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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOLKMAMA: What first sparked your interest in Gypsy Jazz?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOLKMAMA: What is concert going to be like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 1st in York, PA: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and Hula with Keola Beamer & Jeff Peterson, with Moanalani Beamer

Hawaiian slack key guitar master and legend Keola Beamer, who has stretched the boundaries of slack key guitar music while remaining true to the soul of its deeply Hawaiian roots, comes to York, Pennsylvania, for an April 1st Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society of York, 925 S. George Street. He will be joined by his wife, Moanalani, a hula dance master and musician, who will lead a free hula dance workshop at 5 p.m., and by slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson.

Working together, Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson present a concert of superb guitar playing that explores the resonant, multi-cultural beauty of Hawaiian music. They will be accompanied by Moanalani Beamer, who brings hula and Hawaiian chants to the stage, and adds musical texture with ancient Hawaiian instruments.

At the free 5 p.m. hula workshop, Moanalani will teach basic hula movements, including hand motions that are used to tell a story. Learn about the close relationship between hula dance and nature.

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.

Below is a story about Slack Key guitar which features quotes by Keola and Moanalani Beamer and information about their performance. The story appeared in The Burg Magazine, used by permission.

 

 

Some of the sweetest, most melodious guitar music can be found in Hawaii, and Keola Beamer is considered to be the foremost master of the style of guitar playing called Slack Key. He has been exploring this beautiful traditional music, which uses open tunings and loosened strings, for the past 35 years.

It is only in Beamer’s lifetime that Slack Key guitar music has been played outside of the home. “It used to be that a dad would come home from work, take off his boots and pick up his guitar. It was really a back door kind of thing.” Beamer said in a recent interview. “Families would be very secretive about the songs that they knew and the tunings they used. If you weren’t a member of the family and wanted to learn the music, well just forget it.”

All this changed when pianist George Winston fell in love with Slack Key guitar music and decided to record Slack Key musicians for his record company Dancing Cat. “He’s a very able musicologist and preservation was his object “said Keola’s wife Moana. “He especially wanted to be sure to record the older musicians.  He wanted a chance to meet with them and talk to them before they weren’t here anymore.”

It was through these Slack-Key guitar compilations that Slack-Key guitar music began to gain popularity outside of Hawaii. “We never could have toured before the records were released” said Beamer.  “We tried, but we just couldn’t get out of Hawaii. Nobody knew what it was, nobody sold it. And all of a sudden the music was in Borders. And then the whole touring thing opened up for us.”

Slack Key guitar music can be played on any standard guitar, although the magnificent guitars that Beamer tours with were built by a German luthier and designed to be able to project more sound. There are approximately 46 different tunings, and each one conveys a different feeling or tonal pallet. “The true art of the Stack Key guitar is to match the tuning with song. It has to elevate the piece” says Beamer.

On Saturday, April 1 Keola Beamer, Jeff Peterson and Moanalani Beamer will give a performance of Hawaiian Slack-Key guitar and hula at 7:30 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York. Moana Beamer, an experienced hula dancer who began her training at age four, will lead a hula dance workshop at 5 PM during which she hopes to show people “how varied,  rich and wonderful hula is.”During a concert Keola and Jeff will play guitar and sing in Hawaiian and English while Moana plays traditional percussion instruments, recites poetry and dances.

These events are sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and are funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and Bob and Donna Pullo.

Pride of New York (Irish music w/ Joanie Madden, Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway + Brendan Dolan) coming to York, PA January 15. Read about the members!

As our first concert of 2017 the Susquehanna Folk Music Society offers the very rare opportunity to hear an Irish-American super-group with some of the best-known players on this side of the Atlantic Ocean!  Described as “a killer ceili band,” Pride of New York has members who have won pride-of-new-yorkfour all-Ireland championship awards, recorded multiple solo albums, and logged countless miles touring across the U.S. and abroad.

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York, PA.

Concert tickets are $27 General Admission, $23 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

Read below to learn about these fantastic musicians and their impressive accomplishments!

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Joanie Madden

Joanie Madden is the award winning whistle and flute player who, aside from playing in The Pride of New York, is the leader of Cherish the Ladies. Joanie is the first American to win the Senior All-Ireland championship on the tin whistle and is the youngest member to be inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame. Committed to promoting and preserving Irish culture in America, she was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; an award that pays homage to the immigrant experience. Joanie has played on hundreds of albums and is the top selling whistle player in history having sold over 500,000 solo albums. Joanie Madden is online at Cherish the Ladies.com.

