Sat. May 12th FARA–trad music from four beautiful young women from Scotland, perform in York, PA

The Scottish group FARA, four beautiful young women whose three fiddles and a piano produce a fiery sound rooted strongly in their Orkney Island upbringing will be featured in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Saturday, May12th. The concert begins at 7:30 pm and will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York located at  925 S. George Street in York. This concert is part of the group’s first tour in the United States.

Tickets and information can be found here: http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/Fara.html Tickets will also be available at the door.

Fara brings together four leading musicians at the forefront of today’s Scottish folk scene – Jennifer Austin, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price. Their repertoire showcases the strong fiddle tradition of the Orkneys; a group of around 70 islands situated just off the northern coast of Scotland. The Islands were parof  Norway until the early 1400s, so Norwegian, as well as Gaelic influences, can be heard in the group’s music.

As is common on Orkney, they grew up playing music in Grammer School, and later all sought University degrees at Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Strathclyde University. First coming together as backup musicians for the popular Orkney group “The Chair,” Fara decided to strike out on their own in 2014.

 

The four contrasting personalities and individual musical voices in Fara make for a colorful melting pot, with each member bringing a different musical palette to the mix. With vibrant arrangements full of rich harmonies, energetic fiddle playing, and driving piano, Fara’s music is an exciting experience.

 

Using a mixture of self-penned and traditional Orkney tunes along with the stunning vocals of the group’s lead singer Jeana Leslie, Fara has been called “a new fiddle supergroup,” and “a real delight.” Their on-stage banter and musicianship routinely hold audiences spellbound.

 

A nomination for “Up And Coming Act of the Year” at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2015 and the success of their debut album Cross The Line in 2016 lead to a nomination for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Horizon Award. Since then they have played across the UK and Europe and are making debut tours this year in the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and Germany.

 

 

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through BrownPaperTickets.com or call (800) 838-3006. This concert is presented with support from Bob and Donna Pullo and from an anonymous Your Name in Lights sponsor and in cooperation with Songside.com and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York.

 

Funding for Susquehanna Folk Music Society concerts is provided by the York County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

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March 23rd, Tony Trischka & Bruce Molsky to play in York, PA

Two perennial Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert stage favorites—Tony Trischka and Bruce Molsky—team up for a dynamic March 23 concert sponsored by SFMS at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York. The fun begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3050250

Make it a Weekend!

Come for the concert and visit some of York County’s other attractions. Consider taking in a York Revolutions game, touring the Harley Davidson plant, checking out Central Market, or hiking on the magnificent York County Rail Trail! There is plenty to do in beautiful York County. For more ideas visit www.yorkpa.org.

Tony Trischka was named a 2012 United State Artists Friends Fellow in recognition of his work as perhaps the most influential banjo player in roots music world today. In addition to his accolades as a performer, he also is one of the instrument’s most respected and sought-after instructors, having created 15 instructional books and a series of DVDs. In 2009 he launched the online Tony Trischka School of Banjo. He has been a mainstay on A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, From Our Front Porch, and other shows.

A Grammy-nominated fiddler, Molsky has been acclaimed as “one of America’s premier fiddling talents.” Trained as a mechanical engineer after having spent time in Virginia and loving Appalachian music, Molsky decided at age 40 to try to make a career in music and has never looked back. Molsky has appeared on NPR programs including A Prairie Home Companion and All Things Considered and on BBC broadcasts in England and Scotland.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $23 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006.

We had lots of fun talking to Molsky and Trishka and interrupting their rehearsal just to learn what music they will be playing on Friday night and to find out if it really true that Tony played recently with Miley Cyrus??? Read on to find out!

FOLKMAMA: You both are very well known with stellar careers of your own, but I’m curious what people should expect during the concert on Friday evening?

TONY: Lots of instruments for sure. I play banjo, two kinds of banjos at this point. Bruce plays a whole host of things.

BRUCE: A couple of fiddles and a guitar and a banjo which I’ll sheepishly play with Tony. And we’ll sing.

TONY: Mostly Bruce! But Bruce is forcing me to sing, and I’ll do it. Just for you guys! And we’re doing a bunch of old-time fiddle tunes for sure and we’re doing a tune called “Green, Green Rocky Road” which was written by Dave Van Ronk, one of my favorite tunes. Then we’ll do a tune that Bruce wrote called Kilkenny which sounds like a Scottish tune but it’s not.

BRUCE: I’m going to tell the story about that song at the concert, but here it is.

Tony and I had a trio years ago with a guitar player Paula Bradley and we were sitting in rehearsal and Tony said, “Let’s play something that we’ve each written.” And I said that I hadn’t written anything. And Tony said, “You have one week to write a tune, and I’ll calling you every day.” So this is the tune I wrote.

I don’t know if you ever watched South Park, but there is a young character that dies every week on the show and he always comes back the next week. And whenever he gets killed, one of his friends says, “The bastards! They killed Kenny!” And that was the name of the tune. But Tony made me shorten it, to make it socially acceptable.

TONY: Right. And we will do a Celtic tune Sí Beag Sí Mór, a beautiful O’Carolan waltz and fiddle-banjo duets, guitar-banjo duets.

BRUCE: This is the overlapping diagram, the Venn Diagram of Bluegrass and Old-Time. Plus everything else that’s kind of rattling around in our heads.

Playing with Tony for me is a really special experience because first of all we are old pals and it gives us a chance to visit. Playing with someone that has a really strong musical voice who is amazing like he is gets me on my game and gets me thinking hard in ways that I don’t usually think. And we don’t do it often enough so that any of it is pat.

So that ‘being in the moment’ for me is a really big thing with this.

