Interview with Jesse Periard of Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, Performing September 24th in York, PA

Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, a Celtic folk trio from Canada’s Prince Edward Island, comes to the area for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York, PA.

Expanding on the Scottish and Acadian roots of PEI’s traditional music, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin weave old-school Franco-Canadian, Breton, Irish, and Scottish tunes with wickedly current grooves and clear quirks, flirting with indie’s best moments.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online HERE or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website.

Ten Strings Official Photo 03 (1)

SFMS Staff Writer Peter Winter had a chance to chat via email with TSGS Guitarist Jesse Periard.

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How long have the three of you been playing together and how did the band start?

Rowen and Caleb are brothers, so they have been playing music together for a long time now. I met the boys when I was in the 6th grade, and we started playing music together a couple years after that. We’ve now been playing together for 10 years.

 What different elements make up the traditional Prince Edward Island sound that you draw from?

We take a lot of our inspiration from the Acadian culture that comes from PEI. Very playful and energetic music. But other traditional styles play a huge part in  PEIs sound, including Scottish and Irish, which we also love to play.

Auprès du Poêle (1)

 The title for your 2016 sophomore record  “Aupres du Poele” translates to “Around the Woodstove.”  Could you speak a bit about the significance of that title and how it came about?

We recorded our latest album in Joliette, Québec, during the months of October and December of 2015. We started our days very early in the morning, and always finished very late at night, and it was always cold. So we always looked forward to coming back to our friends house. She hosted us and always had a wood stove burning for us when we got home. We would eat, drink, and even rehearse in the same room as the wood stove. A lot of times we had people over and we all told stories and played music and joked around. It was very inspiring and seemed a very appropriate theme for the album. The wood stove to us, is a representation of community and people banding together during hard times, such as winter.

How do you think Ten Strings and a Goat Skin developed as a band from your first record to your second record?

Between our first and our latest record, there’s been a lot that’s happened. The three of us have each grown as people and as musicians. Caleb studied music business in college, and I studied contemporary music, and we’ve been able to apply our knowledge to the group and develop our music and business. Along with all of our travelling, we’ve been exposed to so many different styles of traditional music, as well as some amazing players, and we’ve learnt a lot from these different experiences and that has all definitely made an impact on our compositions and writing styles.

Tradition is often described as “Remembered Innovation.” Ten Strings and a Goat Skin has connections to both the trad and indie folk scenes of PEI.  Where do you feel the group fits in between these two worlds?

We definitely consider ourselves more on the trad side. A lot of trad bands these days play with a lot of pop and indie influences, but still fall under the trad category. I think that’s because along with our instrumentation, the tune structures are still very rooted in traditional music.

What Musicians have been sources of inspiration to all of you?

We could make you an entire book with the bands and people who’ve played a major role in our lives as musicians. To name a few in the traditional world, we love bands like Flook, Lau, The Olllam, Les Poules à Colin, The East Pointers, and Vishtèn to name a few. But we also take inspiration from bands like Bon Iver, Chance The Rapper, Vulfpeck, and other bands that don’t fall into the traditional category at all.

What do you want an audience to take away from a TSGS show?

Our goal during our live shows is to simply make people happy for a night. If people can go home a bit happier after our show, we feel like we’ve done our jobs.

 

——Nerdy Guitar Quesions——-

What tuning do you prefer and why?

I mainly play in Drop D tuning. It’s a lot of fun and allows for some open, but still jazzy voicings. I also really enjoy playing in DADGAD.

What are some good things to remember when backing up tunes?

My biggest thing in terms of backing tunes is making sure your rhythm is on. You could be making the nicest coolest tastiest chords, but if you’re not on the beat, those chords are pointless.
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Peter Winter is a musician and writer from Harrisburg, PA.  He plays in the Celtic band Seasons and blogs about music at All The Day Sounds
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Nordic Fiddlers Bloc on September 21 in Harrisburg–a MUST GO EVENT!