Billy McComiskey

Billy McComiskey has been called the finest and most influential Irish button accordion players to ever emerge from the United States. A Brooklyn native, he started studying accordion with the late Sean McGlynn from Galway and in 1986 won the All-Ireland Senior title. Billy has played with Greenfields of America, Irish Tradition and the internationally acclaimed Trian. In June of 2016 he was named a NEA National Heritage Fellow, the highest honor bestowed to a traditional musician in the United States. Billy McComiskey is online at Compass Records.com

Brian Conway

A New York born fiddler, Brian is a leading exponent of the tastefully ornamented Sligo fiddling style. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, he has been called one of the best fiddlers of his generation. His latest CD, First through the Gate, is a long-awaited and stunning solo debut which exemplifies the versatility that characterizes his concert performances and festival appearances. Visit Brian Conway at his website.

Brendan Dolan

Brendan Dolan is one of the most respected and inventive keyboardists in Irish music today. He has worked with accordionist John Whelan, singer/songwriter Cathie Ryan, Andy Statman and Itzhak Perlman, and can be heard on the latest recordings of Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway and The Green Fields of America. Brendan has recently completed a Master’s degree in Irish and Irish-American Studies at NYU, where he currently works as an archivist on the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Collection.

 

Interview w/RUNA who will perform in York, PA on February 13, 2016

The five-person Celtic band Runa, which interweaves the haunting melodies and exuberant tunes of Ireland and Scotland with the lush harmonies and intoxicating rhythms of bluegrass, flamenco, blues, and jazz, comes to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York on Saturday, February 13, 2016, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

The band includes vocalist and step-dancer Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia; Dublin-born guitarist Fionán de Barra; Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion; Dave Curley of Galway on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing; and Maggie Estes White of Kentucky on the fiddle. Runa members have played with Solas, Riverdance, Slide, Clannad, Fiddlers’ Bid, Moya Brennan, Eileen Ivers, Hazel O’Conner, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Barcó, Téada, Jonathan Edwards, and the Guy Mendilow Band.

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. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

I got the chance to chat with Shannon Lambert-Ryan, lead singer and step dancer with the band.

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FOLKMAMA: Tell me some things about how the band formed and how long you’ve been together.

SHANNON: The band has been together for about 7 and ½ years. It started with what was supposed to be a side recording project. Fionán (who I had met at the Philadelphia Folk Festival) and Cheryl (who I had met around the same time) and I decided to record an album together at Fionán’s studio in Dublin. At the time we were all working with other bands, but we just looked at each other after the record was done and said “This is really special, we should do this more often.”

So at first we did most of our gigs as a trio, occasionally bringing in some really terrific guest musicians that helped us to stretch out beyond the “only traditional” music world. So we were able to add some jazz and bluegrass elements to our sound.

FOLKMAMA: So when did the other members of your current line-up join?

SHANNON: Maggie and Dave came a bit later. We met Dave through Fionán’s brother Eamon, who is in a band called Slide. A little bit later when the jazz fiddle player that we had been working with was moving on her way, we asked Maggie to join. It all just kind of fell into place.

FOLKMAMA: The band has some really lovely CDs. Have you recorded with this current composition?

SHANNON: We’ve done four CDs in total, the last two are really representative of that quintet sound. The full line up is on the fourth CD.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about yourself. How did you get your start in music and dance?

SHANNON: I started as a step dancer when I was about 5 or 6 in Philadelphia. I had gone with my parents to a festival and I had seen a bunch of people step dancing and I said, “That’s what I really want to do!” Both of my parents were Appalachian Cloggers and loved folk music so I grew up surrounded by traditional and cultural music from around the world.

I love lots of different kinds of music from all different time periods, but there is just something about Irish music that has been home for me in many ways.

I majored in history and theater and music, and everyone told me that I really had to choose one, although I didn’t really want to. I feel though that I’m really lucky because I’ve found a way to really incorporate all three of them into what I do with the band. Obviously I’ve incorporated music, but history too because lot of research goes into the music, whether it’s the songs or the tunes.

Then the performance aspect—there is a lot drama in all of the songs. The theater and the acting have really come in handy in terms of conveying that to the audience. People often look to me and they say, “You’re the singer. You’re the one that is presenting the story,”and the truth is that it’s a story that the whole band is telling.

