méthé will present a 90-minute French-Canadian fiddle workshop at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for the workshop are $18 general admission, $14 for SFMS members, and $10 for students.

Following a 6 p.m. potluck dinner (bring a covered dish to share; drinks and place settings provided) Méthé and Dentdelion will present a 7:30 p.m. concert. Concert tickets are $20 general admission, $16 SFMS members, and $10 students. (The concert sold out last year, so early purchase of tickets is recommended.) Advance tickets for both the workshop and the concert are available from Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.BrownPaperTickets.com. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Written by John Hope and published in the September/October Central Pennsylania Traditions Magazine

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The Battlefield Band “Moving Forward with Scotland’s Past”

The Battlefield Band “Moving Forward with Scotland’s Past”

Camp Hill – Playing the traditional music of Scotland along with self-penned pieces, the Battlefield Band has been performing on the international scene for more than three decades. The group draws inspiration from a homeland rich in Celtic heritage and the modern Scottish cultural scene. They tour outside of Scotland about five months each year; most frequently in the United States, Germany and the Celtic regions of Spain and France. They will appear in concert on Saturday, November 6th at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church in a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. Information at www.sfmsfolk.org.

This show will be one of the last for Alan Reid, the final remaining founding member of the band. Alan will be retiring soon after a long illustrious career. He is well known and loved for his dry humor, terrific singing voice and excellent songwriting abilities. He will be missed.

During a recent phone call to Scotland I caught up with the band’s manager Robin Morton and three band member Ewen Henderson, Alasdair White and Mike Katz. I was curious how the band has changed throughout the years and Robin told me was that what people comment on most is the frequent alterations in the band’s line-up. “We always say that the band is more like a music college, “he says “an evolving group of musicians that bring new ideas, new music, new instruments and new attitudes while at the same time learning the skills they need for successful music careers.”

Case in point is the newest band member Ewen Henderson. Ewen is a 23 year old multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, bagpipes, whistle, piano, vocal) who comes from a musical family who has been seeped in traditional music for many generations. (Past family members were the pipers for the Glencoe McDonalds) He is a Gaelic speaker and is the first band member to bring Gaelic singing to the stage.

Mike Katz (Highland Pipe, small pipe) has played in the band for 13 years. The bagpipes are considered the national instrument of Scotland, so I asked him if they are important in the band as well. “The Battlefield Band was the first Scottish band to use the bagpipes in a multi-instrumental sort of ensemble, “he said “the instrument continues to be central all that we do. It’s a very important instrument in Scottish traditional music.”

In closing I asked Alasdair White (fiddle, whistle, and bouzouki) to describe what an audience member would experience at a Battlefield Band concert. “Its bagpipes, some songs and generally a lot of good humor,” he said “we try to put on the best show that we can. It’s just a fun night of five guys playing the music of where they are from.”

 To find out more about The Battlefield Band, visit their Website at http://www.battlefieldband.co.uk/

Concert Details:

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society presents The Battlefield Band, 7:30 pm Saturday, November 6, 2010 at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church, 417 South 22nd Street in Camp Hill. Admission is $22.  Information at http://www.susquehannafolk.org

Written by Jess Hayden and published, with some alterations, Showcase Now Magazine, October/Nov 2010

An exclusive interview with Kevin Burke of Celtic Fiddle Fest

A more aptly-named group can probably not be found, this renowned trio of fiddlers: Irish legend Kevin Burke, Brittany native Christian Lemaitre, and young Andre Brunet from the French-Canadian region of Quebec. Known collectively as Celtic Fiddle Festival, the three indeed provide a musical celebration of all things Celtic – and many things not Celtic at all, but that fit into the Celtic canon perfectly.

CFF, along with guitarist Nicholas Quemener, performs Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Continental Ballroom of the Yorktowne Hotel, 48 E. Market St., York, with Irish Blessing opening. There will also be  a Celtic music jam session beforehand starting at 2:30 p.m. Tickets and information at www.smsfolk.org.

Kevin Burke was kind enough to answer e-mailed questions about the group’s makeup, its music, and what he’s been up to. Following is that Q&A:

Q: The original Celtic Fiddle Festival was you, the late Johnny Cunningham, and Christian, and now it is you, Christian, and Andre (along with Nicholas, of course) – why did you choose to factor together this particular mix of players instead of finding, say, another Scottish fiddler, for example? What were you looking for sound-wise, maybe, with this pairing of musical and national backgrounds?

A: When we lost Johnny, it was a pretty sad time. Our tour was due to begin not long after he died, and all the Scottish fiddlers we thought of were also friends of Johnny. We soon realized it would be a pretty sad tour for them too and the inevitable comparisons could have made it doubly difficult. By choosing Andre, we felt it would seem less like an attempt to “replace” Johnny – an impossible task! We also felt good about drawing attention to the fantastic Quebecois traditional music and its strong Irish and Scottish influence, as well as the obvious French one.

