Aug 16,17,18 2019 tickets

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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 9: Family Fun

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

A couple of years back, my family and I were at the Mariposa Folk Festival. They had lots of great stuff for kids—giant bubble makers, magic and plenty of music. What our boys couldn’t get enough of, though, were the reptiles. The turtles, snakes, skinks and frogs were endlessly fascinating.

 

Roxane Davidson, our General Manager/Festival Coordinator, must have thought me a little loony. She asked, “What did you like at Mariposa?” and maybe a little too enthusiastically I blurted, “Reptiles! We gotta book some reptiles!” It’s taken a long time, but they will be slithering, hopping and skidding their way to Summerfolk this year, thanks to Scales Reptile Park. Scales does interactive displays so the kids and you can get up close and personal with your favourites. They will be doing demonstrations at 1PM on both Saturday and Sunday.

 

Family is very important to us at Summerfolk. That’s why we ask you to check in just inside the main gate at the First Aid/Child Registration trailer.  In the rare circumstance that you end up in opposite directions, we like to facilitate your getting back together. After that is taken care of, there is plenty of stuff to do for the kids and grandkids too. Some of my most treasured memories of Summerfolk are bound up with the things my kids have made in the crafts area. Coordinator, Cassandra Bauer, leads a whole volunteer crew that runs our children’s village. They spend the year gathering supplies and drawing up projects for the kids.

 

The children are set loose on tables full of paper and glue, paint and fabric. Under supervision, they bang away with hammers building ships, cars and even, on one occasion, a full on miniature beach chair that was then put to good use. The kids make masks, banners and decorate T-shirts. They also spend some time decorating a forty-foot long dragon that is the centre-piece of the children’s parade.

 

The parade was added to the festival a few years ago at Roxane’s suggestion. The dragon, articulated by the children, weaves its way through the procession. The kids fall in line with stilt-walkers and musicians and wend their way through the park arriving at the amphitheatre to open the Sunday evening show. Leading the parade this year will be Tallbeat.

 

Bringing together the circus element of stilt walking with its gigantic, taller-than-life performers, Tallbeat plays Maracatu style—an Afro-Brazilian drumming style with deep bassy grooves that move the soul. They can be seen and heard over 200m away with their colourful costumes and oversized instruments. Tallbeat raises Afro-Brazilian rhythms to new heights!

 

Summerfolk is a generational event. Grandparents, parents and children are all in it together in a safe welcoming space. Anyone who knows Kelso Beach Park knows that the splash pad and wading in the bay are a great way to entertain the young ‘uns, too.

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On Saturday afternoon this year, we are trying something a little different—a dedicated kids’ concert in the Amphitheatre with the one and only Fred Penner. One of the most popular acts at Summerfolk a couple of years ago, and not just with the kids, people of all ages flocked to his shows for chance to relive memories. From the quintessential version of The Cat Came Back to everybody’s favourite, Sandwiches, Fred delivers the goods and is as entertaining now as he was back in his television heyday.

 

Then, there’s the music. Although we have featured kids’ performers like Fred, we’ve found that kids, in fact, like all kinds of music. I love being at a stage and watching them feel the music—dancing, swaying and wide-eyed with appreciation. But it cuts both ways—a lot of performers are parents as well. Often they are away from their children while with us at Summerfolk and you can watch them light up when there are kids in audience.

 

Summerfolk has been putting smiles on faces for 43 years. We will be in Kelso Beach Park August 17, 18 and 19 this year. For information on what’s going on, check us out at www.summerfolk.org.

 

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Sun Times Article 4: Music of Childhood

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

We didn’t have kid’s music when I was kid. Well, we did sorta, but nothing pleasant happened in it. Cradles fell, babies cried, that sort of thing. You didn’t really want to linger. If my parents wanted to entertain us as kid’s they’d play Harry Belafonte, or lighter adult music. Kid’s music was there to teach us a lesson-don’t put your cradle in a tree and that sort of thing.

 

I was a late comer to children. My first, Tomas was born in 2006, Pato,in 2010. Because of that I wasn’t well acquainted with Fred Penner’s music. Not having children kind of insulates you from the kid’s music scene. It’s like physics lectures, or advanced mathematics. You know it’s there and people are doing it, but it really doesn’t seem to have any effect on your life.

 

Yet, I know Fred fairly well.  I’d see him at music functions in Manitoba and across the country. We’ve spent pleasant hours together in the backstage areas of various festivals. He’s an engaging  story teller. He has that rare ability to make you feel like you are the most important thing in his life while he is talking to you.

 

You know him in a way I never did.

 

I respect him as a musician and entertainer. I managed to do that, and not see a single episode of his TV show. Why would I? I didn’t have kids. In those days I slept late. The show ran in Canada and the US for an amazing 13 years. I missed every one.

 

Most of you are more clued in than me. If you were a kid, a parent or a grandparent from 1985-1997, you knew Fred. I wasn’t surprised that he’s one of the best loved performers that has ever played the festival. We harbour huge reserves of goodwill for the performers of our youth. When we are adults they can evoke some of our strongest memories.

 

He was and is very involved in the community at large and his spirit of involvement and inclusiveness was recognized when he was made a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba. His musicianship has been recognized with eight Juno nominations and two Juno Awards, Parents Choice Awards and Prairie Music awards

 

He makes no secret of the fact that he was a bit lost after the TV series ended.  He had a very full schedule, though, as the demand for live shows never really slacked off.

 

Fred had a notion that kids who had seen his TV show wanted to reconnect with him.