FOLKMAMA: Musicians have the opportunity to go to some unusual places. What are some of the experiences that have really stood out for your?

SHANNON: Well, lots of things. We got a chance to do a cameo appearance at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for a St Patrick’s Day Celebration and we’ve had musicians like Ron Block for Alison Krauss and Union Station and Ricky Skaggs on stage with us.

We’ve also gotten to play the National Anthem at a couple of different baseball stadiums; twice for The Phillies and once for the Diamondbacks out in Arizona. And a couple of years ago we recorded a music video out at the Grand Canyon—literally about a foot or two from the drop off!

FOLKMAMA: And the band has won some pretty impressive awards too, right?

SHANNON: Yes, we won Top Group and Top Traditional Group in the Irish Music Awards and an Independent Music Award for Best World/Traditional Song. Were just totally honored and floored to be recognized like that. You know you play music because you love playing music, not really to go after the glory. But when those special moments come along it really validates whet you are doing.

FOLKMAMA: What would audiences expect to see when they come to one of your concerts?

SHANNON: We like think of our shows as opening up our living room to everyone so that we can all join in for that session, in for that party.

At the end of performances people always say, “You look like you are having so music fun up there!”RUNA Promo Photo 2013

Photo Credi

Photo Credit Bob Yahn

Photo credit Bob Yahn

Photo credit Bob Yahn

The Quebe Sister Band heads to York PA January 26th with a surprising new line-up

T_QuebeSistersThe Quebe Sisters Band will bring their refreshing blend of western swing, jazz, vintage country and three-part harmony vocals to Marketview Arts in York, PA on Sunday, January 26, 2014 for a Matinee Concert at 4:00 pm. The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and will be recorded for broadcast on WITF-FM’s “Center Stage” radio program.

Marketview Arts is located at 37 W. Philadelphia Street in York, PA. Tickets are $22 and can be purchased at http://www.sfmsfolk.org or by calling 800-838-3006.

In 1998 the Quebes heard Texas style fiddling for the first time at a fiddle contest in Denton, Texas. At ages 7, 10 and 12 they started taking fiddle lessons from Joey and Sherry McKenzie. From the start, all three sisters demonstrated talent, determination and a love for the music. Soon afterwards, the girls began competing in fiddle contests and had success early on; winning regional, State and National championships.

The girls soon took their act on the road, accompanied by the driving rhythm of Joey McKenzie on guitar and Galvin Kelso on bass. Through the years they have played at the Grand Ole Opry, the Kennedy Center, NYC’s Lincoln Center, The Birchmere, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the National Folk Festival. In addition, the QSB has appeared in concert with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, Riders in the Sky, and Marty Stuart. They have also had the pleasure of playing with billionaire/ukulele enthusiast Warren Buffett and had the honor of performing for President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

During a recent interview Grace Quebe talks about the group’s new CD, the marriage of the youngest Quebe sister, Hulda and the band’s surprising new line-up.

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FOLKMAMA: We’re really looking forward to your performance in York, PA! It seems like there are a lot of new things happening with the Quebe Sister Band. First off, I’m wondering if you can tell me some things about your new CD?

GRACE: We’ve just got our new CD back from the printer. (“Every Which-Away”, release date February 11th) It’s come within the last few days and we’re really excited about it! We’ve been working on this project for awhile. We recorded it in about two weeks or so. But it’s taken a long time to finish in between touring and trips in the summer. There are so many people who helped us with this project. We’ve had great engineers, and everyone who did the art work were great. It was produced by Joey McKenzie and mastered by him too. But we’re really happy with the quality.

FOLKMAMA: Is it very similar in style to your last CD, or have you made some changes?

GRACE: It’s very similar to our last CD “Timeless” because, up until this point, it featured our current band and it’s a lot of straight ahead Western Swing and jazz. It’s a really good representation of what we have been doing. All of the songs we are still playing and will continue to play because we have them on this album. So when people come out to a show they are going to be hearing quite a few songs on this record. It’s really an accurate representation of what we have been doing and the different styles that we have been playing.

FOLKMAMA: And will you have it available when you come to play in York?

GRACE: We sure will.

FOLKMAMA: You’ve recently made a line-up change that may be a big surprise to a lot of people. Tell me a little bit about the musicians that you will be bringing with you to York?

