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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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

 

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

LOW LILY SATURDAY, MARCH 11TH AT 3 PM AT THE FORT HUNTER CENTENNIAL BARN. ALSO! Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “Petting Zoo”

The string and vocal trio Low Lily, which explores the roots and branches of American folk music with traditional influences and modern inspiration, comes to the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg for a matinee concert at 3 PM on March 11th.

The concert will be preceded by a fun and interactive Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “petting zoo” (both free).

This would be a perfect event to invite those family members, neighbors and co-workers who may not be familiar with folk music! Low Lily members include Liz Simmons on vocals and guitar, Flynn Cohen on vocals, guitar, and mandolin, and Lissa Schneckenburger on vocals and fiddle. They are all masterful musicians and vocalists with deep relationships to traditional music styles ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, New England, and Old Time Appalachian sounds.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a maximum family fee for parents and children under age 23 of $25. Advance tickets are available toll-free at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For info visit www.sfmsfolk.org

This event is made possible with an “Art for All Grant” from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. Additional funding by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

We had a chance to speak to Liz Simmons who spoke to us about the band and their upcoming engagement in Harrisburg.

 

FOLKMAMA: We’re really looking forward to Low Lily’s appearance in Harrisburg and thrilled that you will be doing this special workshop to introduce “newbies” to folk music (and maybe teach the rest of us a thing or too also!).

LIZ: Yes, we’re excited too! We’ve been kicking around some ideas about the workshop and we’ve settled on a few things. First off I think we’ll talk about the backgrounds of the different members of Low Lily. Each one of us has a different way of how we came to music and there are some good stories there. For example, I started playing music because my dad put a ukulele in my hands when I was 4. Also, my parents are musicians so I was going to gigs from the time I was a baby.

We’ll definitely sing some songs together. We’ll hit on some from different regions in the country so that everyone can get a taste of the wide variety of folk styles there are in the United States. Lissa will do a traditional song from the state of Main where she is from and Flynn has done a lot of work in Appalachian traditional song, so most likely will do a song from that region. And I most likely will try a English or an Irish song so we can hear where a lot of American folk traditions are rooted.

We’ll introduce the instruments that we play and give some background about each. In general we’ll respond to the group that is in front of us, and go in what direction seems to make sense depending on how old or how young our audience is.

FOLKMAMA: And what about the concert? What should people expect to hear?

LIZ: We’ll do some traditional songs—you know songs that are so old that no one knows who wrote them but have been passed from generation to generation. We take these old songs and arrange them in a way that we feel is fresh; that presents the sounds that we like to make musically.

We also write songs, sometimes separately, sometimes together. There will also be some instrumental numbers. Flynn is a wonderful flat picker on the mandolin and guitar and Lissa, of course plays beautiful fiddle. So they’ll get to hear some of that beautiful melody playing. It will be a mix of up-tempo with some slightly slower stuff.

We do a lot of three part harmony, that’s a big feature of what we do, so that’s part of the sound as well. So audiences that like harmonies and choruses will be happy to hear us as well.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed Lissa Schneckenburger for a long time and love her fiddling [Lissa has appeared twice for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, as the Lissa Schneckenburger Trio and as the Lissa Schneckenburger Duo). I’ve heard her style described as “New England Fiddling.” What does that mean?

LIZ: It’s a style that, like all American folk styles is made up of a whole slew of influences. When you think of where New England is—you can kind of guess where the influences come from. You have the Quebec and the Cape Breton influences which of course is French and Scottish, and then you have coming up from the South old-time and Appalachian music influences filtering in. Then you have the Irish and the Scottish through the Boston channel. You might even hear a touch of bluegrass because Bluegrass is big in Boston area.

FOLKMAMA: Do you have CDs that you are planning to sell?

LIZ: Since it’s our first time in Harrisburg, our 2015 CD will be a new recording to audiences there. It’s our only Low Lily title so far, but are working on the next one. Before we were Low Lily, we had a previous incarnation and were known as Annalivia. This was before Lissa joined. We have a title that we sell from that era as well as solo albums.

FOLKMAMA: Have you been to any interesting venues lately?

LIZ: We just did a tour out to Folk Alliance International–which I always explain to people is a trade show for folk musicians. So we turned that into a Midwest tour. We did five cities on the way out, which was really fun.

