August 20, 2017 Laura Cortese and the Dance cards in Harrisburg, PA

Fresh from an appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards come to Harrisburg on Sunday, August 20, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

The band features cellist Valerie Thompson, fiddler Jenna Moynihan, bassist Natalie Bohrn and band leader Laura Cortese. During the course of a live performance the band switches up their sound—first sounding like a string band and then morphing into a string quartet, female a cappella group, or indie band, while still remaining true to their identity as folk instrumentalists.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Recently we had an opportunity to speak to band leader Laura Cortese about the band’s involvement with “American Music Abroad,” how they got their name, and their exciting new signing with Compass Records!

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FOLKMAMA: I know that you spend a lot of time abroad abroad and Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards has done a lot of overseas touring. Tell me a little bit about some of the band’s travels.

LAURA: As touring musicians, we like to take our music to other parts of the world where we can share all the genres that we do and also meet musicians who are doing similar things. With this band specifically, we’ve done work with the State Department with a program called “American Music Abroad.” The program is all about cultural diplomacy. We’ve had the opportunity to share American culture while at the same time learning about the culture of the country that we were visiting.

With “American Music Abroad,” we have been to India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Greece, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Estonia. But we also have toured to Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada, Italy, and Sicily. We’re always trying to connect with people who love acoustic music and are interested in breaking down any barriers that might exist between the stage and the listener.

FOLKMAMA: As a group that is so vocal heavy, do you have trouble getting your message across to people who speak a different language?

LAURA: When we visit a country, we learn a few phrases of the native language and will often translate the chorus of a song into that language, too. That’s been fun to do but, in general, I think the spirit of the music, the grooves, the melodies, and the emotion of each song is conveyed even without specific understanding of the words.

But we are also sort of lucky with speaking English in that English is the current spoken language which people around the world use to communicate with each other when they don’t have the same native language. So we run into a lot of people who understand our lyrics no matter what country we are in.

FOLKMAMA: When did state department tours actually occur?

LAURA: We did one in 2014 and one in 2016. Most often we were part of an International Women’s Day, at least in one of the countries. That has given us a chance to meet female artists in many countries.

In Ukraine, for example, we met the mothers and the wives of a lot of the men who lost their lives in their revolution which happened in 2014. Actually we were on our first cultural diplomacy tour when the Euromaidan Revolution began to unfold, and two years later we were there in Kiev witnessing the three year anniversary. And we got to meet the mother of Nadiya Savchenko, she’s the helicopter pilot who went down in Crimea and was a prisoner of war for two years. And we got a chance to meet the woman who led the medical station during the Euromaidan Revolution in the Ukraine.

FOLKMAMA: When you started the group, was it your intention to form an all women group?

LAURA: That came about really by chance. When formed the band in 2010, I had decided to do an all-string project that showcased the unique sound that came out of pairing my songs with the music of some friends of mine who I grew up with at fiddle camps. It was a much different style than other singer-songwriter friends of mine, and certainly my Indie-rock friends, but it felt true to my journey and my experience.

The first generation of this sound included fellow campmates Hanneke Cassel and Natalie and Brittany Haas, but it felt so comfortable to me that I began to shore up the concept and widen the circle of string players. By chance,  most of the professional players from my fiddle camp days happen to be women.

FOLKMAMA: Where did the band’s name come from?

LAURA: We wanted to come up with something that reflected the feeling of the band so we held a Facebook Contest. At the end of the contest, we put out every name that had been suggested and the name “The Dance Cards” came up on all of our lists.

It has really felt likes it’s a good fit. All of us that are in the band are drawn to some form of dance, either as a player or a dancer. Also, the name is reminiscent of all the dances in the past when the women had dance cards that partners could sign to reserve a dance. My mom had a dance card; it was part of youth. It’s an older tradition but so much of our music is so influenced by older dance forms so it fits.

FOLKMAMA: What will people hear when they come to your concerts?