GRACE: Our guitar player Joey McKenzie and our bass player Galvin Kelso really provided a solid rhythm team, but we just decided it was time to to pursue some different avenues. Joey was definitely interested in doing some more teaching which was really hard for him to do with all the touring that we do. So we decided to go ahead and make a change which which allows him to do what he wanted to do.

We first met our new band mates Penny Lea and Katy Lou Clark (they’re twins) at the Grand Old Opry where they were working. We played there one night and we met them at a CD signing and we found out that they were from Texas and we told them to come on over if they were ever at home visiting family. So a few Christmases ago they dropped by to see us and we had so much fun and just got to be such great friends! So when they found out that we were going to be making these changes in our band that said that they’d like to help us out at least for 2014. And then we’ll see.

So Penny and Katy will be playing with our band and when they go to Nashville they play with their brother in a band called the Purple Hulls. They recently moved to Texas to be with their parents because their dad was sick and has since passed away. Maybe sometime they’ll move to Nashville, but for now they live in Texas.

FOLKMAMA: So how has working with Katy and Penny altered your sound?

GRACE: Well I think we’ve learned to adapt to the players. We actually now have a broader range of instruments to work with. Penny plays the mandolin and the guitar and Katy’s playing banjo and plays accordion and piano as well. This concert in York will be one of the first that we’ll play together as a band.

FOLKMAMA: And the twins are young too, like the three of you are?

GRACE: They are my age, 27. I’m the oldest. My sister Sophia is 26 and Hulda is 23.

FOLKMAMA: And I believe one of you is married.

GRACE: Yes, it’s my youngest sister Hulda. She got married this past year. She married a fiddle player.

FOLKMAMA: And has that changed the amount that you can tour?

GRACE: Actually no because Hulda’s husband is just finishing up school. I think he’s going to graduate this spring. So he’s working really hard to finish up school and he’s really busy They were dating all the while that we were touring for the past several years so they’re quite used to that schedule–traveling all all that.

FOLKMAMA: So you are all full time, on the road then. Do you also teach and do other things?

GRACE: You know I have taught in the past. I was helping out Sherry McKenzie, Joey’s wife who was teaching fiddle at some schools and we helped her out with that for several years–that’s when we were in high school. Then our band got so busy that and our schedule became so sporadic so that it was hard for us to have a weekly schedule at the school. So ever since then we’ve just been in the band.

FOLKMAMA: So what are your goals now as you and your sisters are getting older?

GRACE: Well. we just want to keep on playing. We’re having so much fun and we’re doing things that we didn’t really plan –but just naturally happened. We’re enjoying it, and if others are enjoying it that’s all the more reason to keep doing it too. We’re looking forward to 2014 to see what comes along!

To find out more about the Quebe Sisters Band visit http://www.quebesistersband.com. Information about Penny and Katy Clark can be found at http://thepurplehulls.com.

The Trio Brother Sun to Appear, Give Workshop in York, PA January 26th

The all-male trio BROTHER SUN will perform at 7:30 PM on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at Marketview Arts located on 37 W. Philadelphia Street in York, PA.

A Community Singing Traditions workshop will focus on songs of social conscience from 3:30-5:30 PM. Tickets for the concert are $20 for general audiences and $10 for students and can be bought online through visiting

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/265706. The workshop is free. Attendees of the workshop are encouraged to join us for dinner at the White Rose Bar and Grill (right across the street!) and stay for the concert.

Greg Greenway and Pat Wictor have made their mark as veteran touring singer-songwriters. The trio’s harmonies, as much as their lyrics, tell what they are about: warm as a campfire, stirring as a gospel church, rousing as a call to arms. Fusing folk, Americana, blues, pop, jazz, rock, and a cappella singing, Brother Sun is an explosion of musical diversity and harmony, in the finest of male singing traditions. From three major points on the map — Chicago, Boston, and New York — Joe, Greg, and Pat celebrate the amazing power of singing together, their rich voices blending on a well-crafted foundation of guitar, slide guitar, bouzouki and piano.

I caught up with the group recently and had a delightful chat with them about their music and what they hope to bring to audiences.

FOLKMAMA: If someone would walk into a concert and they would have no idea who you were and might not even know anything about folk music–your concert might even be their first venture into folk and acoustic music, what kinds of things should people expect from your concerts?

BROTHER SUN: Harmony. Good harmony. Powerful harmony. The kind that makes you feel uplifted.

GREG GREENWAY: Yeah, I’ve been working on the 21st Century media answer to that question and it’s “Harmony, harmony. Feel good., feel good. Feel free.”

