Aug 16,17,18 2019 tickets

Tag Archives: performers 2018

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Sun Times Article 12: Two’s company

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

One of the advantages of being the Artistic Director of Summerfolk and a touring musician is that I get to see music on the road that I might never see otherwise.

 

I’m with Quincy Jones—I like all kinds of music, except bad music. I’ll listen to anything and it doesn’t matter to me if it’s jazz, blues or country. All that matters is that it’s good. I have to admit though, if it’s quirky, it goes to the head of the line.

 

Last year, I was playing the Chester Folk Festival in the UK. On the Sunday night, there was a band on immediately before us in the Marquee tent with the enigmatic name, The Hut People. The festival program was devoid of photographs and, in my mind, I imagined a band of twenty-somethings in 1970s retro gear.

 

While wondering when they were going to appear, I was backstage with Hugh McMillan and two guys roughly my age. One of them was laying out a low table full of all kinds of, “I didn’t know what”. The other guy had a piano accordion. That’s how I met Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond, The Hut People.

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A table full of “stuff” and a piano accordion are pretty good indications that the quirk factor is going to be high. The table belonged to Gary and the “stuff” turned out to be percussion instruments:  a bell tree, bottle caps, kudus, ghatams, all manner of cymbals and found instruments. I couldn’t name half the things on that table, but they sounded great.

 

Sam plays the accordion in a number of different styles from traditional English to Finnish folk as well as step dancing and Quebec-style foot percussion.

 

Watching them set up I had to wonder, what the heck is this going to be about? After the first tune, I was hooked. I have never heard or seen anything like them. They are unique.

 

Sam and Gary had been on the scene in England for a long time. They travelled in the same circles but didn’t come together as The Hut People until three years ago.

 

At first blush, accordion and percussion seem an odd combination to hang a set of music on, but every single tune was fascinating. Musically, they wandered the world—folk tunes from Quebec and Spain, from Scandinavia to Sussex. It would be a mistake to think they are a novelty act. Master musicians both, and though the music may be light-hearted, it’s played with skill. I bought a CD and offered them a gig at Summerfolk as soon as they came off stage.

 

A duo is one of the most challenging ways to present music relying almost exclusively on chemistry. Unless there is a spark, it’s just two people on stage. Sam and Gary know each other’s moves, laugh a lot on and off stage and they clearly enjoy each other’s company.

 

Mama’s Broke may not be as light-hearted as The Hut People, but they do have the duo thing going on. Amy Lou and Lisa Marie, like Sam and Gary, came together a little over three years ago. Since then, the road has been their home.

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It’s rare for a young band to have a wide touring range in the early years, but Amy and Lisa have managed to tour Ireland, Continental Europe, Canada, the USA, Indonesia and Australia in that time. The venues have been as varied as their repertoire: from circus shows in New Orleans to pirate ships in Amsterdam, to concert halls in Ireland, to theatres in Brooklyn. They say they are based everywhere and nowhere and the tour history bears that out.

 

They are folk hunter-gatherers. Every trip taken is an opportunity to learn a new song and delve into a new tradition. Off-road months are spent weaving those influences into new songs and then they set off on the next expedition. Drawing from old-time, Quebecois, blues, punk, Celtic, Balkan and doom metal, they create a soundscape that is both familiar and new.

 

It’s cliche to say that a group pushes the boundaries, but with regard to Mama’s Broke, it’s actually an understatement. What they play sounds traditional, but there are surprising twists and turns—harmonies that wander into Eastern Europe while the instruments stay in Appalachia. Their commitment is to challenge borders between people, places and traditions while encouraging freedom of expression and community through music.

 

While a lot of the material is original, they play it old school—no DI boxes—just two musicians, two microphones, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and two perfectly blended voices.

 

Mama’s Broke and The Hut People are two of the finest duos you are ever going to see. They have workshops and concerts throughout the weekend and we’re happy to welcome them to their first Summerfolk.

