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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Nov 19. York , PA. Le Vent du Nord –Quebec’s Powerhouse Band!

November 19th in York, PA, Le Vent du Nord–Quebec’s “Powerhouse” Band!

Le Vent du Nord (literally, the wind from the north) brings the incomparable spirit and roots of traditional Québec music to central Pennsylvania on Sunday, November 19, 2017, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George St., York.

The award-winning and highly acclaimed band Le Vent du Nord is a leading force in Quebec’s progressive francophone folk movement.  The group’s vast repertoire draws from both traditional sources and original compositions while enhancing its hard-driving soulful music with a broad range of global influences.

 

 

This is Le Vent du Nord’s fifth visit to the area compliments of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. Three years ago their show was recorded live and later aired on WITF’s Center Stage.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $21 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. This concert is presented with support from Bob and Donna Pullo and the Quebec Government House in New York. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

 

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I had a chance to chat with Rejéan Brunet, Le Vent Du Nord’s fantastic accordion player about the band and what they’ve been up to.

FOLKMAMA: I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the Le Vent du Nord experience. What should expect to hear when they come to one of your concerts?

REJÉAN: For the people who have seen us or not seen us it’s always nice. For the people who have not seen us it’s a super good way to experience the old tradition in a new way. We do a lot of traditional stuff and also compose in the style of the tradition. It’s a good mixture of old and new.

Sometimes it sounds quite traditional. We use the traditional instruments: guitar, fiddle, and accordion and we all sing. The group is quite strong on vocals. We do a lot of harmonies so it makes the song really full. So it’s a very unique experience with Québécoise music.

And of course, the Québécoise accent is so nice when we speak English. After the third or fourth word that we say people are getting into it and very receptive.

We have been playing a lot in the states and in many countries where they don’t speak French. We play with words and we always have a lot of fun translating things.

FOLKMAMA: So can you talk a little bit about the unusual instruments that the group plays; the hurdy-gurdy and the jaws harp?

REJÉAN: The hurdy-gurdy is a very unusual instrument. Maybe people won’t know much about it. It’s like a wheeled fiddle with strings. There are traces of that instrument a long time ago in Quebec 200 years ago, but not that much. It was not so easy to travel with the hurdy-gurdy. But traditionally it’s been singing and fiddle when the colony first started. And jaw harp is a very old instrument, easy to carry, so it was more evident early on.

The other instrument that we play that would be interesting to talk about is the bouzoki. It’s quite a new instrument. It’s like the Greek bouzoki except without the rounded back. It looks very much like a big mandolin. Even in Irish music, it came in the end of the 1960s. It was, in fact, a mistake, a guy wanted to have another instrument, and someone brought back a bouzoki instead. He started to play on that and it became quite popular.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve read that about 50% of your music is traditional and 50% is your own compositions. I’ve also read that you like to find old traditional pieces that have never been recorded. Where do you find them?

REJÉAN:  It’s always different of course; the story of how we find each one is different for each song. It happens sometimes that we just have found the lyrics and we have to compose a melody for that. Many we go seek people who know a lot about the music or we go to the archives. There is a big University in Quebec City called Université Laval that has a super large amount of archives with old recordings.

FOLKMAMA: So I understand Le Vent du Nord is about to make a big change.

REJÉAN: Yes, the band has been together now for 15 years, and we’re excited at the end of December to officially expand into a quintet. We’ve asked fiddler Andre Brunét (seen on the Susquehanna Folk stage with De Temps Antan and Celtic Fiddlers Festival) to join the band. He’ll be joining the other members, Simon Beaudry (vocals, bouzouki, guitar), Nicolas Boulerice (vocals, hurdy-gurdy, piano), Olivier Demers (fiddle, foot-tapping, vocals, guitar, mandolin), and myself (bass, accordion, jaw’s harp, piano, vocals). A new album will be recorded soon, to be released during FALL 2018.

 

Saturday, Nov 4th, Pete and Maura Kennedy in concert, Harrisburg

Singer-songwriters Pete and Maura Kennedy, whose musical career spans over two decades and a broad musical landscape, come to Harrisburg’s Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, on Saturday, November 4, 2017, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 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 had the chance to talk to Pete Kennedy about how he and Maura met, what audiences should expect from a Kennedys concert, and what the duo has been up to lately.

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FOLKMAMA: How did you and Maura meet?

 

PETE KENNEDY: We met in Austin Texas, in 1992. I was playing in Nanci Griffith’s band, and I had a few days off so I went to Austin to play a couple of gigs on my own. A mutual friend introduced me to Maura, and we hit it off right away, as soon as we sang together and sensed that our musical taste and style was a perfect match up.

 

I left town to play a show up in Telluride, Colorado, and afterwards I phoned Maura down in Texas. We decided to meet up at the equidistant point. That turned out to be Lubbock Texas, and since we both love Buddy Holly, we decided that we would each drive the 500 miles solo from Colorado and Austin, and meet at Holly’s grave. So that was our first date!

