Sounds of the Seacoast with Epic – women’s barbershop concert

One might think that the lack of posts for nearly two years (good grief) would mean I haven’t been taking any photos. Quite untrue. I still go to many shows and events, and still shoot many. I’m just ridiculously behind with posting, and will be adding a lot of stuff soon.

Sounds of the Seacoast with EpicMeanwhile, I’ll start back up with the most recent concert I have seen. On Saturday, September 26, I had the great pleasure of seeing Sounds of the Seacoast, a top notch women’s barbershop chorus based in Portsmouth NH. For the past 6 years, Sounds of the Seacoast has been the winner of their regional contest as part of the Harmony Inc women’s barbershop organization. In 2014, Sounds missed first place in the international contest by only one point. They will be competing again at International in November. Wishing them loads of luck!

The chorus was joined this past weekend by a guest quartet called Epic, hailing from Virginia. Epic won the international quartet competition at Harmony Inc in 2012. They brought such an infectious energy – not to mention fabulous singing – to the stage. The four chapter quartets within Sounds of the Seacoast- The Out of Towners, The Usual Suspects, Kismet, and Vibe – also performed and sang beautifully during the concert.

All in all, it was a wonderful night of songs and harmony. If you like this sort of music, and are in reach of the NH seacoast area, Sounds of the Seacoast will have their Holly Jolly Cabaret on December 13, 2015, at the Jarvis Center in Portsmouth.

See more photos here: Sounds of the Seacoast with Epic

Notes from a NERFA Newbie

There’s an annual folk music business conference (not an oxymoron, really) which takes place every year in the Catskills region of New York State. Known by the shorthand of NERFA, it is the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance. I’ve known about it for years but never felt like I really had anything to contribute so never made plans to go. That was silly. It takes more than just musicians to make the folk world move, after all.

So I finally attended this year. And now I am a NERFA wannabe no longer.

Paddy Mills

Paddy Mills

It was quite fortunate that I already have a foundation in the folk world on which I could build there. Seeing many familiar smiling faces, and getting those reassuring welcoming hugs made a big difference as I sifted through the overwhelming nature of the first day or so. Once I allowed myself the caveat that no one can see everything, it became a tiny bit easier to get into the flow of things, though still daunting with the number of choices for workshops, panels, and showcases to be had.

What an incredible and eye opening experience it was. I had considered myself fairly well versed in the folk world, but I came to realize just how much more is out there about which I had been largely unaware. I attended wearing two hats: photographer/web person, and a sort of scout for Vermont Festivals, listening for acts which could potentially fit in with programming in southern Vermont. This made for a whole new way of taking part, deeper and a little more critical, but also more expansive as I was compelled to really grow my listening range. And how greatly I was rewarded for that.

Katie Clarke Waddell (The Boxcar Lilies) and Carolann Solebello, at about 4 AM Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Katie Clarke Waddell (The Boxcar Lilies) and Carolann Solebello, at about 4 AM Saturday night/Sunday morning.

I had been warned about the late nights, and I felt like I went prepared for them. But how can one really be ready for what is essentially a 24/7 music experience? With dozens of rooms offering guerilla (ie, unofficial) showcases deep into the night, there was far more music than anyone can expect to hear in just 3.5 days. I still had to seek out some favorites just because, well, they’re favorites and there’s something comforting about the familiar. At the same time, seeking them out meant hearing new people as well, with in the round time slots, acts before and after, etc. And there’s nothing quite like sitting only inches from people playing. It’s all quite invigorating, and one hardly notices the clock hands swinging (or digital watch ticking) around into the wee hours.

The other thing that struck me was just how friendly everyone is. We folkies tend to be a pretty congenial lot anyway. Familiar and new faces alike are all invested in making sure everyone has the best experience. While there’s a strong business element happening as people network for related gigs of all sorts, there’s the much greater undercurrent of a common love for this music. There’s frequent interplay, jams in the wee hours of the morning in the lobby, impromptu sessions in stairwells and hallways, spontaneous sing alongs on songs we hadn’t even heard before. The constant maelstrom of people squeezing past each other in narrow hallways, carefully stepping over cases for guitars, banjos, upright basses, keyboards and more, or chasing up and down stairs to another floor to catch another showcase adds a giddiness to the whole escapade. Because that’s really what it is, a escapade, a quest for the next sweet ballad or rollicking foot tapper or newly hatched collaboration. It’s how and where magic can get started.