LAURA: We’ll play a couple of traditional tunes but we play mostly original songs composed by me and arranged by the band. Our music is influenced by Appalachian traditional music, modern music, and indie rock. But it’s all within this acoustic string concept–so groves, as well as texture. It’s not just a listening show. We consistently ask the audience to engage in some way.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that you just signed with Compass Record. That’s a great label!

LAURA: Yes, we just signed with Compass Record for our new album which comes out October 6th. We’ve released one song and video so far and more to come soon. We are just so pleased to be on a label that has a curated group of artists who are making music that is truly unique and not just cookie cutter. When we look at the musicians on the roster, we see that they are not only all excellent but they are also adventurous and all authentic to themselves. Our new album is called California Calling.

May 13th, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, live in Harrisburg, PA!

Grammy-nominated fiddler Bruce Molsky, who has been acclaimed as “one of America’s premier fiddling talents,” brings his newest musical group, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, to Harrisburg on Saturday, May 13, 2017, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society old-time mountain music workshop at 5 p.m., potluck dinner at 6 p.m., and concert at 7:30 p.m., all at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. Joining Molsky in the Mountain Drifters are Allison de Groot and Stash Wyslouch.

“I was looking for a new voice,” Molsky says about the trio, “a new avenue of expression using old time mountain music as the jumping off point, but not being constrained by hard core traditionalism. Allison and Stash are showing me the way just where the music is headed, in directions I never would have imagined when I started my own journey into the mountains a long time ago.”

Participants in the free 5 p.m. Old-Time Mountain Music Workshop will learn about the fiddle tunes and songs that come from the rural south. Bring an instrument and your singing voice. There will be some whacky instruments to try such as kazoos, slide whistles, nose flutes, and spoons. For the free 6 p.m. potluck supper, bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

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 www.sfmsfolk.org.

Read below for an exclusive interview with Bruce Molsky

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FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed your career for a long time and you’ve performed for us a number of times and one of the things that I think about you is that you’re incredibly versatile as a musician. You know in terms of who you play with, all the different instruments you’ve mastered and the different styles that you play. You’ve played for Susquehanna Folk as a solo musician and then you performed with Darol Anger and some years back for a magical concert with Ale Möller. I’d like to hear a little more about the collaborations that you’ve done.

 

BRUCE: I think the first time I was asked to collaborate outside the genre that I’m most associated with, (old-time music) was with Mick Maloney–you know the Irish- American expert. Maloney used to run these big shows every year in Philadelphia and Washington for St Patrick’s Day. He’d always have these amazing Irish American musicians and he always wanted to have me too! You know he knows so much about the music and there is such a strong link between Irish music and Scottish music and so much of the American stuff. At this experience is what really put the idea of doing collaborations in my head.

 

The first time I ever toured professionally as a collaboration was 1994. That was with a tour that really changed my life. It was with a group called Fiddles on Fire and it was in England and Scotland. That was my first introduction to all these other kind of fiddle styles because there were musicians from Sweden and South India, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. That was when I first met Alasdair Fraser, who was on the tour with Kevin Burke, Chris Wood and Ellika Frisell. And it was Alasdair who first started twisting my arm about becoming a professional musician because I was the only one on the tour that had a day job. And one thing led to another.

Since then I’ve done all kinds of crazy stuff. Mosaic was the first serious international band that I was in with Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny and we’re actually working on putting out a third CD, which has been a long process but now it’s done. And Fiddlers Four with Michael Doucet, Darol Anger and Rashad Eggleston, that was really fun!

I started teaching around 2000 at Mark O’Conner’s fiddle camps. Mark of course would feature a whole bunch of different styles, the camp was meant to be all the different styles that had an influence on him. So there was old-time and Texas Swing, and Celtic music, and classical. And my association with Ale Möller led to the Transatlantic Sessions, which of course are a series live performances by various musicians from both sides of the North Atlantic. I did those concerts for about 10 years; both live and on BBC television in Scotland.

FOLKMAMA: I think one of my favorite You Tube videos of you from the Transatlantic Sessions is a lovely one that shows you performing with Scottish singer Julie Fowlis.

BRUCE: Yes, it’s really beautiful. That gets more views than anything else that I’ve put up on You Tube!