FOLKMAMA: So, what about the song selection. Are they all self-penned or do you do some covers?

JOE JENCKS: A lot of our song are originals. But you know there is such a wealth of material in the world, and not just in folk. So we touch on jazz, we touch on pop and rock. We touch on some unexpected things over the course of an evening.

FOLKMAMA: So listening to you, I wouldn’t necessarily call you a folk band. Do you have any particular genre that you identify with the most or would you just say that it is a mixture of different styles of music?

JOE JENCKS: Our biggest criteria is that it be good music. You know one of the interesting thing about Brother Sun is that we all come from diverse backgrounds, and we can bring this all together as an ensemble. We all have a handful of styles that we have really studied and been students of and have incorporated into our own playing and singing. A then we find common ground among those styles. We draw easily from a dozen styles over the course of an evening .

FOLKMAMA: So do you do every thing on acoustic instruments? You use a keyboard, don’t you?

GREG GREENWAY: Yes, but it’s only used as a piano. We really do stick to acoustic instruments , but at the same time we really push the boundaries. Really, the one unifying factor to Brother Sun is the harmony. From one song to the next we can switch styles really quickly.

But I think what we borrow from folk is the communication between the band and the audience. I think that this the biggest factor that unites us with folk music is that we are in this room together, that we’re here right now. You’re part of this. You’re part of what we do and we’re all in this together. We’re going to sing this together sometimes, sometimes not. That total cognizance of the fact that we’re all in this room together –this is a special night and there will be no other night like this anywhere on earth . So we are going to give you everything we have. We are going to do everything we can to relate what we do to you.

FOLKMAMA: Thanks Greg. You really put into words what the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, who I do the booking for, really expects from our concerts. I think our audiences come in hoping that there is going to be a lot of warmth between them and the performers and I think this is part of the reason that people seek out such intimate venues to go to concerts.

I also know that during your afternoon workshop that you’ll be sharing some songs that later on you’ll sing during your performance. You’ve said that you’d want the workshop singers to be able to sing along during the evening concert. Is that something that you generally welcome from your audiences?

 BROTHER SUN: Yes, absolutely! We don’t want to be the only ones working in the room! Hearing all the singers in the room is always the high point for us.

FOLKMAMA: So, where did the name of the band come from?

JOE JENCKS: We spent a lot of time trying to quantify what it is we are about in a name. First we had to understand what we are about musically and then we literally went though hundreds of names. Just my chance I happened to be the one that promoted Brother Sun. We all thought that it touched on a lot of the elements that we were looking for; it references nature, something that has positive, masculine energy associated with it, we want something that is hopeful and uplifting. We all had different reference points from ancient Greek to Roman mythology to St. Francis of Assisi and Native American spirituality –we all had something to attach to that name and to feel really good about it representing us.

FOLKMAMA: So, how long has the group been together?

BROTHER SUN: We’ve been touring a little over two years together.

FOLKMAMA: So, it’s a relatively recently formed group. And you sound like you are good friends, like you really like each other and enjoy playing together?

GREG GREENWAY: Absolutely, we really do. One of the things that we consistently get said to us after the show is that it is really wonderful to see three men working together in a supportive way with each other. That’s the common compliment.

JOE JENCKS: This is not just a musical, or professional or career oriented journey for us, it’s a very personal journey for us as well. There is nothing more personal than singing. Where with a guitar it is outside of yourself, but singing IS yourself. And to learn to how to sing with other people in a way that is mutually supportive is a very personal journey–it’s one of realizing our own personal potential.

We kindly and gently and lovingly supporting one another as we each reach a little further and each seek to reach our own potential, and then learning to weave that all together. Throughout the years we have each been in different communities that focus on cooperative efforts; whether it be spiritual communities, social justice works or trade unions. Through these experiences we’ve learned that at times it’s important to suspend a little bit of ourselves in order to function as part of the community which has helped us to be able to think more about the ensemble.

PAT WHICTOR: Part of what makes Brother Sun work so well as that we each get to contribute our strengths. Each one of contributing each of our strengths is what makes the whole work that much more hard hitting and spectacular.

GREG GREENWAY: It’s a beautiful thing to be in a group, where like the musical strengths of the two other guys standing beside me are really immense . So I know what it going to happen is REALLY good and I can’t wait to see the audience respond to it. I’ve never been in a group with such talents, guys being to stop the room all by themselves. And those moments are just great because you are thinking, “OK, let’s see what happens when they hear THIS.” You really take pride in the strengths of your partners.