The thread is continuous and strong, tying together a wide range of ages and stages of career, and I loved being in a place where our common nerdiness for this was not only normal but celebrated. Where it makes perfect sense to travel some distance to hear and/or make music. Where no one hesitates to relate their latest great discovery because we are all stronger when we share. In a way, we are each other’s radios, boosting the signals however and wherever we can. The volume on those radios is dialed up to about 20 at NERFA.

Louise Mosrie

Louise Mosrie

I am grateful to be in the midst of this now, and hopeful I can really contribute to this community more and more over the coming years. Am even contemplating starting up a music-specific blog, motivation to expand my listening, and to be another station of sorts on the internet where maybe I can help someone else discover new-to-them music, too.

So who caught my ears? I almost hesitate to make a list since I don’t want to inadvertently leave anyone I heard out. So, I’ll just offer a list of people new/newer (only heard once or twice previously) to me. And this is by no means an exhaustive list, so don’t read anything into it regarding ‘missing names’. I am still listening to CDs and ‘finding’ more gems! In no particular order, I recommend checking out: Beth DeSombre, Cary Cooper, Miles to Dayton, The Lords of Liechtenstein, Bonnie Ste-Croix, Louise Mosrie, Connor Garvey, Allison Shapira, Harpeth Rising, Sorcha, Karyn Oliver, Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman, Graydon James and Laura Spink, Meg Braun, Sharon Goldman, Paddy Mills, ilyAIMY, Meghan Cary, Marci Geller, Ansel Barnum, Matt Nakoa, Davey O

Ok, I really want to add links for people I already loved and got to see again, though I apologize in advance for this list’s also being incomplete: Carolann Solebello, Amy Speace, Natala Zukerman, Jenna Lindbo, SONiA and disappear fear, Bethel Steele, Pesky J. Nixon, The YaYas, The Boxcar Lilies, Rachael Sage

Much gratitude to everyone, musicians and non-musicians alike, who made my first, and hopefully not last, NERFA such a great experience! Oh and of course – there are photos!

 

Natalie MacMaster in Bellows Falls, Vermont

I am lucky that even with living in a fairly rural area of New England, we have a good variety of venues which attract some great shows. On November 29, 2012, the Bellows Falls Opera House in Vermont hosted a Christmas show by Natalie MacMaster. Accompanied by a fine 4 piece band, and several of her 5 children, we were treated to a rousing concert of both Christmas tunes and traditional pieces. Natalie can fiddle, and step dance, and fiddle AND step dance without dropping a note. And her kids are, not surprisingly, enormously talented as well as being completely adorable. At the start of the second set, she was also joined by a children’s choir from nearby Kurn Hattin. They performed a medley of Christmas songs with a little fiddle accompaniment, and they were delightful.

Notable discovery from the band was her cellist, Nathaniel Smith. The lad is only 18 and has already been playing in Natalie’s band for 5 years. He’s amazing, and one would never guess his age from his stage presence and skill. He is going to be one to watch!

I had last and only seen Natalie at the Newport Folk Festival in 2000 so it was an extra treat to see her now. Hope it’s not another dozen years before seeing her play again!

Don’t have a lot more to add about this show, so let’s just get on to the photos!

Natalie MacMaster in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

A Susan Werner Kind of Weekend

As many concerts as I get to go and see, usually I see ‘my’ artists sort of in hit or miss fashion. So, when I get to see a favorite two nights in a row, it’s a pretty special occasion. Last weekend, that was a Susan Werner doubleheader.

Susan Werner and Jim Henry. Spotlight Cafe, Concord NH

Friday, November 2, was in Concord NH, at the Center for the Arts. They have a Spotlight Cafe for smaller shows, more intimate than the large theater. Susan had Jim Henry join her for accompaniment, fresh off the road from a tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter. He’s got a lovely nuanced style of play, and it complemented Susan very nicely. It was a pleasure to watch them enjoying each other so well up on stage.