Three of the finest young fiddle players working in the international folk scene, each with a stellar career with a number of bands, collectively are finding themselves increasingly in demand across the world due to their unique collaboration, onstage sense of humor, and inter-band banter. Known as The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, they make their Susquehanna Folk Music Society debut appearance on Thursday, September 21, 2015, at 7:30 p.m., at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N Front Street in Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Information and advance tickets at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/NordicFiddlersBloc.html

Below is an interview by SFMS Board member Peter Winter with band member Kevin Henderson first published in April 2015 and revised September, 2017.

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“Keeping The Tradition Alive” An Interview with Nordic Fiddlers Bloc’s Kevin Henderson

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, comprised of Olav Luksengård Mjelva from Norway, Anders Hall from Sweden and Kevin Henderson from the Shetland Isles, is a super group in the truest sense.  Since 2010 the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc has been performing together around the globe, melding their similar yet highly distinctive musical traditions just as seamlessly as they combine the spirits of tradition and innovation in their playing.

This tour sees a slight change to the normal lineup as Olav Luksengård Mjelva is due to become a father in the middle of the tour! But Olav will be ably covered by Erlend Viken, who is widely regarded as one of the top players in Norway on both fiddle and hardanger fiddle.

I was able to catch up to Kevin Henderson prior to September 21st concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn in Harrisburg. We discussed the common roots of the music of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, their creative process as a band, and what is unique about Shetland fiddling in particular, seeing that he’s rather an expert on the topic.

 

PETER: First off, there are three styles of Fiddle playing represented in the group: Erlend from Norway, Anders from Sweden and you with your Shetland style.  What is the common link tying these traditions together? What is the thread that unites it all?

KEVIN: All three places have very strong documented historical links going back hundreds of years.  Shetland belonged to Norway until the mid 1400s when it was loaned to Scotland, and the culture there is more closely linked to Norway than Scotland.  Some of the old traditional music from Shetland is closely linked to the old hardanger music from Norway in the styles of tunes and also traditions like ceremonial music, such as wedding tunes, that are found a lot in Scandinavia.

 

In Shetland it was very common to find tunes that were played on the fiddle tuned to AEAE rather than the standard GDAE and this was to generate more volume with droning on the open strings, which is very much like the sound of the hardanger fiddle in Norway. The extra volume was required as it was a solo fiddler that played for the dancing very much like Norway with the hardanger fiddle.  Sweden and Norway have some closely linked tune types also. The Polska in Sweden for example is very much like the Pols found in Norway.

 

You can find tunes in many parts of the world that are obviously a version of the same tune, which is very interesting.  I guess that comes from when people went to sea and met people from different countries and learned music from each other.  Our three styles are very different but we have a lot of fun blending the different styles and playing each other’s music.

 

PETER: You’re all so busy with other projects, how did Nordic Fiddlers Bloc come about? Whose idea was it? How long did the idea bounce around before you all decided to give it a try?

 

KEVIN: I live in Norway now and it was there I met Anders at various festivals and music events and we had a lot of fun socializing and playing music for fun at jam sessions.

Anders and Olav play in another group called Sver so they knew each another’s music from that project and it was through Anders I met Olav. We just had a lot of fun playing music together, and decided we would like to make it a bit more serious so we organized a tour in Norway and it was very well received so we decided we should do more with it.

 

PETER: Describe some characteristics of Shetland Fiddle.  What sets it apart and makes it unique from other traditions?

 

KEVIN: The Shetland tunes are very unique in my opinion. The style of them has influences from Scandinavia as well as Scotland and Ireland for example so they have their own sound.  We use a lot of droning on open strings, a characteristic of hardanger music in Norway.  We have specific bowing patterns like 1 down 3 up found alot in the reel playing which help give it the unique sound I suppose.  We have an ornament called “shivers” which I haven’t come across in any other place. It’s like a backward triplet! Hard to explain 🙂

 

Like I mentioned earlier, we have a lot of ceremonial music like Scandinavia such as wedding tunes and tunes that would have been only played at specific times which is not so common in Scottish fiddle music for example.  The reel is the most common type of tune in the Shetland fiddle tradition and a strong characteristic of many of the reels is key changes within the tune, for example if the tune is in D you would often find C sharps as well as C naturals within the tune which makes it very interesting to listen to.