FOLKMAMA: Which brings us to your current group. How did you meet the two other musicians in your trio?

BRUCE: Well here’s how I met Allison de Groot. She was my student at Berkley School of Music. I was the only one that was qualified to teach clawhammer banjo as a main instrument. I ended up with her and she studied with me for three years. About a year and a half in we realized that we needed t be playing together. She’d come to her lessons and we’d study for ten minutes and we’d spend the rest of the time playing. Tony Trishka actually tapped me on the shoulder one day because he is an artist in residence at Berkley and he said, “You really need to be in a band with her.”

So we started thinking about it. Stash was also a Berkley graduate; he had graduated a few years before I got there. But Allison and I had decided that we wanted a guitar player that had deeper musical skills than the average folk musician, and we had Stash in and we played together a few times and the chemistry was there. It’s been a really education for me because I wanted artistically for everyone to be full members in this thing. They both have good ideas and they are brilliant players. Allison is writing some great tunes and Stash is a great singer.

FOLKMAMA: What sound can people expect when they come to your concert?

BRUCE: They are going to hear instrumental and vocal music; fiddle, banjo and guitar. It’s primarily Southern mountain music through all our individual filters with some very nice arrangements. So musical storytelling and dance music; some old, some new.

To learn more about the band visit http://www.brucemolsky.com/molsky-s-mountain-drifters

On April 20th Daisy Castro Quartet plays Fiery Gypsy Jazz in York, PA

The Daisy Castro Quartet will bring fiery Gypsy Jazz music to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York on Thursday April 20th at 7:30 pm during a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and Songside.com. The venue is located at 925 S. George Street in York

Daisy Castro is an outstanding interpreter of the Gypsy Jazz of the 1930s and 40s (in the style of Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli), and has emerged as a revitalizing force for the genre. At just 20 years old she stuns first-time audience members–continuing to enthrall even those that have seen her perform many times before. Her dynamic playing channels some of the early greats, while adding a modern edge Gypsy Jazz tradition.

Daisy will appear onstage with Quinn Bachand, on lead guitar Max O’Rourke on rhythm guitar, and bassist Greg Loughman. Quinn come from Canada’s West Coast where he performs frequently with his sister Qristina. He has been nominated a total of 16 times for prominent Canadian awards. Max O’Rourke and Greg Loughman play with the popular Gypsy Jazz group Rhythm Future Quartet.

To get a preview of the Daisy Castro Quartet, tune in to Good Day PA! at 12:30 pm on Thursday, April 20th on ABC27 or ABC27.com. The Daisy Castro Quartet will be featured on this “lifestyle” program.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available toll-free at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com. Funding is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. For more info visit www.sfmsfolk.org.

We had a chance to talk to Daisy about the music that she plays, how she learned it, and who she is currently playing with.

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FOLKMAMA: Can you tell us a little about Gypsy Jazz? Where did it start and where is it played now?

DAISY: Gypsy Jazz is a genre that was started in the 1930s in Paris by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. It has progressed and changed through the years to become more diverse than just the standards; like Nuages, and Minor Swing, to incorporate more world music. I’ve seen a lot of people putting Balkan influences into it. Sort of taking it back into the Gypsy aspect of it, rather than jazz. That’s kind of where it stands now as I see it; very mixed and very diverse.

FOLKMAMA: Is this World Music sound something that you also incorporate into your playing?

DAISY: Absolutely. Especially lately, I’ve been putting a Middle Eastern influences into what I do. Turkish music–Greek music. Lots of Eastern European type stuff so that goes along with the Balkan thing. I’m really trying to get as many different sounds into the genre as I possibly can.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve noticed that Gypsy Jazz is usually played in a quartet format; with a fiddle, a lead guitar, a rhythm guitar and a bass. Has this introduction of a broader World Music sound altered this standard composition?

DAISY: I haven’t noticed that so much. I know there has been evidence of clarinets and different horns in various bands throughout the years. On my latest album I have involved things such as an oud from Turkey and a bouzouki which is a Greek instrument

FOLKMAMA: What first sparked your interest in Gypsy Jazz?

