Free Klezmer Concert, December 4, 4 PM in York PA with The Fabulous Shpielkes

by John Hope

The Fabulous Shpielkes, an internationally-renowned, award-winning Klezmer music group will bring its unique and upbeat style of Jewish music to the York Jewish Community Center, 2000 Hollywood Drive, York, in a December 4 free Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert. Harrisburg’s own klezmer band, The Old World Folk Band opens. The concert starts at 4 p.m.

Klezmer music—essentially Jewish folk music from eastern Europe—has been enjoying a revival since the 1970s in part due to the popularity of The Fabulous Shpielkes. Featured with some of the best Klezmer musicians from Philadelphia to New York City are 79-year-old drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts and her daughter, trumpeter Susan Watts.

The Hoffmans, third and fourth generation members of Philadelphia’s prominent Hoffman family musical dynasty, are known worldwide for their musical skill, ingenuity, and cultural knowledge.

Elaine Hoffman Watts was the first female percussionist to be accepted at Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, from which she was graduated in 1954. She has performed and taught for more than 60 years, working in symphonies, theaters, and schools. Her grandfather, cornet player Joseph Hoffman, came to Philadelphia about 1904. He taught family members Klezmer music he learned as a child in Eastern Europe. Her father was Jacob Hoffman, a great Klezmer drummer and xylophonist who also played xylophone with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Despite her skills and family heritage, Elaine Hoffman was seldom given opportunities to perform in working Klezmer wedding bands as she was growing up because they didn’t want to hire a female drummer, not even if she was Jacob Hoffman’s daughter.

She started performing Klezmer actively more than 10 years ago, starting with the KlezMs, an all-female ensemble that also included her daughter on trumpet. She now performs with The Fabulous Shpielkes and Klezmer artists from around the world.

Trumpeter and vocalist Susan Watts is the sole living purveyor of a Klezmer-style trumpet and sound that electrified Jewish-American audiences for decades. Her engaging voice and one-of-a-kind vocal style carries audiences through a full gamut of emotions. Her repertoire includes tunes that were handed down to her by her great-grandfather, grandfather, and mother, including many original songs written for weddings, family members, and joyous occasions.

Watts recently scored and recorded the soundtrack for the award-winning film “Breath,” and recorded the soundtrack for “A Joyful Noise,” a documentary on Philadelphia Klezmer. She teaches at Klezmer festivals and is an ambassador for women’s rights around the world.

Following intermission, Penn State Harrisburg Holocaust and Jewish Studies Center Lead Scholar Simon Bronner will lead a question and answer period.

Susquehanna Folk Music Society is presenting this free event as part of a new series developed with the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau and made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, with additional support from Shipley Energy, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour and the Lois Lehrman Grass Foundation. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at


Eddie & Alonzo Pennington to Give Guitar Workshop/Concert November 20 in York, PA

by John Hope

Editor’s Note: Champion Thumbpick Guitarists Eddie and Alonzo Pennington will play 7:30 Sunday, November 20th at the Unitarian Church in York. The pair will give a guitar workshop at 3 pm. More information at

What people are saying about Eddie Pennington:

Lancaster’s popular singer songwriter BOBBIE CARMITCHELL is signed up to take Eddie and Alonzo’s guitar workshop. “He’s phenomenal” she says. “You really have to watch him to make sure that it’s not more than one guy playing!”

Folk DJ (The Chords Are Stacked and The Song Parlor) and co-founder of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society JOHN PATERSON says,” Eddie certainly is an impressive picker!”

The father and son team of Eddie and Alonzo Pennington, both National Thumbpicking champions, perform in concert and give a guitar workshop on Sunday, November 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York. Their 3 p.m. guitar workshop and 7:30 p.m. concert are sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

Eddie Pennington, a National Heritage Fellowship recipient, is widely recognized as one of the greatest living thumbstyle guitarists. He has appeared in venues throughout the U.S. and Europe to keep alive the sound popularized by Kentucky native Merle Travis in the 1940s. Due to his ability to adapt well-known tunes to the alternating bass rhythms that characterize “Travis pickin’,” Pennington’s performances have generated renewed interest in the art form.