We hit Rochester, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Fairfield, Iowa, and Columbia, Missouri. We did many of the Northeast’s folk festivals last summer, which of course is such a rich place for New England and American folk music. And we often run into a lot of pals too, and get a chance to listen to and hear new music. So even though it’s a gig, it’s still a lot of fun.

And this summer we’re traveling a little further afield and will do a tour in England and in California in the fall. So lots of great traveling coming up!

Irish Music w/ Mick Moloney, Billy McComiskey + Athena Tergis March 13, Hbg, PA

Three icons of Irish-American music—MICK MOLONEY (guitar/banjo/vocals), BILLY McCOMISKEY (accordion), and ATHENA TERGIS (fiddle)—come to Harrisburg on Sunday, March 13, 2016, for a lecture, potluck dinner, and concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert is at 7:30.

The evening opens with a 5 p.m. with what is sure to be a fascinating illustrated talk on “Irish and African Roots of American Music.” Mick Moloney, who will be giving the talk along with Harrisburg’s own LENWOOD SLOAN, says that they will focus specifically on Appalachian music and the music of the minstrels. “Throughout history there has been a close association between Afro-Americans and the Irish, “Mick told me. “Both groups lived on the margins of society.”

“It might be a startling fact, but 38% of African Americans have Irish DNA,” he said. “Both BARAK AND MICHELLE OBAMA have Irish ancestry.”

Moloney has taught ethnomusicology, folklore, and Irish studies courses at several universities. Lenwood Sloan is a choreographer and scholar of dance history with a special interest in minstrel dance. Additionally Lenwood has served as director of PA’s Culture and Heritage Tourism Program and PA’s Film Commission and is active with the arts in Harrisburg.

Mick Moloney has recorded and produced over 40 albums of traditional music and has been an advisor for scores of festivals and concerts all over America. In 1999 he was awarded the NATIONAL HERITAGE AWARD from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest official honor a traditional arti

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st can receive in the U.S. Billy McComiskey is a highly regarded player and composer of Irish traditional music. He has won FOUR ALL IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES. Athena Turgis has toured extensively with the Sharon Shannon Band and has appeared in the Las Vegas production of Lord of the Dance. She has also been principal fiddler for the Broadway production of RIVERDANCE.

All are welcome to a free potluck dinner before the concert. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. The lecture is included with concert admission. 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

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Following are a few more details from my conversation with Mick:

FOLKMAMA: Susquehanna Folk has been lucky enough to have Billy McComisky on our stage twice; once with Pride of New York (which features Cherish the Ladies’ JOANIE MADDEN) and Trian (which features fiddler LIZ CARROL). We haven’t had Athena play for us yet, but she sure has an impressive bio! What’s it like playing with these two powerhouses?

MICK: There is not too much more to say then they are the best of the best. They are just fantastic musicians and I love playing with them. They’re masters of their craft.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you been playing together?

MICK: About 10 years now. But we play in different configuration and sometimes with other musicians.

FOLKMAMA: What’s the music like that you play?

MICK: Well it’s all traditional Irish music, but between us we have such a huge repertoire that we can adjust to any situation. We don’t have to spend hours rehearsing. We just have so much stuff under the belt as it were.

FOLKMAMA: You might know that Susquehanna Folk has been doing a little bit of a focus on the banjo this season. You play the tenor banjo. I’m curious to know a little bit about the history of the banjo in Ireland.

MICK: Well, the banjo found its way formally to Ireland with The Virginia Minstrels in 1844, and it’s been a part of Irish music ever since. The banjo that we play, though, is the Irish banjo. It’s tuned an octave below a standard banjo. The tenor banjo is tuned like a fiddle, and the music fall on it fairly naturally.

FOLKMAMA: Anything else that you want to add?

MICK: We expect the concert to be fresh and lively because we’ll figure out what we’ll play a half an hour before! And we’ll enjoy ourselves immensely and hopefully everyone will too!

 

Yves Lambert Trio to appear in Harrisburg, PA January 10, 2016. An interview with band member Olivier Rondeau.

