Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret & Bruce Campbell perform for SFMS May 18th in Harrisburg

Central Pennsylvania is home to many fine musicians, and four of the best—Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret, and Bruce Campbell—appear for their unprecedented fifth Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Brewing Co. Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. The four have drawn such acclaim in their four earlier concerts that the decision was made to bring them back again for 2014.

Concert tickets are $18 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students to age 22. (Note: Appalachian Brewing Company requires guests to be age 21 and over for evening shows.) Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. Funding for Susquehanna Folk Music Society concerts is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. This concert is presented in cooperation with Greenbelt Events­. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

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Following is a reprinted, but updated, interview done in 2012:

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

Neidig: This past year has been wonderful musically.  I have been teaching various instruments and voice in private lessons, classes and workshops at the Perfect 5th Music and Arts Center.  I bought my first ever classical guitar, which I love.  I play a lot of classical guitar when I am home by myself but I haven’t taken that part of myself to the stage.  In some ways I feel like that music is just for me.  Actually most of the music I practice and play at home never reaches the stage.  It’s a funny thing.  Maybe I am selfish with that part of me or maybe I just haven’t found the right avenue to express that side of myself yet. I am not really sure.  I have also fallen in love with gypsy jazz and have been listening to it almost exclusively all this year.  I have always liked the style but maybe a certain gene switch on from a solar flare or something and it’s made me obsessed with this music.  You’re definitely going to hear me and the boys play some of this music at the show on Sunday!

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: Recession?  What recession?  As a hired gun, I’m open and willing to commit to any gig with any band, provided that A. it’s challenging, B. it’s fun, and C. It pays enough to cover expenses.The Rue de la Pompe gypsy swing band that I’m doing with Ken continued to be busy throughout 2013, as well as Ruby and the Hummingbirds, the Isaak Trio and other jazz piano trios I get called for. The Vintage Jazz Dixieland band stays steady and I’ve picked up some big band work as well.I work with Kevin occasionally and was proud to add the bass parts to his latest recording.Contra Dances keep popping up on my schedule both with the Contra Rebels, as well as Henry’s group, Unbowed.As a backup bassist, I fill in any holes in my schedule taking work from Vinegar Creek Constituency, Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble, Barbone Street Jazz, The Launies, Rampart St. Ramblers, and Dixieland Express.

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. (updated 2014)

 

Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret and Campbell

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