DAISY: Violin was my first instrument. When I was 5 or 6 I expressed an interest in playing it. My parents got me a really tiny violin and I started taking lesions. I started with classical music initially, but the same year that I started playing I went to France which is where I discovered this kind of music. I didn’t start playing it until probably six years later. But I’ve always had an interest in it.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that you grew up playing in a family band. (The Infidel Castros). What was that experience like?

DAISY: I don’t play with them as much as I used to because I’m not it the area very much, but growing up I used to play a lot with them. We had a very diverse repertoire; lots of jazz standards. My dad would play some Gypsy Jazz stuff with me. Really a wide variety of things like singer/songwriter, folk music, even some classically inspired pieces.

FOLKMAMA: Since you started out playing classical music, I’m curious how you took the leap to being a jazz improv player. Was it difficult?

DAISY: I was vaguely afraid of improvisation for the first few years, but I think that was just a mental blockade on my part. It wasn’t something that technically would have been an issue if I hadn’t been sort of putting up a wall and making it more difficult for myself. But I know it’s very difficult to get off the page—especially the longer that you’ve stayed with classical music. But I do know many classical musicians who are excellent improvisers as well. So it really depends on the person and the attitude towards it I suppose.

FOLKMAMA: What are some of the experiences that you’ve had that have really pushed your music forward? s

DAISY: The most recent thing that has really influenced me is going to Brussels to study with a violinist named Tcha Limberger. I basically lived with him for a month and learned his perspective on music of all genres. We played lots of Greek and Romanian tunes together. I was really able to concentrate on improving my sound and improving my ear. Also touring with people such as Gonzallo Bergara. This has taken me to many places in North America and Canada. This year I’m going to be going to Russia with him and Panama.

FOLKMAMA: Tell about members of the group. Who are they, how does you know them?

DAISY: I have met these people in various places. Max O’Rourke, one of the guitar players, he also plays with Gonzallo and that’s really how I got to know him. And two out of the three of them were on the latest album. I met Quinn at a festival on Widbey Island in Washington State and I played with him a little bit and we stayed in touch. And Greg Loughman is a bass player for a band called RHYTHM FUTURE which is based out of New England and Max is also in that band. So they are really from everywhere.

This time we’re planning on getting together and having a day for rehearsal, basically playing as much as we can. Because they are not all in one location, it can get difficult for rehearsals but we have a lot of trust in each other and they are really good.

FOLKMAMA: What is concert going to be like?

DAISY: I think the audience can expect sounds from various places in the world and a mix of Gypsy Jazz standards and more world music type stuff. There is really not much that you can try to expect to be definitely happening because it is quite spontaneous sometime. But I think it’s a very unique sound. I think that’s its worldly and interesting.

FOLKMAMA: From looking at your You Tubes, I think people ought to realize how virtuosic all of your playing is. I’d like to say to the public, “If you are a guitar player…you ought to be there. You ought to come see those fingers flying if you are a violinist.”

DAISY: Our music can get very fiery! At the same time there are a lot of very slow pieces that take a lot of time to convey a soulful feeling.

FOLKMAMA: It’s says in your bio that the Gypsy jazz world is very male dominated. I’m curious if you’ve run across barriers, perhaps put up because of your gender or even your age.

DAISY: I have never felt anything in this community other than respect. I think it’s a very respectful community. I think there are a lot of people that come together to play this music that really have an appreciation of each other and what they are doing to keep the genre alive, which is from the past and has the potential to die out.

FOLKMAMA: Penetrating the Gypsy jazz world at such a young age must have meant that you have very supportive parents. What has their role been? What has it been like growing up with music as such a strong focus?

DAISY: My parents have always been extremely supportive of what I have been pursuing in my life. They’ve always helped me a lot along the way while still allowing me a lot of room for me to figure out my own way. . Music has been really the biggest influence on all areas of my life such as friendships, traveling and experiences that I have. I’d say that a huge portion of those experiences and things that I have gone through are because of music or related to music.

FOLKMAMA: Are you also a composer, or mainly an interpreter?

