Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret and Bruce Campbell–Back to the Susquehanna Folk Stage, February 25th–for the Third Year in a Row!

 Four of  Harrisburg, PA area’s most talented acoustic musicians —Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret, and Bruce Campbell– have been scheduled to appear, for a unprecedented third year in a row, in a concert to be held on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society stage . The group will play an evening of bluegrass, Americana, Celtic, jazz and original music.  The concert will be held on Saturday, February 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg. Tickets and information are available at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Folkmama had the opportunity to talk to the musicians about what they’ve been up to musically since last season, what they like about playing together and what special memories they might have about playing together.

Folkmama: So Kevin, from your posts on Facebook it seems like you’ve been really busy, plus you’ve gotten yourself a new guitar. What have been some of the highlights in your musical life since you played for Susquehanna Folk last January?

Neidig: Well, I’ve gotten to play with some really great musicians like Missy Raines and Jim Hurst. I was teaching down at the Common Ground on the Hill in Westminster Maryland and they were teaching there too. We were all part of the staff so we were doing a lot of work together. And of course I’m still playing a lot with Voxology.

Folkmama: And your new guitar?

Neidig: My new guitar is awesome. It’s definitely allowed me to get better. It’s one of the best guitars that I’ve ever played. It has a really balanced tone—punchy bass, great everything. I don’t think that Collings makes a bad guitar.

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? How has your year been?

Koretzky: Probably the most interesting thing has been the Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble. A fellow named Tom Cook who is a lawyer and a mandolin enthusiast got the idea to put together a Harrisburg equivalent of a mandolin orchestra. Mandolin orchestras were a popular tradition in the early part of the 20th century. Every town would have them. There are still a few around; they have been making a comeback.  But they tend to be large groups with dozens of people so what has evolved with our group is a six piece band. We’ve got mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and even a mandobass. This has been interesting because even though it’s an old tradition the fact that it’s a six piece we have to arrange and choose all our own stuff so we’re doing some original tunes and we’re doing almost all original arrangements of tunes.

Folkmama:  Bruce, I know that you’ve always been pretty busy with a multitude of bands. Any particular highlights, or has the recession really cut into your gig schedule?

Campbell: Mmmm…let me go to my Excel spreadsheet. Gigs, 2011. I keep everything on my Excel spreadsheet—the gig, the band, the mileage, supplies, equipment, repair, turnpike, parking , miscellaneous. Yup, it’s been a really busy year. I did a lot of work with this new trio/quartet Rue de la Pompe, which is the spin on the Gypsy jazz stuff that I’m doing with Ken Gehret. So that’s one of the busiest bands, and then there is a jazz trio—a piano trio basically called the Troy Isaac Trio and we released our first album last year and then the Dixieland band was very busy. We played for the third time at the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival in Connecticut—playing with the big boys. And then every once in awhile Jamie O’Brien comes into town and Henry and I will do a flurry of work with him doing concerts and contra dances. That band is called Unbowed.

Folkmama: Ken,  I know that you identify yourself more with the Reading, PA area so our readers may not be as familiar with your various project. What kinds of things have you been up to musically?

Gehret: I’ve been playing a lot of different styles of music; jazz and Brazilian music, Irish, and some classical too. I do some different band situations and I do some solo performances too. I have a band called Irish Mist and I’m in a band with Bruce Campbell and others called Rue de la Pompe which is Parisian swing—Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli . And of course Irish Mist does Celtic music, traditional, but some originals. The Brazilians do Brazilian music—a lot of Jobim, Bonfá—that sort of thing and some original material also. And I have the Violin Quartet–it’s a jazz group, but instead of having a tenor sax I play the violin. We play modern jazz—Coltrane, Miles Davis—that sort of thing.

Folkmama: Henry, you’re really responsible for putting this Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret, Campbell composition together. You selected guys that are all so good individually, but have terrific chemistry on stage together. How has this worked for you?