Q: You each play a solo set in your concerts, then a joint one – what do you find yourselves playing in your solo sets (music from your own background, or do you cross-pollinate, as it were) and then what do you play when you perform together (again, music from your own backgrounds or do you choose completely different material to get you all out of maybe a comfort zone)?

A: The solo sets highlight each individual genre, but in the group set, we “borrow” form many other styles and traditions.

Q: Your most recent album, “Equinoxe,” came out in 2008 – any plans for a new one anytime soon? How do you break down the song selection between original and traditional tracks? Do you write and record together or separately?

A: We are just at the talking stage at the moment for our next CD. We all collaborate but each player takes a larger role with the music of his respective region.

Q: The song selection on the album comes from all over, from your own native lands to Italy and Sweden and such—are there tunes from even more disparate places you’d like to do on an album, or do live, and what might be some of those? How about song types you haven’t explored – any of those pending?

A: We’re always open to different kinds of music – if we feel we can do it justice, we’ll give it a go!

Q: For readers who might be more familiar with the Irish jig and reel, can you provide the names of perhaps similar Quebecois or Breton tune forms that might correspond to those maybe stylistically or rhythmically?

A: In Quebec, there is the Quadrille, the Grondeuse, and the Brandy, among others. In Brittany, there are dances such as the Gavotte and An Drou.

Q: You replaced Ged Foley with Nicholas Quemener for the current tour – how did you come across him? Is it important to you to have the band be composed on players from several generations (that is, different ages), and if so, why? Will Ged be back ever or is the lineup set (or is it meant to be fluid and if so, why)?

A: Christian has played with Nicholas for years and and I knew him from when he lived in Ireland over 20 years ago. The Celtic Fiddle Festival has often toured with different accompanists – the changes in personnel have usually been brought about by circumstances rather than a specific “group policy.”

Q: What is next on your slate, either with CFF or otherwise – what are your upcoming projects?

A: I have been playing with Cal Scott from Oregon for a while, and our most recent CD, “Suite,” includes some traditional music arranged for string quartet. We will be performing “Suite” (next year) in Europe and the U.S. with various local classical players.

I am also releasing a CD on my record label, Loftus Music, by a great fiddler from Portland, Brongaene Griffin. I met her almost 30 years ago when she was a teenager. She was very interested in Irish music and eventually became a student of mine. Her CD is called “Three Colours Ginger,” and part of the proceeds will go to various pet rescue agencies.

And I expect in a year or so, I’ll be back on the road again with CFF.

BY KIRA L. SCHLECHTER

Fiddler Darol Anger performs near Harrisburg, PA with the Republic of Strings

Fiddler Darol Anger performs with the Republic of Strings

Darol Anger is considered one of the most innovative fiddlers performing today. He got his start as a bluegrass fiddler, but has since explored many genres and played in a variety of configurations during a career that has spanned over 35 years. He is best known as a founding member of two groundbreaking groups the David Grisman Quintet and the Turtle Island String Quartet. He fiddling can be heard every week on the theme song of NPR’s“Car Talk”.

These days Darol is heading up a new group called The Republic of Strings. This band is built on the idea that there is a nation of string players and string enthusiasts people who love string band music from all over the world and who set no boundaries and make no distinction between musical styles.

The Republic of Strings will be heading to the midstate for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society sponsored performance on Sunday, October 31st. The concert will be held at 7:30 pm at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church. Concert attendees can expect a nice mix of instrumentals and vocals from different folk traditions including bluegrass, gospel, blues, old-time and well as jazz and other contemporary sounds. The Republic of Strings will also be joined on a few numbers by members of the Wednesday Club Youth Chamber Orchestra.

 I interviewed Darol to learn more about his career and his new band.

 Q: What aspects of bluegrass music appealed most to you?

A. I guess that bluegrass music was the first music that I ever got serious about. It was music that had a strong tradition and kind of a lure. It’s as easy and as difficult to play as Mozart.

 Q. You started playing with Grisman in 1974. How long did you play with that band?

A. I played with them for 9 years and during that time we did just about everything that we set out to do including playing Carnage Hall, twice, and got some real recognition for what we did.

Q. And what about your association with the Turtle island String Quartet?

A. In 1985 I got together with violinist David Balakrishnan. David had a lot of compositional knowledge and great harmonic grasp and was writing very amazing, new beautiful material. So we thought, wow, we should start of string quartet that actually does improvise and play contemporary music because no one else was doing that.

Q. So, tell me about the Republic of Strings

A. The group is very creative—people who sing very well and write very well. Basically we’re covering a pretty wide swath of the evolution of the string band. The group is like a string quartet in a way except the guitar replaces the viola and the cello acts more like a bass or even a drum.

 Q. The Wednesday Club Youth Chamber Orchestra will be joining you on stage for several numbers. Tell me how this came about?