DAISY: I’m trying more and more to compose more pieces. Up until the past two years it’s largely been covering other people’s music and expressing it in the way that I would express it, but one of my goals for the very near future is to compose more of my own stuff, and I think I’m growing closer to that.

March 26, 2017: The Outside Track to perform Celtic music in Harrisburg

The Outside Track, a Celtic group performing Scots, Irish, and Cape Breton tunes, songs, and step-dance comes to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, March 26, 2017, at 7:30 p.m., at the Abbey Bar, Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street. The group features vocals, electric harp, flute, whistle, fiddle, and guitar.

For information on the band members visit http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/OutsideTrack.html

The Outside Track was named Group of the Year in both the Live Ireland awards and the TIR awards and was nominated for a Scots trad award. The group’s latest CD, “Light Up the Dark,” was nominated for Best Album in the 2016 Indie Acoustic Project Awards.

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 had a chance to speak to the band’s accordion player Fiona Black about the origins of The Outside Track and what audiences should expect.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that throughout the history of the band you have had members from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and the United States. Did you start out with the idea to become a Pan-Celtic band?

FIONA: It really didn’t start out as a concept band. We met in Limerick in Ireland at University. Originally it was myself and Ailie (we are the two Scottish members) and we also had a couple of Irish members at the very beginning and a Canadian member.

It has always seemed natural that we would play music from the countries that we were from. That’s how it came about and we have continued to do that.

FOLKMAMA: Would it be easy for an audience member to figure out the country of origin for the tunes or songs that you play?

FIONA: We all play music from our own regions and our own countries, but honestly there are many more similarities than differences between the music from Scotland, Ireland and Cape Breton.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe your performances?

FIONA: Well, they are really quite lively. About half of what we do are tunes and the other half songs.  We do different arrangements of tunes; some traditional ones and some that we have invented. Each instrument is showcased at different points and we all work together on harmonies and chords. The fiddle player is the dancer. She does Cape Breton style of dancing which is really close to the floor and really beautiful.

FOLKMAMA: Who is in the band and where are they from?

FIONA: Teresa Horgan is the lead singer and flute and whistle player. She’s from County Cork in Ireland. And then Ailie Robertson is the harp player in the band—she plays electric harp. She creates a lot of the bass lines and a lot of the texture as well. And she’s from Edinburgh in Scotland. My name is Fiona Black and I’m from the Highlands in Scotland and I play the piano accordion. And then we have Emerald Rae who’s from Boston. She’s the fiddle player and the step dancer in the band. She spent a lot of time in Cape Breton. And then Eric MacDonald is also from Boston and he’s the guitar player in the band.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you been playing together?

FIONA: We started about 10 years ago. Ailie and I are the two original members left.

FOLKMAMA: Anything you want the readers to know?

FIONA: We just put a new music video out on Facebook. We have another week in the tour and then off we’ll go to Germany. We’ll be back in the US in August!

FOLKMAMA: Is this the main gig for everyone?

FIONA: We tour about six months out of the year. We all have different side projects, other bands and different teaching projects and composing project—but for everyone this is the main band.

 

 

 

Old Time Musicians Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell perform in York, PA on December 3rd (PART TWO)

PART TWO–dirk-powell-smalldirk-and-rileyAmerican traditional music icons Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell come to York for a Saturday, December 3rd concert at 7:30 PM sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society to be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street.

This will be a very rare opportunity to see these two important folk music luminaries perform together.

The Powell and Baugus concert will be preceded by a 6 PM 45-minute square dance workshop with caller Kim Forrey who grew up in York County and now lives in Annapolis, MD. She has been calling dances for 10 years. There is a $5 separate fee for the workshop. Dancers are also encouraged to free-style dance during the concert.

Concert tickets are $24 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. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

Because of the expansive histories of each of these two old-time music masters, we will be presenting separate Folkmama Blog Posts for each musician. Today’s post will focus on DIRK POWELL.

