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.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

FOLKMAMA: How did the band get its unusual name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Jaerv at Ware Center in Lancaster on September 1st, performing folk and jazz from Sweden

Jaerv, a young group of five Swedish musicians whose folk music style draws from jazz, pop, and other musical genres come to Central Pennsylvania for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, September 1, 2017, at 6 p.m., at Ware Center’s Steinman Auditorium, 42 N. Prince Street, Lancaster, PA. The event is free and part of Lancaster’s First Friday.

This concert is presented with support from the Barbro Osher Prosuecia Foundation. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

A Jaerv performance features songs performed in beautiful five-part harmony, lively traditional dance numbers and jazz improvisation. Their instrumentation includes the nyckelharpa, a Swedish instrument also known as a keyed fiddle. During a recent appearance in the Harrisburg area, Jaerv appeared on WITF radio’s “Arts and Culture Desk”.

Below is an interview with Jaerv member Joel Hagen:

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FOLKMAMA: Describe your music. How much is traditional and how much is composed?

JOEL: I would say 50/50. However, all traditional songs that we do are also very much arranged by Jaerv so in a way they sometimes feel like own composed songs. Someone described it as: “The Swedish folk group Jaerv takes the elements of traditional Scandinavian music and reflects them through a modern prism, with an all-acoustic sound that nonetheless takes a bevy of tricky turns in rhythm and harmony that makes the pleasant rural melodies ring with a contemporary complexity.”

FOLKMAMA: What about folk dancing in Sweden. Is the dancing all couple dancing? What are the different styles called?

JOEL: Most of the dances are couple dancing but we also have what we call “long dances” that you typically dance in circles of four. The most common styles are polska, waltz and schottis.

Photo by Robert Yahn

FOLKMAMA: Where does Swedish music come from? Is it Celtic? Nordic?

JOEL: Swedish folk music has been influenced by a great number of countries such as Poland, Germany, Ireland and England. Also the Swedish church music tradition has affected the folk music.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about the instrumentation in your band. Which instruments were played traditionally and which instruments have you added?

JOEL: The fiddle, nyckelharpa and flute are the only instruments that were played traditionally. We have added all the other instruments. However, folk music is in a constant progress so almost all of the instruments that we play are nowadays recognized as folk instruments.

Our lineup is: JOEL HAGEN: flute, whistles, soprano saxophone, ewi, vocals, ANDERS BERGSTEN: double bass, keyfiddle, vocals, HARALD NILSSON: guitars, vocals, MARKUS GUSTAVSSON: fiddle, lead vocals, and TOBIAS HEDLUND: percussion

FOLKMAMA: This is your fourth US tour. Where will you be playing?

JOEL: Yes, this is our fourth tour and also the most extensive. Our full schedule can be found on http://www.jaerv.com but the highlights of the tour would be the House of Sweden in Washington, DC, the Swedish-American Museum in Chicago, and Scandinavian Fest in New Jersey.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about the nyckelharpa. What is it and how is it played? Is it very common in Sweden today?

JOEL: The nyckelharpa is a very old instrument. It is a mix of a fiddle and a piano, a fiddle with keys to be more exact. It is a difficult instrument to master and not compatible with so many other styles than folk music, so very few people today play or have even heard the instrument. A little bit sad because it is a nice instrument.

Photo by Robert Yahn

FOLKMAMA: How did you all meet?

JOEL: We met 12 years ago at the University in Göteborg. We started out as a quartet but after a year or so, Tobias, the percussionist, was added to the group.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you played together? Is it your full time jobs, or do you do other things?

JOEL: For us, Jaerv is probably one third of a full time. Two thirds are teaching and other musical commitments.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe what people should expect at your concert?

 

JOEL: Hopefully they will discover new sides of Swedish folk, maybe as one woman in the audience expressed: “The same glorious vitality and the feeling that the audience is constantly being surprised-there are five amazing musicians who handle the instruments in a completely brilliant way-in all kinds of music – from polkas to free improvisations, with both simple and more -intricate rhythms. The joy of playing/skill completely knocks me out, and the audience!!”

 

 

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

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