TONY: And I feel the same way. Bruce is truly amazing. His groove is just so strong when we play fiddle/banjo duets. I just luxuriate in the grove. I can stay there for 20 minutes, which is something I have to be careful not to do! I think, “Do we really have to stop now? Just when it’s getting exciting?”

Playing in Bruce’s groove is unlike any other situation that I’ve ever played in. It’s not a bluegrass grove at all. I just get lost in it.

FOLKMAMA: So how often do you get to play together in this kind of way?

BRUCE: We’re doing three shows this weekend. We’re playing at Godfrey Daniels and we’re playing at the Town Crier in Beacon where I live. It’s a three gig run. Bur your organization caused it! And it will be particularly “seat of the pants” for your show—in a good way—because it’s the first of the run. So it will be fresh, very fresh.

FOLKMAMA: So what are some of the projects that you both have been involved in recently?

BRUCE: Well you know about my trio, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters. They played for Susquehanna Folk recently. We’ve just finished recording our second CD. Hoping that it’s out late summer. So the Drifters are my main musical thing, although I’m starting to do more solo work.

I had kind of given my solo act a rest, and I discovered that I really missed it. So I did a show out at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, California this past week and it was the first time I stood in front of a mic by myself in awhile and I really enjoyed it. And of course, and Tony does this too, I teach at Berklee College of Music in Boston. It all adds up. I’m also doing a few shows with the cellist Mike Block. I like to do collaborations.

TONY: I just finished up a new CD, or whatever it will be. It’s actually supposed to come out on tape—you know reel to reel tape, believe it or not. There is a company that I’ve been talking to called “Red Wine”. I’m going to be recording a cylinder soon—I met this guy and he works at the Edison Historical Museum near here in South Orange, NJ where Edison had his work shop. And it turns out that this guy actually records new things to cylinder. So in the next few weeks we’ll do that.

But I am finishing up a CD and it deals with the Civil War. I made up this story about the Civil War that has some basis in historical fact. It has a march with a brass band and two string quartets and bluegrass fiddle, and I got John Loofka to do some spoken word. I’ve been working on this project for 10 years—visualizing all this. And then I have this on-line school—we both have on-line schools. The Tony Trischka School of Banjo, and I also teach at Berklee a few times in the spring and the fall.

And I did one gig with Miley Cyrus.

FOLKMAMA: What?? You did a gig with Miley Cyrus? How did that come about?

TONY: Well a friend of mine was first approached, but he couldn’t do it so he asked me. There was a big Elton John pop album that had all these big names, like Lady Gaga are on it. So Miley Cyrus was on there doing The Bitch is Back. And she wanted a banjo solo on there. They did this live show during Grammy week at the theater of Madison Square Garden so I played The Bitch is Back with her with Elton John’s backup band. He was in the audience, right in front, and after the show he came out and played. So I got to play one song with Miley Cyrus. And I got a banjo solo. Not everyone can say that they’ve play a banjo solo with Miley Cyrus.

FOLKMAMA: Amazing! So any last words about what we can expect?

BRUCE: The audience is going to hear some fun, ‘in the moment music’ played by a couple of old friends who want to have a nice time and enjoy it with everyone.

TONY: Just us reconnecting musically in front of an audience. We just love to play with each other and enjoy sharing that with people.

Tėada, from Sligo, Ireland to appear March 18th in Harrisburg (tunes, music + dancing)

“One of the most exciting traditional groups to emerge in recent years” Irish World

Coming from Sligo, Ireland the band Tėada (the word means “strings” in the Irish language) has achieved worldwide acclaim for its ability to stay true to the timeless, expressive force of traditional tunes inherited from previous generations of great Irish musicians.

Midstaters can experience Tėada in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, March 18, 2018, at 7:30 p.m., at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. The five-piece band expands to seven for this event with champion step-dancer Samantha Harvey and legendary singer and musician Séamus (SHAY-mus) Begley.

Tickets are available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3050248)

Téada first appeared in 2001 on Irish television, led by County Sligo fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada. Though still in their teens, the young musicians were driven by the timeless, expressive force of music inherited from previous generations.

The band was quickly cheered for “keeping the traditional flag flying at full mast” (The Irish Times). “A fresh force in Irish music” said Earle Hitchner in the Irish Echo, and Irish Music Magazine described them as “the strings that bind…a young band with a deeply authentic sound [at] the cutting edge of the next generation.”

“We try to capture some of the rawness and individuality of the solo artist tradition, within the dynamic of a full band,” says Mac Diarmada.

The original quartet is now often a septet with Seamus Begley, the elder statesmen of the group. From a famous musical family in County Kerry, named 2013’s Traditional Singer of the Year (Irish TV TG4), Begley brings a deep trove of songs as well as fiery accordion playing and wit.

Téada’s most recent release, In Spite of the Storm (Gael Linn, 2013), follows a string of acclaimed albums on the Green Linnet and Compass labels, and the first to feature Begley. “One of the outstanding releases in recent memory,” raved Daniel Neely in The Irish Echo. “Another typically thoughtful and thought-provoking excursion from a band still hungry for tunes– and, belatedly, for songs,” added Siobhan Long in The Irish Times.

The American tour is supported in part by Culture Ireland, a branch of the Irish government promoting Irish arts worldwide. For more information on the band visit their website at teada.com

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006.

To listen/watch Teada visit these sites:

AUDIO

In Spite of the Storm: https://teada.bandcamp.com/album/ainneoin-na-stoirme-in-spite-of-the-storm

VIDEOS

Song with Seamus Begley https://youtu.be/W2_-oHPm5C8

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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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