FOLKMAMA: So, anything particular that’s new for the group?

PAT WHICTOR: Since September we have been working on a new CD, and we’re in the home stretch. YEAH! We even have a title for it, it’s called “Some Part of the Truth.”

FOLKMAMA: You’ll be leading a Community Singing” Workshop. Do you want to tell us a few things about the workshop?

JOE JENCKS: We have been moved in our careers, both individually and together, by the power of singing. And certainly we hope with sharing that with the people who attend the workshop that it can become contagious and that we can offer a little bit of the excitement that we have found in singing. We’ll be singing in unison, singing in harmony, singing in rounds, and teaching specific parts to people.

FOLKMAMA: Anything else I missed?

GREG GREENWAYT_BrotherSun: We have yet to say how much fun we have on stage. There is a lot laughing and fun in our show. There is also a lot of depth to our show but it is just a joy to do. People walk out of there uplifted and so do we.

The All Female Irish Band GIRSA comes to York, PA October 7th at 4 P.M.

Girsa, an all-female traditional Irish band that is staking out a “new” form of New York Irish music, comes to York on October 7 for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Marketview Arts Center, 37 W. Philadelphia Street. Girsa  is eight young women who grew up together in the Pearl River, NY, area. Opening for the group will be the Srour family band Irish Blessing. The concert will be preceded by an Irish Session and a reception; both at 2:45.

The members of Girsa come from musical families, with their parents having learned Irish traditional music from such greats as Martin Mulvihill, Maureen Glynn Connelly, and Pete Kelly. Members of Girsa are Maeve Flanagan (fiddle/whistle), Deirdre Brennan (fiddle/mandolin/vocals), Kristen McShane (fiddle), Margaret Dudasik (fiddle/vocals/low whistle/dancing feet), Blaithin Loughran (accordion), Bernadette Flanagan (piano/bodhran/dancing feet), Pamela Geraghty (accordion/vocals/guitar), and Emily McShane (piano/vocals/bodhran/guitar).

Recently I caught up with Maeve Flanagan and had a chat with her about the band and her experience growing up in this thriving Irish-American Community.

Folkmama: So how do you pronounce the name of your band and what does it mean:

Maeve: It’s Girsa. It’s pronounced as though it has an “h” in it. The name Girsa comes from Northern Irish slang for “young girls”. One of the girl’s grandparents is from Armagh and she used to call the young girls “Girsa” when she was younger.

Folkmama: How long has the group been together?

Maeve: Around eight years now. We started when we were really young. I was about 14.

Folkmama: So what’s the average age of the group right now?

Maeve: Probably 21. I’m 22 and I’m the oldest.

Folkmama: In the eight years that you’ve been together have you had a lot of different people come through the band?

Maeve There has been a core. There have been two or three that have come and gone, just because they have had other commitments. But we’ve never really added anyone to the band.

Folkmama: I know the band has been to some pretty exciting festivals in the last couple of years. Could you just let me know a few of the places that our readers would probably know about?

Maeve Yeah, we’ve played at the Milwaukie Irish Festival and the Dublin, Ohio Irish Festival, the Kansas City Irish Festival and we have played at a couple of places in Wisconsin where we have a big fan base which is surprising since we are from New York. We played in Savanna last year from St Patrick’s Day. That was one of the best places we’ve ever played. It was so awesome!

Folkmama: What made it so good?

Maeve Just the hospitality in Savanna I guess. Everyone was just so nice to us. Plus it was during March so it was really nice to get away from the cold weather.

Folkmama: So, have you played in Ireland?

Maeve: We’ve played in Ireland separately, but we’ve never played as the group Girsa. We’ve played in ceili bands together, which is a group of ten people who go over. There is a drummer, a piano player and then pretty much any type of instrumentation that you want. So we’ve all played together in Caili bands but along with other people.

Folkmama: So tell me more about Pearl River, NY where you all come from. Where it’s located, and I’m curious if a lot of the Irish Americans that live there came from a particular place in Ireland, and also are you influenced by the Irish Americans in New York City?

