April Verch and Joe Newberry, December 7th, in Harrisburg!

April Verch and Joe Newberry, both respected folk music performers in their own right, will come together for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Thursday, December 7, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. The concert will be held in The Gallery at Appalachian Brewing Company located at the 50 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg.

Expect to enjoy some music of the season along with songs, fiddle tunes, and lively step dancing!

With all the success that each of them they have had, Verch and Newberry have never forgotten the roots of their music, the connection to members of an audience, on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song. Their collaboration is fueled by their kindred passion for bringing people together to celebrate traditional music.

Verch grew up listening to her dad’s country band play for dances in Canada’s Ottawa Valley. She started step-dancing at age three and fiddling at age six, and decided early-on that she wanted to be a professional musician. Joe Newberry is a Missouri native who has played music most of his life and a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

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 at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

We recently had a chance to talk to both Joe and April about the traditions that each of them loves, and how their music intersects.

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FOLKMAMA: Can you each tell me a bit about your early years and the folk music that you grew up with?

APRIL: I grew up in the Ottawa Valley in Northeastern Ontario, and I learned the style of fiddle playing and step dancing from that area. One of my best influences, especially in my early career, was my dad. He played old classic country music and he used to listen to the Wheeling, West Virginia radio. He was a big fan of that style.

It was really cool to find out that Joe had sort of a similar experience. My dad grew up listening to music from the states, and where Joe was in Missouri, people were listening to the radio from Canada!

JOE: I grew up in the Ozarks and then later moved to Central Missouri. Folks there liked to joke that they only things separating Missouri from Canada was a barbed wire fence! So like April said, fiddlers in central Missouri would listen to those late night clear channel broadcasts. So the tunes that we played in Missouri were really are a lot like Canadian tunes.

I think it’s because the settlement patterns in Central Missouri and the Ottawa Valley were so similar. We both had some Scots Irish, German and French immigration.

FOLKMAMA: I hadn’t realized that so many different groups settled in your area April.

APRIL: When I was growing up learning these traditions I was always told about the lumber camps, logging was the main industry when the area was settled. And the first immigrants brought the stories, and music, and dance from their homelands. The first settlers primarily working in the lumber camps were Irish, Scottish, French, German, and Polish.

FOLKMAMA: So I’d like to hear a little more about the Ottawa Valley style of dancing. The Rose Lehrman Arts Center just had Cherish the Ladies and they had three dancers performing with them. Two of the dancers were Irish step dancers, but the third was the Ottawa Valley fiddler and step dancer Julie Fitzgerald. And right away I could see a big difference between her dancing and the two Irish step dancers. She was much looser, more fluid. So maybe you could describe the Ottawa Style dancing a little bit to us.

APRIL: Usually when people just see me step dancing it reminds them of Irish step dancing or maybe tap or clogging. It was a wonderful opportunity that you had to see Irish step dancing and Ottawa Valley dancing side-by-side because the differences are subtle and difficult to describe.

And really the Ottawa Valley style has changed so much. There are a lot of contests in Ontario for the style so people are always looking for new influences and new steps to bring in. I feel like what Julie does is different then what even I grew up with. She’s younger than I am, so she probably has a lot more tap influence. When I first started touring and left home, more and more tap was coming in at that time. So it’s continuing to evolve really quickly.

FOLKMAMA: What kind of reaction are you getting to your performances together, especially those audience members that have never seen you as a duo?

JOE: We have gotten a really strong response so far, right from the first show that we did together in October, 2016. It’s funny. People came up to us at that first show and said, “Where’s your CD?” And so we went into the studio a month and a half later and recorded our first CD. And as you do during holiday time for stocking stuffers, we will have them available.

FOLKMAMA: I see both of you as being very dynamic performers, visually, as well as in other ways. I’m thinking part of it is just the chemistry as well as the music.

JOE: April and I both work with other folks. She has the great April Verch Band and I play with Mike Compton and also with some of the original members of the Red Clay Ramblers. We have a mutual friend, and she kept saying to me,” Boy you sure would play great with April.” And Janet was saying the same thing to April. In the meantime people heard about it and we actually got a few dates before we even got started! And so it’s like, “Well OK, here it is! We better step to it.”

FOLK MAMA: I saw your clips from Celtic Colors, which were fabulous. Is that the biggest festival that you’ve done together or have you done a string of them?

APRIL: Gosh, it does seem that we’ve done a lot in the short time that we have been together. Celtic Colors was one of our first performances together. I think we had only played a handful of shows before then. We have played a bunch of theaters and listening rooms and some other festivals and we’ve got  a lot of things coming up overseas next year and so I think that’s part of what we like about it is the variety of different venues and audiences that we are able to connect with.

FOLK MAMA: What should people expect to hear when they see you?

JOE: The thing that strikes us and the thing that strikes our audiences is that we are having a ball! And when you start from that point it just goes on from there. In our holiday show especially. Folks will hear original songs that April and I have both written–we both like telling an old story a new way. We love writing about this time of year.

FOLKMAMA: How much holiday music will you play and how much of your standard repertoire?

APRIL: It will depend a little on the night, how we are feeling and how the audience is responding. As Joe said there is a blend of vocals and of instrumentals and the dancing and so sometimes even though a fiddle tune is called “Christmas Eve” it’s still a fiddle tune. Adding some holiday songs just makes sense to us. It’s something that we grew up with this time of year.

 

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