On stage he mixes his music with Travis stories and down-home humor backed by his own observations, transporting audiences to the days of the old mining towns and to his front porch for a few neighborly gospel tunes. Reviewers have noted that Pennington’s love of the guitar, and of live performance, bring to life the rich musical traditions of western Kentucky, making him an entertainer who appeals to all ages throughout the world. His strong sense of place, combined with flawless performances of folk and contemporary guitar tunes, attracts and keeps a legion of loyal listeners.

Eddie Pennington’s son Alonzo has been described as a smattering of vintage Allman Brothers Band, a dash of Stevie Ray Vaughn, a spoonful of James Burton, a dollop of Danny Galton, and a pinch of Jerry Reed. He is a multi-award-winning guitar player who’s been performing his own music since he was 13. He uses his passion, energy, and drive to create a soulful and unique blend of rock, country, and blues that is all his own. He had a stint playing guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, and singing backup vocals for country music legend John Michael Montgomery. During his time working with Montgomery, he appeared at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. As he says in one of his songs, Alonzo Pennington was “raised in the country, but born to rock and roll.”
Guitar workshop tickets are $20 general admission, $16 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22.Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members, and $10 for students. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at This concert is part of a series funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and with support from Shipley Energy. SFMS is supported by funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered by the Cultural Alliance of York County, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at

An Interview with Garnet Rogers Who Will Perform in Harrisburg, PA, Nov 12


By Jess Hayden.

Editor’s Note:
This interview was conducted in October, 2010 and has been adapted to include
information on Garnet Roger’s upcoming performance at the Fort Hunter Barn,
Harrisburg, PA  at 7:30, Saturday, November
12th.201. Additional information is at

Garnet Rogers is a Canadian
songwriter who has performed throughout the world for the past 35 years. From
1973-1983 he was an accompanist for his brother Stan Rogers, perhaps one of the
most influential songwriters that Canada has ever produced. Since his brother’s
death, Garnet has become a phenomenal songwriter in his own right and has
continued on as a solo performer.

Jess: Good morning Garnet and thanks for speaking to me.

Garnet: Good morning. I’m just sitting here watching the snow.
First snow of the year. It’s not massive snow, just flurries.

Jess: You live on a farm, right?

Garnet: Yeah. It’s a small farm, 20 acres. We have horses. We have
a little breeding operation here. We have a thoroughbred stallion. And we own a
few rescue mares. It’s kind of winding down, though. At one point we had 22
horses and at two other farms that we were renting. That was ten years ago, but
we’re down to just a handful of horses now. It’s much easier on the back.

Jess: I’m a presenter for Susquehanna Folk where you are going to
be playing on November 12th. Last year you performed an opening set
for a Susquehanna Folk Greg Brown concert.

Opening for
Greg Brown

Garnet: Yeah. I had made an inquiry as I was sort of down in that
area. I knew that Greg was playing there and I just love him to bits. We don’t
get a chance to see each other very much. I think that I did a show for you
guys 7 or 8 years ago at the Fort Hunter Barn. You guys do such a good job. It
was a beautiful room and I just had a great time. I just have this really nice
memory of a very warm evening. It was a beautiful landscape around the barn. It
was one of those nights when you think “You know, this is not a bad way to make
a living.”

Jess: Well, thank you. We love presenting there; it has a lot of
warmth. But I think that you have done another concert for us too.

Touring with
Archie Fisher

Garnet: I remember doing one with Archie Fisher a million year

Jess: You put a CD out with Archie, right?

Garnet: We did a couple.

What audience
members might expect from a Garnet Rogers set

Jess: Can you tell me what people should expect at your concert?

Garnet: Well, I never quite know what I’m going to play until I
have the guitar in my hand. My songs tend to be fairly serious. The stuff between
the songs tend to be not. I sort of have this—I don’t know if you call it
“bi-polar” approach to doing shows where the songs all tend to be of a fairly
series nature and between them I’m just basically making fun of myself and
whatever I see around me. So, it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed
to be laughing. They generally do. I’m not doing stand-up comedy or anything;
it’s just “observational weirdness”.