 

Summerfolk43 begins one week from today, August 17. For ticket information, to view/download the schedule or to preview the performers, visit us at www.summerfolk.org

 

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Sun Times Article 10: Mix-match and magic…

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

I have a workplace out back of the house. It’s a great little unit that is 8’x12’ on skids with a shed roof. It was dragged into the backyard five summers ago and, after I insulated, drywalled, and put in a floor, it made the perfect backyard office.

 

I painted the inside south wall of the shed with blackboard paint. That’s where I used to do the majority of the planning for the festival. I was on the road so much this year, that I had to enter the twenty-first century and do it on the lap top.

 

Depending on how you allocate time, here is what has to be programmed for Summerfolk: eighteen concert slots on the Amphitheatre stage and twelve slots to fill on the Down by the Bay stage in the evenings. There are more than eighty slots to fill over the course of the three days on the six daytime stages. Over forty acts, singly and in groups will occupy those spaces.

 

A hefty chunk of those daytime slots are workshops that put two or three acts together on a stage, gives them a theme, and let’s them work it out. The model comes from the legendary Estelle Klein and the first Mariposa Folk Festivals. It’s structured to encourage an exchange among the musicians. You let them mix on stage and see what comes of it. Most often it’s magic.

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To create interesting workshops, you need the raw materials—great performers and an audience willing to go anywhere with them. We have an abundance of both at Summerfolk.

 

The best workshop takes into account the personalities of the performers. Knowing how artists are connected to each other is also important. Have they sometimes shared a bass player or a percussionist in the past? Sometimes members of various bands have worked together on recording projects making the magic a little easier to conjure up.

 

Sometimes the connections aren’t obvious until you dig. Looking through the band lists in the database, I noticed that one is bringing Andrina Turenne as their backup singer. She was a member of Chic Gamine when they played Summerfolk six years ago. One of my all-time favourite vocalists, Andrina knows a boatload of songs so she’s perfect for the ever popular Songs from a Hat on the Saturday afternoon of the festival.

 

That’s one down, only seventy-nine slots to go…

 

For many in the audience, the workshop delivers the most memorable performances of the whole weekend.  Anybody who was in the Wine Bar last year for the meeting of Al Simmons and The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer will swear to that. The workshop took a turn for the surreal as Al scaled the wall of the Amphitheatre to make his exit.

 

So what have I got in store for you?

 

I’m looking forward to a workshop called Traditionally Amazing.  I’m putting Vishtèn, the incredible trio from PEI, together with Calan and see what happens when Acadian Traditional meets Welsh Traditional. I’m anticipating some impressive step dancing Friday at 10:30 PM at the Down by the Bay stage.

 

The Axe Masters workshop with Stephen Fearing, Beppe Gambetta and Joel Morelli is going to be a must-see for people who like hot licks and clever guitar tricks on Saturday at 3:10 in the Gazebo area.

 

Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie will be leading a workshop on aboriginal dance, if you’ve ever wanted to know the difference between a jingle dance and a fancy dance. We’ll hope for a round dance as well, since Digging Roots taught us the basics a few years ago. That’s at noon on Sunday at our Down By the River Stage, where the emphasis is on dance all weekend.

 

Songs from a Hat will be fun as always. Fred Penner, Paige Ballagh, Doug Cox and Andrina Turenne square off against the audience who will challenge the performers to sing at least the first verse and chorus of a song pulled from Treasa Levasseur’s hat. If the pros can’t do it, it’s up to the audience. Past experience has shown that the audience can be very good at this game.

 

Sarah Harmer, Stephen Fearing, Rose Cousins and Nick Sherman lead a songwriter’s circle on Saturday afternoon. You’ll probably want to get to the Down By the Bay tent early for that one.

 

There are also instructional workshops. Doug Cox has a slide workshop in the Sharing Circle. Lap steel, slide mandolin and guitar are on the menu. The dance stage will be offering instructional workshops on step dancing, contra, balfolk, salsa, Eastern European dance styles and much more.

 

I could write all day, but you know, I have to go finish that workshop schedule for you.

 

Can’t wait to see you at Summerfolk!

 

Did I make the deadline? Visit www.summerfolk.org to find out. You’ll also find info about ticket prices, bios, videos and links to the performers. Advance ticket prices are in effect until July 31.

 

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