Susan Werner at TCAN, Natick MA, with her trioOn Saturday night, November 3, the show shifted down to TCAN in Natick, MA. For this show, Susan had the stellar Trina Hamlin and Gail Ann Dorsey joining her. The amount of musicianship on stage when the three of them get together is just stunning, and since they also enjoy each other’s company so much, it becomes a magical event.  Susan also called up special guest Catie Curtis who, with Jenna Lindbo, treated us to her song Happy (a foreshadowing for the 2012 election results?) backed by the trio. The night was well worth every minute of a 2.25 hour each way drive. Can we do it again soon?

At both shows, we were treated to several songs from Susan’s upcoming Hayseed project. She’s still raising funds for it  so if you’re intrigued, check it out and pitch in something. The songs were terrific, and I am looking forward to hearing the final product.

Photos from both nights are posted… Find Concord here and Natick here. I probably ‘kept’ more than I should have posted, but I can’t help it – I want to celebrate all of the music!

One last thing… Saturday night’s show coincided with turning the clocks back, so the trio treated us to a delightful cover of Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time. I only caught some of it on my iPhone, including some of Susan’s rant about the tradition, but it’s entertaining so I include it here. Enjoy!

Catie Curtis and The Nields for Voices United

The Nields with Catie Curtis

On Friday, September 28, 2012, I had the pleasure of attending one of the many concerts that would be held over the weekend as part of a celebration called Voices United for the Separation of Church and State. The shows were all to benefit a non partisan organization called Americans United. They advocate for the separation of politics from religion, something that has become increasingly important to many Americans in recent years (myself included).

At this show, Catie Curtis, who organized concerts across the nation for this event, was billed as having special surprise guests. I was delighted to walk up the stairs to the home hosting this particular event and see Nerissa Nields looking out. Great surprise!

The home in Newton where this concert took place was lovely, and about 40 or so people were in enthusiastic attendance. Big thanks to hosts Paul and Sarah for their hospitality! Their son, Jay, played two original compositions on the piano to start off the evening. He was very impressive. He reports that he will be recording a CD soon, so watch out for this one!

Nerissa and Katryna Nields were up next and delivered a terrific half hour set. If you’re in the Boston area this coming weekend, Oct 6, they will be doing two shows at Club Passim. Catie rounded out the evening with a set of her songs, and had The Nields join her for a few at the end. Their harmonies on Catie’s “Troubled Mind” were just stunning. Wish I had recorded that one, but I did pull out the iPhone and record the three of them performing The Nields’ “Keys to the Kingdom”. It was dark, so YouTube lightened it up, making it better even if a little wonky with ‘changing light’. Embedded below.

Photos are viewable on this site as well. They came out a bit grainy with having to boost exposure after the fact, but they are still a fun record of a terrific night of music.

Falcon Ridge 2011

Just in time for the 2012 festival, I am finally posting images from 2011! It was another grand weekend of music, though also one of oppressive heat so I was not nearly as mobile as I’d have liked to have been. Trying not to fall over in a heat exhausted heap was a challenge. Thankfully, copious amounts of water and Gatorade with able assists from water soaked bandanas and precious time in the shade made a big difference.

John Gorka - Summer's Eve Song Swap FRFF 2011

The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival takes place each year in the Berkshires over the 4th weekend of July. One can always count on a wide range of musical acts covering Americana, folk, bluegrass, blues, Celtic, and more to entertain. And if sleep is not important, music can be found playing somewhere on the grounds literally 24 hours a day, from organized song circles at places like the Budgiedome and Loozer’s Lounge to just people hanging out at their camps, playing and singing whatever strikes them at the moment. I tend to collapse at night and not make it to the song circles.