A post on Riley Baugus, published on November 29, 2016, can be found here: https://folkmama.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/old-time-musicians-riley-baugus-and-dirk-powell-perform-in-york-pa-on-december-3rd/

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Dirk Powell has expanded on the deeply rooted sounds of his Appalachian heritage to become one of the preeminent traditional American musicians of his generation. In addition to his widely influential solo recordings, he has recorded and performed with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Jack White, Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

In addition to performing under his own name in a wide variety of settings, Dirk also tours regularly with Joan Baez, playing 7 instruments during each performance.

Dirk is a recognized force within the international musical scene. His bonds with Louisiana and with the mountains of Kentucky are unmistakable – but so is his far-reaching vision and ability to translate the essence of tradition to audiences who need the timeless and sustaining messages that tradition brings.

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society is privileged to be presenting such an esteemed musician.

Here are some of the amazing things that Dirk has done.

  1. COLD MOUNTAIN: Dirk worked extensively with Anthony Minghella on the Academy Award-winning film Cold Mountain included on-set consulting, arranging traditional and original music for the screen, performing the banjo parts of a central character, and acting.
  2. TELEVISION APPEARANCES: Dirk has appeared twice on Late Night with David Letterman and also on The Today Show and the American Masters series on PBS.
  3. RADIO: Dirk has appeared on the radio programs All Things Considered, World Café, Weekend Edition, A Prairie Home Companion, E-Town, Mountain Stage, and many others
  4. STUDIO WORK: Dirk was a featured studio musician on four recordings that won Grammys
  5. RECORDING STUDIO: Dirk designs and runs a recording studio that has been used by Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt and James McMurtry.
  6. Dirk was a founding member of the important Cajun group Balfa Toujours
  7. Dirk has been a regularly featured artist in the award-winning BBC series The Transatlantic Sessions.

Old Time Musicians Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell perform in York, PA on December 3rd

dirk-and-rileyAmerican traditional music icons Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell come to York for a Saturday, December 3rd concert at 7:30 PM sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society to be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street.

This will be a very rare opportunity to see these two important folk music luminaries perform together.

The Powell and Baugus concert will be preceded by a 6 PM 45-minute square dance workshop with caller Kim Forrey who grew up in York County and now lives in Annapolis, MD. She has been calling dances for 10 years. There is a $5 separate fee for the workshop. Dancers are also encouraged to free-style dance during the concert.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

Because of the expansive histories of each of these two old-time music masters, we will be presenting separate Folkmama Blog Posts for each musician. Todays will focus on Riley Baugus. Look for the companion Blog Post, this time on Dirk Powell, later in the week.

About Riley Baugus

For a long time Riley Baugus has been one of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society’s heroes of Appalachian old-time music. Riley Baugus is the real deal. He grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and learned fiddle and banjo as a young man from all the greats, especially Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. He not only grew up with old-time music; briley_lsr_largeut also with the deep religious singing of the South.

In fact it was his haunting and authentic singing style that encouraged producer T Bone Burnett to tap Riley for the soundtrack of the major motion picture “Cold Mountain” where he contributed key vocals and also made all the banjos that appeared in the movie.

He has been part of other big projects also, including appearing on the Willie Nelson album “Country Music” and the famed Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album “Raising Sand”.

Riley and his mentor Tommy Jerrell

Riley Baugus first met Tommy Jarrell (an influential fiddler, banjo player, and singer from the Mount Airy region of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains who Riley names as one of his biggest influences) when he was just 17 years old. Riley says that his first exposure to the great old-time musician was when he went to his house one time to play music. At the time Jarrell was 81 years old. (He died three years later.)

Riley says this about what he learned from Jarrell:

“Tommy had a lifetime’s worth of knowledge about all sorts of things. Life in general, tunes, how to play them in the archaic style that he learned as a boy, hundreds of stories about things that happened to him in his life, stories about his family, the community, other musicians that he played with over the years, where he first learned the tunes that he played, stories relating to particular tunes, how to attack a tune….. and the list goes on and on.