Then a strange little thing happened. A promoter at a university wanted to hire him to do a show at the school’s pub. Strange as the thought was, the show sold out in quicker than you can say “the cat came back.” In fact it was oversold. The students kept him there for two and a half hours. College kids, with pints of beer, calling out for Baby Beluga, Take Good Care, Sandwiches and of course, The Cat Came Back.

 

Word got out on the college circuit. When he travels now to do a kids show, he often adds a college show. He’s done universities from PEI to BC. He may, in fact, be busier now than when he had the TV show.

 

Last year Fred to it one step further. He recorded a CD named Hear the Music.The album was produced by long time collaborator Ken Whiteley and recorded in Toronto, where Fred lives with his spouse, voice/acting coach and director Rae Ellen Bodie (whom he married in 2016 and who co-wrote two of the songs on the album). Fred created for the cd to satisfy three generations of his fans and includes guests such as Ron Sexsmith, Terra Lightfoot, Alex Cuba, Basia Bulat, Jackie Richardson, The Good Lovelies, Fred’s four children and a wealth of Canada’s best musicians.

 

I’ll never know what its like to be a kid listening to Fred Penner. I never had the chance. I’ll never have that kid-like experience of hearing The Cat Came Back Fred style, for the first time. I’m really happy that my boys will be had that experience at last time Fred came to Summerfolk.

As for me, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. I’ll be having mine at Fred’s pub

 

Fred will be playing workshops and a special spotlight children’s concert  at 2PM Saturday August 17 at the Amphitheatre stage during Summerfolk this year.

For more information on all things summerfolk please visit us at www.summerfolk.org

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens at Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound August 17, 18 and 19.

 

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Sun Times Article 3: From Cuba to Canada

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

To make my living I have to travel—a lot. While the travelling has some nice moments, it’s not relaxing and it is most assuredly not a vacation. About 10 years ago myself, my wife and my son actually took a vacation. We went to Cuba for a week. I enjoyed the sun, the sand and the general laid back nature of the island, but it was the music that really hooked me. The resort where we stayed, on the Ancon peninsula near Trinidad de Cuba, was far away from the hustle and bustle of Havana or the  non-stop tourism of Varadero. Still, every night there was music at the resort, there was music in town, there was literally music everywhere at all hours.

 

Latin music has a reputation for being sultry and sensual, but Cuban music takes it to the nth degree. I loved it before I went to Cuba, but I was a fanatic by the time I came back.

When the chance came to book Adonis Puentes for this year’s Summerfolk I jumped at it.

 

I mentioned in last week’s article that traditional music is important to me. It’s not just the traditional music of my ancestors, though. Traditional music, in all its forms, is the backbone of what I try to book for Summerfolk. I like music that is aware of its history, even if it plays with it some.

 

We had Adonis’ brother, Alex Cuba, here a few years back. Alex has taken the music of his youth and added contemporary flourishes creating his own Latin pop sound. Adonis Puentes is a traditionalist. They grew up south of Havana in a house that was musically dominated by their father, Valentin, and spiritually by their mother, Maria. By the age of six they were playing guitar, eventually joining their father’s 24 piece travelling guitar ensemble. On days off they found time to jam with some of the greats, among them Ibrahim Ferrar of Buena Vista Social Club fame.

 

Love brought both Alex and Adonis to Canada, and though they recorded their first cd as the Puentes Brothers, they soon branched out on their own. The quality of their early musical education has seen both of them garnering Juno and Grammy nominations for their work, even while they have charted different musical paths.

 

Adonis is firmly in the tradition of the soñero—the lyrical, sometimes improvising, singer in a Salsa band. The songs are pure poetry, but the distinctive Cuban rhythms propel the lyric. It’s almost impossible not to dance once the band starts playing. It’s as if the beat channels the song into your entire body. Even if you can’t speak a word of Spanish, you can hear the joy, the love of life and the passion in his voice.

 

Puentes returns to Cuba often, to touch base and to replenish the creative spark. He feels like he is an ambassador for Cuban music, but can’t really be a proper representative if he is not in touch with the current scene on the Island. There is no doubt that he is a bearer of the tradition—even giants of the genre acknowledge this. He has sung with the likes of Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. He became lead singer to Los Angeles-based Jose Rizo’s band Mongorama and was thrilled when they earned a Grammy nomination as best tropical Latin album.

 

Another Salsa great, the legendary Oscar Hernandez, director of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra,  arranged three songs and played piano on his Adonis’ cd Sabor a Café. Oscar Hernandez’s piano solos are such a foundational element in Cuban music that they are taught in Cubas music schools.

 

Dicen, Adonis Puentes third solo recording project ,was released in March this year in Victoria, where he makes his home. This time produced by Oscar Hernandez, the recording is destined to become a classic of the genre. It’s  a sophisticated mix of elegant balladry and rumbas as sweet as they are sensual. Hernandez’s keyboard and horn charts are the perfect foundation Puentes’ velvety crooning, punctuating his romantic pleas without challenging them. As performed by his acoustic Voice of Cuba Orchestra (guitar, tres, bass, percussion, piano and trumpet), the music makes for lively performances.

 

Puentes routinely advises audiences to bring their dancing shoes to his shows, and his appearances at Summerfolk will be no exception. We are even arranging for an instructor to teach an afternoon Salas class so you’ll be completely ready to dance the night away.

 

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 17, 18 and 19 at Kelso Beach Park. Information can be found at www.summerfolk.org. We hope to see you there. Don’t forget your dancing shoes!

 

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