Aside from the amazing community of people who attend this festival, I love that I can go each year and hear any number of my favorite acts, and always come away with some new discoveries as well. My new fave from 2011 was Spuyten Duyvil. And one of my favorite sets every year is the Sunday morning Gospel Wake Up Call. I’m not a religious person, but I don’t think you have to be one to really enjoy this set. The energy alone is just fantastic. Judging by the number of photos I posted from it, I’d say it was a good one.

Mary Gauthier. Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2011I took a LOT of photos. I edited a lot out. But I still had a lot remaining to post. So please feel free to wander into the Festivals page and revisit parts of last year’s Falcon Ridge. I never made it to the Dance tent or the Kids tent – hopefully this year. And my fingers are crossed for more moderate weather, no excessive rain or heat. See you on the hill? Meanwhile, enjoy the photos! Will be adding previous years to the Festivals page, too, and of course this year and onward (hopefully in a more timely fashion…)

One more thing… One of my absolute favorite acts closed last year’s festival, Mary Chapin Carpenter. I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, and get to photograph even less often, so I took full advantage of the opportunity. While highlights of her set are in the Sunday part of the Falcon Ridge 2011 albums, I put a much bigger array of photos into their own album, under 2011 concerts.

 

Catie Curtis with Jenna Lindbo

Continuing with shows I have seen and photographed at the Tupelo Music Hall, not long after seeing Dar last fall, came Catie Curtis.  Usually, Catie is out on the road solo, but lately she has been playing out with multi-instrumentalist Jenna Lindbo, a burgeoning singer/songwriter in her own right. Rounding out the band for this album release tour was ace guitarist Thomas Juliano.

Catie Curtis with Kate MacNally of NHPR's Folk ShowCatie was touring to support her latest release, “Stretch Limousine on Fire”, a terrific collection of songs. I’ve been listening to Catie’s records and seeing her play for about 20 years now, and it’s been a real treat to see her evolution as a songwriter and performer. I imagine it must be something of a challenge for long standing artists to keep things fresh and growing. It’s always impressive to hear how artists like Catie take on that challenge. This show started like the Dar Williams show, with a Q&A with Kate McNally of New Hampshire Public Radio’s Folk Show as part of the Tupelo Public Radio Project. You can listen to that portion of the concert online.

Jenna Lindbo. Tupelo Music Hall, White River Junction, VT. 11 November 2011A big bonus for the night was seeing and hearing Jenna Lindbo for the first time. With one CD available at the time of this post, but another due out in the next few months, it’s clear to me that we’ll be watching Jenna become a big part of the folk world. I’m looking forward to hearing the next CD as well as how she continues to grow as an artist. We were treated to three of her songs during the show, including one that is fast becoming a personal favorite thanks to You Tube, “Instrumental Role.” For another of her songs, “Let There be Love”, a friend of Jenna’s came out on stage to perform it in ASL (joined a bit by Catie).

One of the things I enjoy most about being a folk fan is that it’s almost a given that a night out of live music is going to be a good time. That was certainly the case here. The shows are always too short  for my taste. They are my version of “Calgon, take me away!” And yes, of course, there are photos.

 

Dar Williams in Vermont

Dar Williams at Tupelo Music Hall, White River Junction VTBack in October of 2011, on the 22nd, Dar Williams paid a visit to our little corner of northern New England with a show at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction, Vermont. What made this show a little different from most was that she was also being interviewed by Kate McNally of New Hampshire Public Radio for The Folk Show, part of The Tupelo Public Radio Project. So the first half of the concert was songs interspersed by Q&A, giving us a live interview peek into some of Dar’s thoughts about music and more. Dar’s show was broadcast on the radio in March, but you can hear the nearly one hour piece online.

Accompanied, as she often is, by the incomparable Bryn Roberts on piano/keyboards, it was another fine evening of music. In the process of preparing what would be her next release, In The Time of Gods, we got to hear a couple of new songs. Each song on this new-released album has a root in Greek mythology. It was a tantalizing listen into what would turn out to be a very intriguing and terrific new release, which came out in April of this year.

I don’t think I have ever seen a disappointing Dar show, this one included. There’s always something very comfortable about the music while at the same time challenging me to think. It’s sort of the epitome of folk music, to me. Want to see some photos?

