Gordon Bok, folksinger from the state of Maine appears in concert April 28th, Harrisburg, PA

By Jess Hayden

The incomparable Gordon Bok, hailed by Time as “the poet laureate of those who go down to the sea in ships”, appears at a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Saturday, April 28, at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, Harrisburg. A free 90-minute workshop on moving poetry towards music at 4 p.m. will be followed by a 6 p. m. potluck dinner and the 7:30 p.m. concert. Tickets and information can be found at http://ow.ly/aoyzM.

Gordon doesn’t tour as regularly as he used to, so we’re very fortunate to be having him perform this concert for our south central Pennsylvania community. I had a conversation with him recently and asked him some questions about what’s his repertoire like and what listeners may expect at his concert:

FOLKMAMA:  I’ve seen you perform many times and I’m always amazed by the variety of styles of music that you work into your program! For someone who has never seen you perform before, can you describe what they may experience when coming to one of your shows for the first time?

BOK: My folks exposed me to many kinds of music of the Americas and other countries and I’ve learned a lot from immigrants I’ve worked with.  Mostly these days I sing in English, performing both traditional and contemporary music and instrumentals from Scotland to Australia.

FOLKMAMA: How has living in the state of Maine influenced your repertoire?

BOK: The various musicians I’ve played with here since I was a kid exercised me in contradance and country music and I learned quite a few songs from people I worked with on the water.

FOLKMAMA: What instruments do you plan to play during the Susquehanna Folk Music Society performance on the 28th?

BOK: A Spanish guitar and a twelve string guitar, both locally made, are the instruments I tour with.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about your CD “Gordon Bok in Concert”. What songs does it feature and why did you decide to record a live CD?

BOK: Folks told me my albums didn’t give me the flavor and feeling of my concerts so I recorded a few nearby gigs for In Concert.  My latest CDs are “Other Eyes” and “Because You Asked” (requests – coming out soon.)

FOLKMAMA:  I’m fascinated with the concept of your cantefables (story-songs). I remember years ago hearing the wonderful “Saben the Woodfitter” and “Sea Djiril’s Hymn”. Do these selections fit under the cantefable category? Are you planning to perform a cantefable for us?

BOK: Cantefable is not my word, but I started to mix spoken story with music forty years ago, and that’s what Sandy Payton [founder of Folk Legacy] called that form.  It’s become more popular since, but I think it’s an ancient way of doing stories.  I might perform a recent one at Susquehanna.

FOLKMAMA:  When you come to perform for Susquehanna Folk you will also give a workshop “Moving Poetry Towards Music.” Can you tell us a little bit about what attendees might expect during this workshop?

BOK: I would give some examples of poetry set to music, but if people could bring in some of their own poems to work with, I’d rather concentrate on that.  It would be good if folks could send me one or two poems in advance.

FOLKMAMA: I’m interested in your fascination with the music and traditions of the Kalmyk Mongolians. Where does your interest come from? I’ve read that a group of Tibetans immigrated to the US to work as lumberjacks for the Great Northern Paper Company in Portage Lake, Me. Has this somehow fueled your interest?

BOK: I didn’t know about the Tibetan lumberjacks.  The Kalmyk immigrants took me in when I worked in Philadelphia and gave me some of their music.  Now that they’re forgetting it, I’m just trying to return it in a form that will be accessible to them.

FOLKMAMA: Are you planning on reciting any poet during your show? I really love your renditions of Ruth Moore’s poetry.

BOK: I’ll probably recite a poem in concert if you like.

FOLKMAMA: Thank you for agreeing to an interview. Anything else that you want to add?

BOK: I’m so grateful for all the musicians that have nourished and guided me.  Especially at a time when I could learn from some of the finest singers in so many countries.  And then to understand that this work of love is useful to other people; that’s a gift.


Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem to Play at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, April 13, 2012

By John Hope

Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem bring their unique combination of wicked grooves, sublime lead singing, great harmonies, sparkling original songs, and a deep repertoire spanning 200 years of American music to an April 13 Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg. The group will also present two family friendly programs with its new CD “Ranky Tanky” on Saturday, April 14, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Martin Library, 159 E. Market Street, York. Pre-registration is required.

Start with a fiddle, a guitar, and a standup bass. Add a cardboard box with a suitcase bass drum and tin can cymbals played by a former rock and Zydeco drummer. Over that fine groove, lay Rani Arbo’s expressive alto, seamless four-part harmonies, and a splash of banjo and ukulele, and you have a Daisy Mayhem performance.

The group’s music has been described as “neo old timey with cosmopolitan splashes of contemporary pop and jazz.” It’s an exuberant mix of musical idioms held together by superb musicianship, impeccable taste, and the band’s charismatic vocals. A stage show dips into country blues, vintage swing, modern songwriter fare, and Appalachian fiddle tunes and songs.

Daisy Mayhem founder Rani Arbo (fiddle, lead vocals) brings 30 years of choral singing to the mix, along with years with a honkytonk band, a Balkan rock band, and the folk-bluegrass band Salamander Crossing. Her singing combines a bewitching expressive alto voice that is equal parts choir girl, flirty teenager, and world-weary woman and navigates swing tunes, funky call-and-response songs, and ballads with unusual honesty and ease. Andrew Kinsey (double bass, banjo, vocals) began his musical life as the youngest bagpiper in his town. He later took up the double bass with frequent regressions in the ukulele and banjo. As Arbo’s singing partner for more than 15 years, his rich, compelling baritone voice, generous spirit, and humorous sensibilities inspired the group’s debut CD, “Cocktail Swing.” Anand Nayak (guitar, vocals) fell for the guitar as a teenager and has been exploring music and instruments from all over the world. He is a powerful songwriter with a rare gift for arranging and a gutsy guitar style that draws from a century’s worth of jazz, funk, blues, and folk masters. Scott Kessel (“Drumship Enterprise,” vocals) was once a regular kit drummer but in Daisy Mayhem he has the Drumship Enterprise, a recycled drum kit comprised of a cardboard box, cat food tins, a Danish butter cookie tin, and a suitcase. He combines American rock and pop beats with African, Afro-Cuban, New Orleans, and South American rhythms to create the foundation of Daisy Mayhem’s unmistakable grove.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at ww.BrownPaperTickets.com. Susquehanna Folk Music Society programs are supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.