A Guitar

I’ll probably just have a couple of guitars with me. Last night I
did a show locally and I had more. I generally have anywhere between 7 and a
dozen guitars with me. They are all tuned differently and they all have
different sounds and personalities, different problems that I have to adjust
to. That’s really part of my thing; I go around with a museum collection of old
guitars. My wife and I have two houses. One of the houses is just full of
guitars. That’s my workhouse. I got a guitar in last week and another one that
I’m hoping to pick up in Ithaca on my way to Harrisburg. It’s just a constant
quest for new sound.

Jess: Are you trying out new luthiers too, or is it mostly antique

Garnet: It’s mostly antiques. Anything made before 1944. After
that it has to be a pretty spectacular instrument or something really special
for me to truly lust after it. There is a period between 1942 and 1944 that I
particularly like guitars from the Gibson guitar factory where the guitars were
mostly made by women because of the war thing. There is something really
special about those guitars. They were just made really beautifully. I think
that women tend to focus better on details. There were a handful of old guys
who were teaching them, they were too old and frail to do war work, so these
women learned from the masters. That’s sort of the period that I like the best.
But, I have guitars that go all the way back to 1890. It’s partly conservation
as well. If I find something that needs a home, to be brought back to life—it’s
sort of the guitar version of the horse rescue that we do. It’s like finding
some brude mare that shivering in a field and you say “damn”, and you take her
home and you put a blanket on her and she spends the rest of her life in a
friendly place. It’s kind of an impulse to sort of preserve things.

Garnet Rogers

Jess: I read an article that said that you had 9 solo CDs, but you
probably have more by now. Do you know what number you are up to?

Garnet: 12 or 13 I think—but another dozen with other people.

Jess: Do you have your own label?

Garnet: I’ve always had my own label since 1976. Snow Goose.

Jess: You recorded one on Red House Records though. How did that
come about?

Garnet: Well Bob Feldman, rest his soul, he just always said to
me, “I think you are a Red House artist”. You know, even as good and fair as
Red House is, it’s the best of all the independents, it just financially didn’t
make sense for me to have to buy back my own music from my record company. So
they just said if I wanted to do a record that I could do a compilation and I
could have whatever I wanted on it from the first 9 albums. So that’s what they
did. The put together a nice compilation and they did a lovely job on it, but I
didn’t really have any input on it. It was nice. It got the name around a
little more. [Editor’s note: All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers] But
that’s as far as it went. I really strongly believe in keeping control of my
own deal. Once you give the record company the right, you give them the right
to have input. I’m not really big on that.

Jess: Your newest CD “Get a Witness” features quite a few songs
that feature other songwriters. Is that unusual for you?

Garnett: It’s just a little bit different as I wanted to record
some songs that I had in the repertoire. There was a Karen Savoca song that I
really, really wanted to do. There was a Bruce Springsteen song which
dovetailed nicely with the last two songs on the CD, one of which is mine, the
other one of my brother’s. [Editor’s note: Stan Rogers] That ended up being a
whole half hour piece. Those three songs plus an instrumental break in the
middle. They were all performed live with no editing. It’s as it was performed.
I’m so proud of it and the way that the band performed. It’s an extraordinary
band. At one point there are 8 people on stage and they are just really giving
it hell.

Jess: Is this your own band?

Garnet: It was actually the core of another band and then some
people that I played with for a couple of years including David Woodhead
[Editor’s note: bass player who recently played in a SFMS concert with James
Keelaghan] who I have been playing with since 1975. He has been on about every
folk album in Canada for 35 years.

Jess: This CD seems to be a little more electric then some of your

Garnet: The whole CD is not that way but the first one in
particular is really a kind of mean spirited slap at your X-president, George
W. And that kind of just needed a very loud and aggressive treatment. There is
also a gospel number dedicated to Coretta Scott King that needed a full, what I
was imagining to be a gospel treatment. So that got pretty big. And the last
half an hour gets pretty big, but the rest of it is quiet and a little more
folky. But for your show on November 12th, I’ll just be a guy with his guitar.