PETER: I’m so impressed with groups like Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and RANT from Scotland.  You keep the tunes so varied and rhythmically exciting despite the fact that you are all essentially playing the same instrument. Are there any arranging challenges you run into with Nordic Fiddlers Bloc to make sure the three instruments are not stepping on each other’s toes and the tunes have a solid accompaniment?

 

KEVIN: That’s what makes the arranging process fun. It is hard to find the correct balance when as you say you are using essentially the same instrument.  It’s that reason why I think it’s important to not do the same thing throughout the tune and thoroughly the whole set. You need to look for different soundscapes to keep the interest for the listener. Anders and Olav are extremely talented at coming with fantastic harmony lines. It’s a big part of the Swedish fiddle tradition that 2 fiddlers play together and use close harmonies. It’s very beautiful.  The setting we enjoy most is Hardanger fiddle, fiddle and viola together. It covers a big range of sound.  As far as I’m aware I do not think there’s another group using that setting that’s playing the different styles we do.

 

PETER: What is the creative process like with the three of you? Will one of you come in with a tune and fleshed out idea of what he would like from the other two, or is everyone responsible for their own parts?

 

KEVIN: We all come with tunes that we think would work well for the group. Sometimes it doesn’t sit well so we just ditch it, but generally we all know what tune would work well for our sound.  We basically just come with a tune and play it for a while and see what happens and if there’s something we like, we record it down and build the arrangement up like that.  Sometimes the process goes very quick and other times it can take a while before we are satisfied.  We just throw ideas around and see what happens!

 

PETER: How do you determine what tunes will work well for the group?  I believe you play some American tunes in addition to music from your native traditions.

 

KEVIN: We have a good idea what tunes will work well in the different settings we use. We also like to play tunes we like from other places. The two American tunes are actually two of our favorite tunes to play.  The setting with Hardanger, fiddle, and viola only works together in certain keys with how the hardanger is tuned, so we know what will be good or not key wise beforehand.  But as I mentioned, sometimes a tune just doesn’t feel right so we just move on from it.

PETER: What are some important artists and albums you would recommend to people who want to delve into the world of Shetland Fiddle?

 

KEVIN: Shetland has many fiddle players as you probably know.  There are a great variety of fiddle albums from Shetland from very traditional to more contemporary.  Willie Hunter, who was my teacher, was arguably the finest fiddler ever to come from Shetland. He has made a few great recordings.  Also there is a great album released on Greentrax recordings of older players playing in the true Shetland style with a great variety of players from different areas of Shetland. Even though Shetland is a small place there were many different styles within Shetland.  Then there’s Aly Bain who is a massive inspiration for young players through his work as a professional fiddle player touring all over the world and making TV programs and things like that. He was a big inspiration for me.  I also play in a band called Fiddlers Bid and we play a mix of the old traditional Shetland tunes as well as more contemporary music and we have been lucky enough to take our music all over the world.

 

The solo album I released a few years back was an album of purely traditional Shetland tunes. I wanted to do that, as the music I keep coming back to is the traditional Shetland music. It’s the music I love playing more and more.  I also felt no one was making an album of purely Shetland tunes, unlike a lot of albums being released in Scandinavia and Ireland for example.

 

Chris Stout is a fantastic fiddler and a very dynamic musician who has made some great recordings.  There also players such as Bryan Gear and Jenna Reid who are amazing players and they have made great albums.  There are many great Shetland fiddle players and albums out which is great for keeping the tradition alive!

 

Nordic Fiddle Bloc will be performing Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 7:30 at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N Front St in Harrisburg.  Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/NordicFiddlersBloc.html. Visit their website at http://thenordicfiddlersbloc.com/

 

Peter Winter is a musician and writer based in Harrisburg.  Follow him on twitter @peterwinter38 and check out his band: http://www.seasonsmusic.com