When you went there you didn’t just go to learn one thing. You might go with the idea that you would learn, “Sally Ann,” but come away with three versions of the tune from different time periods, but the stories of why it was changed at certain times and what the song lyrics in the tune meant. I learned and still learn from him about tunes on the banjo and fiddle and guitar and mandolin and singing that are from the 1800s that he learned from his father and his uncles and his neighbors.

To learn from Tommy Jarrell was like having a time machine at your disposal. He was in his 80s, learned most of his music as a teenager at about 15 or 16 years old, from men and women who were in their 80s and 90s at the time he was learning, so the information you were getting was one person removed from the mid 1800s, and to people removed from and even earlier time, likely the late 1700s.”

Meeting and playing with Dirk Powell

Riley and Dirk first met at The Galax Fiddler’s Convention in the mid 80s. They started hanging out in jam sessions together with mutual friends and became friends themselves. Through the years they have performed together often, although both musicians have been more active with other projects.

Riley has this memory of one of his favorite times that he played with Dirk:

“Dirk and I have played tunes for a long time, but one of the best times was a few years ago at Tonderfest, in Tonder, Denmark. You are literally playing for 10s of thousands of people at any performance at that festival, and usually on a huge stage with really big time professional sound systems.

He and I sort of went over into a little shed that was provided back stage at the festival, away from the sound of the stage and the other performers and the spectators and the whole big scene. We just played a Round Peak tune together. It was the most magnificent feeling to be there at that moment, just the two of us, right in the midst of that huge environment, playing with total abandon and pure emotion, feeling each other’s music and soul and talking with each other using the instruments as our voices. We knew we loved playing with each other and being with each other, but that moment was really special. “

 

Riley talks about old-time music:

“The performances of the music that I give today are not merely recreations nor an attempt at preservation, but a living, breathing example of music and tradition that still lives in the mountains near my home, where my family has been living since the 1700s.

In these mountain communities you can still go to several dances every weekend, jam sessions within the community, and to performances of old time music all over this area. It is not an art form that is dead and simply being recreated by people as a spectacle, but the music and culture of people from the Southern Appalachians. “

 

Riley talks about the church singing that is associated with the region where he is from:

“The singing that is done in the Baptist churches takes many different forms in the mountains. The style that is done by the Old Regular Baptists in Eastern Kentucky and the Mountain Primitive Baptist styles are similar. They sing old songs in a lined-out fashion. That is to say that a song leader “Chants” the first line of a verse and the congregation repeats the line to the melody. This continues for each line of each verse. That way no one except the song leader has to have a book or know the words to a song.

This method is also still used in the churches in the Hebrides, on the Isles of Scotland, except they sing the songs in Gaelic. It is called Psalm singing there and the melodies are very similar to the ones used in the Southern Appalachians for many of the old songs. “

Material for this Folkmama Blog was mostly obtained from the following source: http://nodepression.com/interview/hearth-music-interview-riley-baugus

Cassie and Maggie MacDonald perform in Harrisburg, November 13th

With a level of talent surpassed only by the joy they show in sharing music from Nova Scotia, siblings Cassie and Maggie MacDonald appear in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 13, at Appalachian Brewing Company’s Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. Celtic fiddle, piano, vocals and step dance will be featured. This is a sit-down concert in a listening-room cassie-maggie-promo-2014environment.

Born to a Nova Scotia family with a rich musical heritage, the MacDonald sisters have used their upbringing as a springboard for their own brand of Celtic roots music. Among their honors are 2015 Live Ireland Radio New Group of the Year, 2015 Chicago Irish-American News Emerging Artist Album of the Year, Independent Music Awards nominee for World Song of the Year, Canadian Folk Music Award nominees for Young Performers of the Year, two-time East Coast Music Award nominees for traditional album and trad/roots group album, and double Music Nova Scotia Award nominees for new artist and roots album of the year.

Their newest CD is called “The Willow Collection”.

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

I got a chance to speak to Cassie MacDonald about their music, which in a large part has been passed down through family traditions, and their efforts to preserve and keep vital the Celtic music from their region.

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FOLKMAMA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what audiences should expect when they come to a Cassie and Maggie MacDonald concert.