When I was working with Turtle Island I realized that most of that music could be expanded to larger groups. I’ve been working on orchestrations that introduce students to different styles while giving them something fun to play. The Wednesday Club Youth Chamber Orchestra will rehearse first with their conductor Vera Volchansky. During my time with them we’ll work on playing with a lot of rhythm and playing very freely.

 Jess Hayden is the Executive Director of the Susquehanna Folk Society. For more information on this concert please visit www.sfmsfolk.org

Written by Jess Hayden and published in The Burg Magazine, October 2010

The Vulcans to Appear at Susquehanna Folk Coffeehouse

Members of The Vulcans head back to college, continue to work on recording

School’s back in session for members of The Vulcans, a popular coffeehouse band seen regularly during the summer months at such venues as Juice & Java in Mechanicsburg and the Courthouse Common in Carlisle.

The band is known for their signature folk-rock sound characterized by close vocal harmonies, a mix of folk instruments including guitar, mandolin, banjo and harmonica, and percussive foot stomping. The group plays originals as well as covers by performers such as the Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan.

Band members John Thomas and Aaron Spangler, from Mechanicsburg, are both seniors at colleges in the Philly area. These days they are hitting the books pretty hard, but they plan on keeping the band’s momentum going by continuing to record new material. In the past few weeks the group put up their first single “Someone I Used to Know” on their MySpace page, and they hope to create an EP with an additional seven or eight originals.

 The pair writes songs collaboratively with Aaron handling the basic storyline and John adding “moodiness” to the narrative. “When we looked at the songs that we had written we realized that they were all about change and transition” says Aaron. “We want the theme of the EP to be about being on the verge of something new while simultaneously looking back at yourself to see where you came from.”

 The band is riding the wave of an increased interest in folk and acoustic music. “There seems to be a lot more young people who are getting into the folk sound with fiddles and banjos,” says John “The music is not going to blind you with guitar solos, but it’s simple and it’s real. It just feels so much more honest than some of the stuff that’s being played on the radio.”

 Beyond playing out and recording, The Vulcans have also created a series of You Tube videos. They are big fans of French filmmaker Vincent Moon who is known for his field work with filming indie rock musicians. “We wanted to replicate Moon’s style in our videos by creating something that is artistic but at the same time candid,” says Aaron. The group has produced several You Tube videos showing them playing outside in an alleys or along railroad grades. “We are mainly a music act, but at the same time we want to present something visually to our fans as well,” he adds.

 Currently, the band is taking time to work in a third member Nick Linsay, who plays piano and guitar. The group will be making periodic visits to the mid-state and hopes to play at some Harrisburg’s festivals next summer. Theywill be playing at the Susquehanna Folk Coffeehouse on Saturday, October 23rd. The coffeehouse runs from 7-10 and will be held at Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg.

Written by Jess Hayden.  Published in the Sentinel on September 16, 2010

For more on the Vulcans, visit them at http://www.myspace.com/thevulcansPA#ixzz0zGDSz36d or http://www.youtube.com/thevulcansmusic.

The Folk Trio Red Molly Returns to Harrisburg on September 15

Harrisburg – Red Molly, the all-girl folk/bluegrass band known for their lush harmonies, stellar songwriting and dynamic stage presence, pays a return visit to the region on Wednesday, September 15. They will perform at the Stage on Herr, Harrisburg’s newest stage and bar. According to co-owner John Traylor, this venue is perfect for groups like Red Molly because it offers the audience an intimate “listening room” experience not replicated anywhere else in the area.
The trio fist came together during the 2004 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York state where its members discovered a mutual love of country, bluegrass and old-time gospel during a late-night jam. Over the past six years Red Molly’s popularity has skyrocketed; netting them appearances at major festivals throughout the United States, a feature in Sing Out! magazine and several #1 songs on the Folk DJ chart.

Fans attending the concert may notice a new face in the band. Last July long-time band member Carolann Solebello left the group to pursue a solo career and spend more time with her family. After an extensive search for a replacement the two remaining members, Abbie Gardner and Laurie MacAllister, settled on Austin-based musician Molly Venter. The newest “Molly” brings strong songwriting skills and an exciting modern musical sensibility to the group. The trio has been busy co-writing together for the first time (aided by the ease of sending MP3s back and forth over the Internet), reinventing fan favorites, and learning new songs. “This is an exciting time for the band; we’re so thrilled that Molly has joined us”, says MacAlllister. Gardner adds, “We couldn’t have even hoped for a more perfect fit.”This is Red Molly’s fourth visit to the Harrisburg region. Previously they played in a collaborative concert with the Susquehanna Folk Music Society at several locales, including the Dauphin County’s Sunset Series at Fort Hunter Park and for Harrisburg City’s Italian Lake Concert Series
 
Written by Jess Hayden
Published in Showcase Now! September 6 to October 10, 2010