 

Shortly after that, Nanci had an opening for a harmony singer in her band, so Maura joined and we developed our duo act by opening or Nanci all over England, Ireland and Scotland.

 

FOLKMAMA: How do you describe your music?

 

PETE KENNEDY: Our music is described by others as folk-rock, acoustic roots, and Americana, so any one of those will do!

FOLK MAMA: What kinds of experience would you expect audience members to have at one of your concerts?

 

PETE KENNEDY: Our hope is that the audience finds the concert experience uplifting and empowering. Our songs have a positive, encouraging vibe, and being a duo, we have a more energetic stage presence than a solo sit-down folk singer.

 

FOLKMAMA: What are some songs of yours, in particular, that are real crowd pleasers?

 

PETE KENNEDY: Maura’s newest songs are the ones getting a lot of requests, especially “Safe Until Tomorrow” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.

 

FOLKMAMA: You have three new albums coming out shortly. How much of Saturday’s concert will be the new material and how much will be older material and covers?

 

PETE KENNEDY: I take requests from the audience right before we start to play, and that creates the setlist, with the addition of any brand new songs or surprises that we insert ourselves.

 

We don’t use a standard set list, because we like each show to be different and spontaneous.

FOLKMAMA: You’re known for adding a lot of variety to your shows. What gear can we expect to find up on stage with you?

 

 

PETE KENNEDY: Well Maura will be on her plugged in acoustic cherry-red Gibson. I like to play “quiet electric guitar” and I make my own custom modified versions, so whatever I have bolted together that day gets played at the show!

 

 

Thurs Oct 19th, Friction Farm with The Robert Bobby Duo, Lancaster

On Thursday, October 19the at 7:30 PM Friction Farm with The Robert Bobby Duo will perform at the Ware Center located at 42 N Prince St in Lancaster. This concert is held in tribute to Robert Bobby, who is battling brain cancer.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $5 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available at http://www.artsmu.com, by calling 717-925-3729 or at the door.

Modern-folk duo Friction Farm is a husband-and-wife team of traveling troubadours. Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay combine storytelling, social commentary

 

 

and humor to create songs of everyday life, local heroes, and quirky observations. From ballads to anthems each song is filled with harmony and hope.

Making a special appearance for this concert is The Robert Bobby Duo, a perfect blend of folk, singer-songwriter, Americana and blues. Robert Bobby has been a staple of the Central Pennsylvania music scene since his days as lead singer for The S

peedboys, and has been favorably reviewed by music critics in Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Sing Out! and numerous other publications. Mrs. Bobby, who learned to play bass because she figured “it was the best way to keep an eye on Mr. Bobby,” occasionally adds background vocals.

We had a chance to speak to The Bobbys about the concert and their friendship with Friction Farm.

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FOLKMAMA: The Robert Bobby Duo is certainly well known in this area, but I’m curious how you met Friction Farm–then thought about performing together as a “Duo of Duos.”

MRS BOBBY: We met Christine and Aidan through the Folk Alliance conferences. Mr. Bobby had gone up to the North East Folk Alliance conference a lot before I even started going. The first year that I went to the South East Folk Alliance conference Aidan came up to me in the lobby and gave me this big hug like I knew him. Mr. Bobby told me who he was and then I met Christine too. We just hit it off. How do you explain a friendship with people? We just kind of clicked. So next thing you know they are coming to hear us and we are going to hear them. We’re hanging out at dinner, and then we are meeting some of the other people that they know from that region.

 

Both Christine and Aiden come from the corporate world, but then they made the leap of faith about eight years ago to cut the cord and play music full time. A couple of years ago we started thinking of doing a show together and that’s why we approached Susquehanna Folk about this concert idea. We hoped at some time to get a small tour together with them.

 

We like how they tour. They do a lot of house concerts and stay with people, but they also have a camper and stop along the way and see things. They are just not like drive-drive-drive-drive-drive. They always like to strike a balance in their life which appeals to us in the friendship. They are community minded and socially minded– just really nice people.

FOLKMAMA: So what is your plan for the evening for this “Duo of Duos” concert?

MR. BOBBY: The plan is to split up the first set and have each group play for about 20 minutes. And then after the intermission we’ll plan to put all four of us on stage and we’ll do a song swap. We might even be able to put something together, we’ll see.

FOLKMAMA: How do the two duos go about song writing?

MRS. BOBBY: One of the fun ways we have written songs is through song prompts. At the conference that we go to in Texas they have this process there—when you come in to register there is a jar that has song prompts in it. So if you are a songwriter you can pick a prompt and over the course of the three or four days that you are at the conference you write an original song. And you are going to perform that song at the final event of the conference which is a brunch. There must be 35 or 40 people that do it and its amazing what people come up with!