Koretzky:   I’ve always enjoys putting different groups together and seeing how they interact.  All the time that I’ve been playing, that’s always been a fun thing to do. I play with a lot of different ensembles and a lot of different styles and I’m always thinking, “Mmmm…I wonder how these two people would get along. I wonder how they would interact.”  The opportunity that this concert presents gives me the chance to do this on a more public stage.  It’s been great, for example,  to get Ken and Kevin together to bounce ideas off of each other and support each other’s ideas. It’s always fun for me to do this and in this case I’m doing it in a concert situation with a great listening room atmosphere so that the audience can be part of the experience as well.

Folkmama: Bruce, you play with some of these guys in different bands already. What has it been like playing together as a foursome?

Campbell: It’s fun to think that I play regularly with Ken in the gypsy band and sometimes bluegrass bands, I play with Henry in contra dance bands like the Contra Rebels, and I play with Kevin Neidig usually in concert situations where I play his original tunes. Now we’re all getting together and we are all going to play what we want to play or what we want to feature. It’s a completely different repertoire for the most part than anything I play with these guys on an individual basis. It’s a completely different band made up of people that I routinely play with using a completely different repertoire.

Folkmama: What about you Ken?

Gehret: Playing with this composition of musicians is a lot of fun; it’s certainly the right chemistry. We all hook up very well musically and personally.

Folkmama:  Anything to add Kevin?

Neidig: Henry, Ken and Bruce are just the real deal. They are just fine acoustic musicians that are always trying to hone their craft. They are really the cream of the crop and to get to play with them is just really awesome. It’s very exciting.

Folkmama: So you’ve played this gig for the Folk Music Society two years in a row already, and you’ve been invited back for a third concert. Do you have any special memories of past concerts that you’d like to share?

Neidig: I think I was just so surprised by the attendance and that got us so energized. I talked about this with the group afterwards. You know we are not even a real band, we’re just a bunch of guys who get together to put on a show and we’ve got this packed house. That is just so cool!

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? What has it been like preparing for shows with this group?

Koretzky: I think it’s interesting how every musician prepares for it in a different way. Kevin, for instance is ultra-organized and he will do very precise demos of his original tunes and post them on a private website that we have access to so that we have a choice to work every chord off those tunes individually.

It might surprise audiences to know how fresh the material is, that we don’t have much of a chance to play together, all four of us, before we hit the stage. It’s actually been part of the energy that has gone there. We prepare the stuff, we know exactly what we are going to do, material wise, and we’ve all had a chance to rehearse individually and in small groups. When we played last year we had one four-piece rehearsal the week before. So we knew where the edges of the tunes were, we knew what work we had to do individually, but when we got on stage everything was extremely fresh and exciting. That was part of the excitement of what we were able to deliver up there.

Folkmama: What’s the experience of preparing for these gigs been like for you Bruce?

Campbell: The pattern starts with Henry being the driving force and the disciplinarian.  As of last week said, “Come on boys! Crack the whip. Crack, crack. Snap, snap. We need to get together; we need to make some decisions. We need to decide what our set list is. We need to have MP3s and demos flying around between us so that we can all individually learn this stuff so that when we get together we can launch from there.” So Henry is the driving force. If it wasn’t for Henry nothing would be happening until like two days before the concert and then there would be this panic.

As far as the concert itself, just from me doing sound all those years and me playing there the last couple of years it’s just a wonderful audience and a wonderful venue. Everyone hangs on every word and every lyric and every note. They are attentive and they are sober and they’re appreciative and it’s just a wonderful gig.

Folkmama: And when the band hits the stage, what has been your experience Ken?

Gehret: Well, I was so taken by the warmth of the audience. It has been so wonderful to play for Susquehanna Folk audiences—they are just so into the music. They really made us feel at home.

Folkmama: What’s in store for audiences at the upcoming February 25th concert?

Neidig: For this next concert we’re going to really try to outdo ourselves and get some really cool songs that we normally wouldn’t play because we have these fabulous musicians that can really handle it.  It’s like, “Let’s do a Paul Simon song but do it in a bluegrass format.” I think it’s really going to be a great, interesting show.