The Yves Lambert Trio

Hailed by some Quebec music critics as a beacon in the aesthetics of Quebec’s cultural heritage, Yves Lambert is a powerful singer and musician whose 36-year career has been full of risks and adventures. He and his trio brings the energy, multicultural ambiance, and colorful sounds of Quebecois music (a wonderful mix of Irish and French styles) to Harrisburg for a January 10, 2016, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Often seen as a veritable patriarch of the revival of Quebec’s musical roots, Lambert founded the legendary group La Bottine Souriante in 1976. In his 26 years with that group, Lambert was the link between its various incarnations and was its heart and soul.

In the summer of 2010 he joined with multi-instrumentalists Yves Lambert Trio and Tommy Gauthier in a trio that brilliantly demonstrates how traditional local music continually reinvents itself within a modern context.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 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 caught up with band member Olivier Rondeau and had a chat with him about the roots of Quebecoise music as well as the innovations that the Yves Lambert Trio brings to the genre.

FOLKMAMA: I know that Quebecoise music was heavily influenced by two groups that settled in Quebec; the French and the Irish, but how did the style first become popular?

OLIVER: The traditional music from Quebec just starts from the kitchen party. There were people down there that were playing fiddle during the night, just to entertain the people and there were singers too. And people go with foot tapping on the floor, just to keep the beat and all the dancers going crazy!

Mainly all the music influence is from Ireland and stuff like that. When people come, when there is a deportation, they come with traditional music.

Quebec music is a big ear training tradition and there are many different versions of songs just because they were interpreted differently. So extra beats, a lot of extra beats here and there [Known as “crooked tunes”]

FOLKMAMA: How does Yves Lambert fit into all this?

OLIVER Back in the 70s there was a folk revival in Quebec and he became really impressed with accordion playing. He’s totally self-taught. Yves helped to keep the music alive. He was an original member of La Bottine Souriante, one of the most famous bands in Quebec.

And now for over 40 years now he keeps going the tradition. He keeps on looking for new airs and new reels on the accordion. Yves role in the band is to keep it alive and to always bring new traditional music to the band.

FOLKMAMA: And what’s the instrumentation of the trio?

OLIVER: Yves Lambert is the lead singer and plays accordion: diatonic accordions and he has a chromatic one too. I play the guitar and kind of bass on my guitar and the response [Quebecoise music is characterized by call-and-response singing) , and we have Tommy Gauthier on the fiddle and mandolin, and he’s the [foot] tapper of the band. And he’s on the response too.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that the Cajun accordion and the Quebecoise accordion are the same.

OLIVER: Yes, actually Yves has two Cajun accordions that were built in Louisiana by Mark Savoy.[a famous Cajun accordion builder] Old ones. One is back to 1976 and the other one may be in the beginnings of 80s. So he is playing with those two beautiful instruments, both diatonic One in “C” and one in “D”.

FOLKMAMA: Does the band play straight Quebecoise music, or are you influenced by other styles?

OLIVER: For me, and for my generation , every music that I hear that has a good groove is an influence. So that’s the way it works. If it’s good music and we hear it, it could influence our sound.

And I could say since we’ve played more in the United States we hear other bands and we’re intrigued by their style. We love it so much that we put some in the last recording. When you listen to us you can hear a hint of old time, bluegrass, and the kind of rhythmic phrasing that you hear in Appalachian music

FOLKMAMA: Your guitar has a pretty distinctive sound and the times that I’ve seen you I’ve noticed a lot of electronics at you feet. What’s the purpose?

OLIVER : Mainly it’s so that the two lower strings on my guitar can be processed with an “octaver” to give an extra lower octave to the notes. The two lower strings have two functions; they are guitar and they are a bass as well. This creates a powerful sound.

When we all play together Tommy is doing the rhythm with his feet and playing the fiddle at the same time, Yves singing and. playing the accordion and I got the guitar and the bass going on so as a trio one thing that we love is to make the sound way bigger than it looks.

FOLKMAMA: What else would you like people to know?

OLIVER : One thing we love to do, Tommy and I, is to arrange music. We love the texture and we put a lot of work in the arrangement. We try to make each song distinctive; make it grow. So we work pretty hard on this.

When you listen to the song you can hear the roots of it, but there are a lot of influences that come to the music. There are a lot of surprises!

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