Maeve So Pearl River is about ½ hour to 35 minutes outside of New York City. And pretty much everyone here is Irish. There is no particular place in Ireland that everyone is from. A lot of my family is from the North; Armagh and Tyrone. A lot of people when they first immigrated to America moved to the New York City area. My parents are from the Bronx and their parents immigrated to the Bronx. And once they started having families they migrated out to the suburbs and Pearl River is one of the closest suburbs to the city. You still have the closeness to the city but it’s not quite the hustle and bustle of the city.

Folkmama: So it seems like from listening to your band that you really have a lot of respect for the traditions and the traditional style. In your area is that generally true, that there is a lot of interest in the traditions as opposed to Celtic rock or more modern styles.

Maeve I definitely think that, in Pearl River anyway. Actually in New York City as a whole. My mom was taught the fiddle first by Martin Mulvihill, a great fiddler and composer from County Limerick by fiddler Martin Wynne who was from Sligo County. So she was taught by the most traditional players, pretty much, in New York City. So she really passed it down to us.

She would never consider going outside of the traditions so she taught it to us just as she learned it. We have a huge respect for that music while also making our own compositions and learning some of the newer compositions. Because, you know, we’re young and once in a while we like to do some of the funky stuff, although we really do have a lot of respect for the traditional Irish music.

Folkmama: So have you found a lot of people in your age group that you can play with and spend time with that have a similar respect for the traditions?

Maeve:  Oh, absolutely. I’ve been going to Ireland for competitions since I was about ten or eleven, and once you go there every year you make friends; I have tons of friends in Ireland. There are a lot of friends that I have in Pearl River that play Irish music, so then more people begin to play and it wasn’t like I’m embarrassed about it. So I’d say as I was growing up all my best friends either knew about the music or played the music.

Folkmama: That’s very unusual in this day and age I think. Very unusual.

Maeve I feel that there is kinda a revival of it too. For a couple of years, below our age group, you know in their teen years there are not too many people around here interested in it, but my brother is now 12 and all of his little friends just won a Ceili Band composition over in Ireland, they got first place under 12, so once something like that happens there is a huge interest in the music. Everyone wants to play after that.

Folkmama: I know some of your group knows the Srour family; the folks in Irish Blessing. Do you personally know them?

Maeve Yes, I know them very well. We connected with them first through Irish dancing because pretty much everyone in the group did Irish dancing at some point.

One of our girls, Margaret, went to the same Irish dance school as Jonathon Srour. As for the rest of us,  Jonathon played the flute and his brother Joshua played the fiddle so we’d meet up every year at the different competitions, the different Feises (a Gaelic Arts and Culture Festival) and conventions and such. So that’s pretty much how we met and we’ve kept in touch.

Jonathon was actually dancing in a touring show, and my sister, who was studying abroad in Germany, actually caught one of his shows.

Folkmama: So it sounds like you and your friends are really the next generation. The next generation of people who are playing the traditional music and doing the traditional dancing.

Maeve: Yeah, hopefully. That is our goal.

Folkmama: So you are going to have some step dancers there, is that correct?

Maeve: Yes, Margaret Dudasik and Bernadette are both step dancers.

Folkmama: Anything else?

Maeve Some people ask us what we are doing, besides music. A lot of people don’t know that we have other lives. I’m actually in law school, I do that full time. So pretty much we are only able to play on the weekends. Deirdre is a full time nurse, and she just got a new job so she is only working during the week, which is great because she can play music on the weekends. And everyone else is still in school, either in their junior year or their senior year in college.

Folkmama: And you have two CDs out.

Maeve: Yes. Our first CD we recorded while most of us were still in high school and the second one we just came out with last summer. It’s called “A Sweeter Place”.

Folkmama: It sounds like even though you are very young, you are extremely competent with your instruments. So, are there people who look at you and say, “Oh, they are really young, they can’t be any good.” I hear really good things on your CDs, but how can we put aside anyone’s fears that you may not be quite as good as they’d like to hear?”

Maeve : We’ve all been doing this since we were like five years old. For the competitions we had to practice so much, so kind of  our own doing we wanted to get better. So we’ve just been working, and working, and working. We could have played a concert last year and listened to it this year and say, “Oh my God, we have improved so much.” We just keep practicing and keep working together to perfect our sound.”

Folkmama: I don’t want to sound negative, but I just wanted to address that because someone might be thing in those terms. Because there are so many bands out there that are amateurs and aren’t particularly serious with their music and aren’t as interested as you all seem to be at following traditions. You’ve been seeped in it since you were a child. I really wanted that to come out in this story.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. This concert is supported, in part, through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

 

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