Interview by Jess Hayden, Executive Director of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society

January 2012.

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Music by Gypsy Stringz, Hungarian/Croatian Dance Workshops, Jan 14-15, Harrisburg PA

By Bart Carpenter

In collaboration with the St Lawrence Club of Steelton, the Susquehanna Folk Music Society (SFMS) is pleased to present a weekend of Hungarian/Croatian music and dance Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, 2012.  Dance classes will be taught by Rick Vukmanic, a Croatian-American from Steelton, and Richard Balazs, a Hungarian citizen now living in the U.S.  Music will be provided by Hungarian-American George Batyi and the Gypsy Stringz Orchestra of Pittsburgh on Saturday and by Bosnian/Croatian pop-folk singer Mate Bulić on Sunday.  The Steelton-based band, Zadnja Stanica, will open for Bulić.

Three dance classes will be held at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church, 5501 Locust Lane, Harrisburg.  These are as follows: 10:30 a.m. Croatian dances of Steelton, a repeat of the popular “Steelton 101” dance class held last year; 1:15 dances of the Croatian diaspora, i.e., Croatian communities in Hungary, Slovenia, and Bosnia; and 2:45 Hungarian dancing, focused on the ugros and csardas.  Classes are $16 apiece or $40 for all three. Students are $10.

The evening event is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the St Lawrence Club, 13 Highland Street, Steelton PA. It begins with a concert set by Gypsy Stringz, followed by open dancing from 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.  Both dance instructors will be available to help lead the dancing. Admission is $10 at the door.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, the St Lawrence Club presents a Croatian music spectular.  Zadnja Stanica will play a dance set at 7:00 p.m., with international folk star Mate Bulić performing at 8:30.  Doors open at 5:00 p.m., and the kitchen and bar are open. Admission is $35 at the door, $30 in advance.  Contact Marija Kuren, marijakrpan@hotmail.com, 717-649-5409 for advance tickets.

Additional biographic information on the dance teachers and musicians appears on the SFMS website.

http://www.sfmsfolk.org/dances/HungarianCroatian_Jan12.html

http://www.stlawrence13.com/

contact: bart.carpenter@sfmsfolk.org

The Irish Band “Pride of New York” to Play in York, PA, January 8th, 2012

When the traditional Irish music band Pride of New York comes to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York (located at 925 S. George Street in York, PA) on Sunday, January 8th at 7:30 PM, the Susquehanna Folk Music Society will offer audience members the opportunity to experience an Irish-American supergroup with some of the best known players on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. (further information on the concert at http://www.sfmsfolk.org)

The group includes Joanie Madden on flute and pennywhistle (best known as the leader of Cherish the Ladies), Brian Conway on fiddle, Billy McComiskey on button accordion and Brendan Dolan on keyboards. Collectively the members have won four all-Ireland championship awards, recorded multiple solo albums, and logged countless miles touring across the U.S. and abroad.

I caught up with Joanie Madden recently to talk to her about the history of Pride of New York, why playing with the band means so much to her and the upcoming January 8th concert.

Folkmama: Pride of New York is such a terrific band, but you don’t seem to tour very often.

Madden: No we haven’t done a show since August the 14th. The reason we don’t work as much is me.  We get plenty of offers but unfortunately with my busy schedule with Cherish the Ladies we have to turn a lot of it down because of my commitments. But we’re not a well worn shoe; the excitement is there every time we play.

Folkmama: So you did a CD together, how long ago was that?

Madden: I think it’s been two or three years. But we’ve only made one record and that was named album of the year (by the Irish Echo newspaper)

Folkmama: And that was right around the time that you played at the National Folk Festival in Butte Montana?

Madden: Well, that was the year that it came out. We’ve all been friends with the folks at the National Folk Festival and they were excited to see what the four of us would do. What really shocked me about playing with this group was when we sat down to record, that we actually played note for note. Our versions were so much the same that there was no changing for any of us. That was incredible for me. That never happened to me before with anyone that I ever played with.