The Wonders of iPhoneography

I got my first iPhone (4) almost a year ago now. For several weeks before, knowing that the purchase was to come, I was checking out all sorts of reviews and recommendations for photo apps. The possibilities are just astounding. A year later, much as I have been enjoying them, I also find that I have my favorites. Plus, there are so many choices, I forget what tools I have and don’t wind up using them as much as I thought I might. I am determined to change that.

Cinderella's Castle - Disney World, Orlando FL.My favorite app, hands down, has been Tiny Planets. It’s only 99 cents and SO much fun. I’ve read tips on best ways to use the app, but really, one has to just use it, play with it extensively. Not everything comes out “well” in it, but then there’s stuff that really rocks. My favorite so far is this photo of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World’s Magic Kindgom, taken in January. I’ve posted all of my favorites so far in the last year, and by doing the blog, I hope to be motivated to use it more. There’s a Tiny Planets Flickr group with some amazing photos posted (maybe I should add some of my own). Please do pop over to my iPhonegraphy page to the Tiny Planets gallery. My other favorite looks a little like a nautilus shell.

At MacMillan Pier, Provincetown MAThe other app I am going to talk about today is one I really haven’t played with much yet: Fake Miniatures. I use the Tilt Shift Generator: Fake Miniature app, another bargain at 99 cents. While I know some of the photo filter aggregator apps like Photoforge include many options for manipulation iPhotos, I find that I get overwhelmed with all of the choices. Easier for me to just pick an app at any moment and use it. I like Photoforge, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t tend to think in such complex-choices-all-at-once fashion.

I’ve been using other apps, and will post about them in the future, as well as additions to these two albums. Have to pull together a mash up album too, where more than one app contributed to the final image.

Thank you, Apple, for creating a phone with so much photographic potential!

Cheryl Wheeler with Kenny White

Going back up the timeline to my most recently photographed show: Cheryl Wheeler, with Kenny White, at the Bellows Falls Opera House Lower Theater in Bellows Falls, Vermont. This show was on May 3, 2012, and I’d been looking forward to it since hearing about it early in the year. We’re very lucky to have some strong venues and producers in this area who book some fantastic acts. Charlie Hunter in Bellows Falls is one of those producers. An ardent music fan and supporter through and through (not to mention amazing painter), one can always bank on the fact that his shows are can’t miss events.

Kenny White, Bellows Falls Opera House, Bellows Falls, VT. 3 May 2012.I’ve seen Cheryl many times before over the last 20 years, so that made this booking even more exciting because I knew it would be a great treat. Lately, I am more likely to see her at a festival setting, like at Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, so a smaller show in a smaller room was going to be an extra plus. In the last few years, she has had Kenny White at her side for many shows, and it’s no wonder why. Kenny is a fantastic pianist and songwriter in his own right. We were treated to an opening set which showcased all that Kenny has to offer. It’s clear how Cheryl and Kenny work so well together, since he has just as offbeat a sense of humor as Cheryl.

Cheryl Wheeler, Bellows Falls Opera House, Bellows Falls, VT. 3 May 2012.Cheryl herself turned in a classically enjoyable set. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing her before, you can be falling out of your chair laughing at a song’s lead in and then a humorous song itself (like her ode to porta potties) and then in the next moment, have tears from a deeply touching ballad. And having those styles of songs back to back is perfectly natural, never feels out of place. Lately, Cheryl has been writing on and playing a ukulele. While she adds a disclaimer that she hasn’t had it for very long and hardly considers herself to be an actual ukulele player, she certainly seems quite at ease and adept at it. We got three new uke songs, all sure to be classics. I wonder how many pets will be getting named Shutcher Piehole in coming years… ;-) (Don’t even want to think about parents who would name a kid that!)

Oh and for those who enjoy visual art to go with music, check out a fantastic book called Nice Rendition. This is a book full of original calligraphy renderings of many of Cheryl’s songs. The pieces inside are just stunning. You can order it online, or get it at some of Cheryl’s shows. I’m excited that I was able to pick up a copy at this concert, and will be savoring it for a long time to come.

View the photos from this concert.