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell me a little more about the music of the Robert Bobby Duo?

MRS. BOBBY: We’re thinking because this show is in Lancaster that there are a lot of people who will want to hear his old band stuff, the Speedboys, so we picked some of those songs. And we wanted to do “Fine as Wine” because you like that one and because it was on last year’s Susquehanna Folk sampler CD.

Now that Mr. Bobby is taking steroids, we thought it might be funny to do his song “Anna” which is a love song to anabolic steroids. He used to do it with the Speedboys and there is a part in there that people are likely to sing along to. Otherwise we tried to pick one song from our various CDs.

One of his newest songs was a song prompt song two years ago before he got sick.  It’s called “The Movie of Your Life”. Joe can’t play it because it’s a finger picking song and Joe’s not really a finger style guitar player, but Aidan is going to do the guitar. We’re going to do that song the last one of our set.

Corn Potato String Band, Oct 15th, 2017. Hbg, PA

The Corn Potato String Band will make their first appearance on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society stage when they appear at on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg, PA. Tickets are $24 General Admission, $10 Students, and $20 Susquehanna Folk Music Society members. For tickets and information visit http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/CornPotatoStringBand.html.

The band has delighted audiences with their driving fiddle tunes and harmonious singing across the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and India. In addition to being champion fiddlers they play banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin and deftly handle many different old-time styles including ballads, “ho-downs,” country “rags” and southern gospel, specializing in twin fiddling and double banjo tunes.

Onstage they are infectious, fun, and VERY ententertaining! Aside from humorous songs and stellar musicianship, we’ll also get a chance to see a “crankie” (scrolling picture show) and some flatfoot dancing!

 

We had the chance to learn more about the band during a chat with band member Aaron Jonah Lewis.

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FOLKMAMA: What can people expect to hear when they come to a Corn Potato Soup concert?

AARON: We play old time music in a broad sense.  You will hear old time Appalachian tunes, Country Rags, Mexican Polkas, Early Country and some Western Swing.  We like to dig up beautiful and unique songs and instrumentals from the 1920s and 1930s.  You will definitely hear something you haven’t heard before, and if you have heard it before, we might do it different.  We recently have been featuring “Classic Banjo” which is a style of music that comes from the 1890’s-1900’s.  The banjo music of this era has a ragtime feel and reminds you of silent movie music, which is why we have our own scrolling picture show to accompany a couple of the banjo pieces.  We also can’t get through a show without letting Lindsay do some flatfooting.

FOLKMAMA: How did all the members in the band meet?

AARON: We all met for the first time at a Spaghetti Dinner in Richmond, VA, where our mutual friend was hosting a variety show.  None of us remember it, so the second time we all met was at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, WV.  Lindsay and some friends recruited Aaron and Ben to play Klezmer music for a latke party.

FOLKMAMA: How did the band get its unusual name?

AARON: The Corn Potato String Band got its name in the tradition of band names that evoke a bucolic setting with a suggestion of gaiety.  We have since realized that it gives us the tag line:  “The Ears and Eyes of America” which is kind of fun and weird at the same time.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little bit about the band members—specifically what they bring to the band.

AARON: Aaron is the Brains, Ben is the Face and Lindsay is the intestines.  Aaron and Ben played in a bluegrass band in Richmond for a long time.  They love to play fast and have great chops on fiddles and banjos.  Lindsay is a puppeteer but when she met up with Aaron, who is her household companion, she always wanted to be in a band.  She has managed to sneak some cranky shows and the occasional novelty song into the Corn Potato repertoire.

FOLKMAMA: Are you all full time with the band, or do you have other projects?

AARON: We are not a full time band right now.  We do have other projects.  Ben Belcher plays with the Hot Seats, based in Richmond when he can. Lindsay and Aaron play and tour with Roochie Toochie and the Ragtime Shepherd Kings.  Aaron also performs solo and plays with several other bands in and around Detroit and some Chicago and New York based projects when he can.  Lindsay continues to make puppet shows and works with puppet companies in Minneapolis and Vermont.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about any CDs which you have recently made. (Which concert goers may want to purchase!)

AARON: Our latest CD is called: “Good Job Everybody” and features a little of everything we do.  Highlights include a double fiddle polka, an old country song about UFOs, an original double-banjo “stomp,” and one of our favorite novelty songs about drinking too much from 1928.

Our three previous CDs are currently out of print but they are available on our website http://www.cornpotato.com. We will also have a couple of Aaron’s CDs from other projects available: Square Peg Rounders’ “Galax, NYC,” an all-instrumental album of traditional fiddle tunes played with fiddle, banjo and guitar, and lots of flair, and “Wild Hog,” an experimental/traditional album of classic old time songs and tunes played with fiddles, banjo, guitar and bass, in the style of old time musicians who also love free improvisation.

 

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

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

 

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