Folkmama: Why is that? Is there really an Irish American New York sound that you all share?

Madden:  You know there is a County Clare styles, a County Sligo style and a Donegal style and I think there is a New York style. We are so influenced in New York by Western Ireland music; Galway, Sligo mainly—those two counties were where our inspiration came. In my case, my father was from Galway. And I learned my music (on flute) from Jack Coen who lived 11 miles from my father, and Billy McComiskey learned from Sean McGlyn (accordion) who lived 7 miles from my father, and Brian Conway learn his (fiddle) music from  Andy McGan and Martin Wynne.

These were two guys—Andy McGan always played with Joe Burke who was from Galway and they made all these recordings and they were always accompanied by Felix Dolan on piano who is Brendon Dolan’s dad. So all this came down to us and we all had this incredible symmetry with our ideas about the music.

We agree on the treatment of it, but just being the keepers of the flame is a good way to say it. We were the ones that they really wanted to pass their music to.

Folkmama: So, how did the group get its name?

Madden: Well, first what people should understand is that the name Pride of New York is not the name that we put on ourselves, it was given to us by the music critic Paul Keating from the Irish Voice newspaper.  It used to be Joanie Madden, Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway and Brendon Dolan.  And eventually people would come to see us and he started calling us the Pride of New York, instead of writing our names he would simply call us that because that’s what he believes we are. When it comes to the hopes and dreams of traditional Irish music; we were the ones chosen by all the older guard to pass the music down to.

Folkmama: Are you playing music that is no longer being played in Ireland? In a sense are you helping to preserve a style and repertoire of music?

Madden: I think that in Ireland the styles melded more than what happened to us; we grew up in New York and were so influenced by these guys who wouldn’t stand for any foolery!  This was a sacred chalice that they were handing down to us-it was not allowed to be messed with.  They were passing it down from their families where it had been passed down to them and they were giving it to us. My father was a lunatic about treating the music with respect.

Folkmama: What’s it like playing with these three talented musicians?

Madden: Getting to play with these guys—they are just all virtuosos. Billy McComiskey is my favorite accordion player in the world—he’s just incredible. Brian Conway is one of the greatest fiddle players who ever put a bow to the fiddle. Without a doubt Brendon Dolan is my favorite piano player that I’ve ever worked with—and I’ve played with a lot of great ones.  And I think the fact that we enjoy each other’s company so much and the fact that it’s a rare thing that only happens two or three times a year (not by choice, but because of other commitments) I think there is just a special thing every time that we play together .

Folkmama: What kind of response do you get from audiences?

Madden: Every gig that we have done has been packed to the gills and every gig that have done has been completely standing ovation. People are so excited at the end of the show—which is something as I’ve lead Cherish the Ladies for the past 27 years I work very hard with a 10 or 11 piece band to get the crowd up, but whatever it is amongst the four of us we can do the same.

Folkmama: Does it feel any different to you, playing with men rather than woman?

Madden: No, to me it doesn’t matter. When you’re playing with somebody good you’re playing with somebody good. With Cherish the Ladies the fact that we’re a bunch of woman—we never planned on that.  It’s the same with The Pride of New York. We never really planned for it to be one woman and three men.

Folk Mama:Has Pride of New York ever toured in Ireland?

Madden: We’ve been to Ireland three times. Every time we have gone they have gone crazy with us—haywire. Really, really fantastic. We will be doing the same for you down in York, PA so it should really be great.

Folk Mama:What should people expect at the concert in York, PA on January 8th?

Madden: Everyone is featured, so they’ll get to hear all the instruments.  It’s a lot of jigs and reels and hornpipes and a lot of jokes and laughter in between. I’m extremely proud to be playing with these guys. It’s hard for me to explain to an audience how much they are going to enjoy it but every concert we have ever done—it’s just incredible the response.