CASSIE: Maggie and I are sisters and we come from a small town in Nova Scotia that was populated by Scottish people who came over in the 1700s. Northern Nova Scotia, where we come from, is still very much entrenched in that heritage although the music has really taken on a life of its own after it was brought over from Scotland.

There are a lot of young people, ourselves included, who are really taking those traditions and bringing something fresh to it. I play the fiddle and Maggie plays piano and guitar and we both sing as well. We are also both [step] dancers, which we think of as another element of percussion—an instrument almost.

So there will be the instrumentals that we are really known for across the globe and also vocals in both English and the Gaelic language that we have in Nova Scotia. It’s sort of an interesting dialect; kind of between the Scottish Gaelic and the Irish Gaelic. It’s really grown and evolved in its own way. Especially in the music, there are a lot of beautiful songs that use this special dialect.

Visually it’s just the two of us but we bring a lot to the table with Maggie’s instrumentalist background on piano and guitar and the fiddle playing and of course the dancing. There is never a dull moment! We have a lot of fun.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about the repertoire. How much of it is traditional and how much contemporary?

CASSIE: Everything that we do is based in tradition –that provides the bedrock of what we do. But we have really taken it to a new place. We try to balance the traditional tunes with contemporary arrangements. Of course we are doing a lot from our newest album which is more contemporary. So we try to maintain a balance with old music, but present it in a fresh way.

FOLKMAMA: I’m really impressed with how BIG your sound is! It’s a bit unexpected for a duo.

CASSIE: We actually get that comment quite a bit. It just comes of out the kind of music that we play. It’s naturally very energetic. Maggie’s style of accompaniment is very, very full. She almost takes the place of a percussionist and a bass player. So she’s really covering a lot of bases with her accompaniment. And my style of playing is quite bold, not aggressive but very full I would say.

Our style of music, what we grew up with, was always playing for dances. And most of the time there wasn’t a really reliable sound system. But the dancers were still there wanting to give it their all, so you had to find a way to really fill up that sound so they could hear the beat and the rhythm in the tune and it wouldn’t get lost in the big dance hall.

FOLKMAMA: How does the music that you play differ from the Acadian and Quebecois music also found in Canada?

CASSIE: These traditions all have a lot of Scottish influences, and even in the Cape Breton music that we pay there is also a lot of French influence. The boundaries are kind of blurred and we’re always trading ideas back and forth.

I think if you wanted to understand the differences, it really would come down to the style of dancing. That’s what really drives traditional music from Nova Scotia—the dancing. Also, the foot percussion that is a defining feature of Acadian and Quebecois music isn’t really found so much in the Cape Breton style.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve visited Nova Scotia and it seems like in many families there are family members playing music together. How important has family connection been to you?

CASSIE: In our case what has really driven our whole career is that history of family music. When we play we always play a least a couple of set that our grandfather had recorded and would have played himself. And we always try to keep his personal sound alive because it was very unique and very special and we’re so lucky to have that legacy.

Both Maggie and I feel this intense responsibility to keep our family music alive, although we do play a lot of contemporary music and we’ve been honing our own individual sound.

FOLKMAMA: Do you feel that you sing together better because you are siblings?

CASSIE: Actually, singing is relativity new to us. We grew up in such a rich instrumental tradition with so many fiddle players in our family; singing wasn’t really part of the equation. So we’ve been on a journey ourselves to really discover, with our vocals, what we want to bring to the tradition ourselves.

FOLKMAMA: Why is the style of music so distinctive in Nova Scotia?

CASSIE: A lot of people have looked into that. Not just in Nova Scotia but in all the Maritime Provinces.  It was a very isolated but we also had a lot of people traveling on the sea; a lot of fishermen. So we did have influences from different cultures who may have planted little seeds here and there. For the most part the isolation has been a big part of keeping the traditions very pure.

A lot of the first settlers that came from Scotland weren’t concert musicians, they were farmers or fishermen. If they were musicians they weren’t necessarily classically trained, but they were there to provide entertainment and they were there for dancing. Because it’s dance music it has that intrinsic rhythm. You can’t keep your feet still!

 

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