PASSION PLAY 2014: BOUND FOR GLORY
Shepherd of the Hills Church, Porter Ranch, California
Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014
“I saw Jesus on the cross/On that hill called Calvary/Do you hate mankind for what they’ve done to you?/He said talk of love not hate/Things to do it’s getting late/We’re all brothers and we’re only passing through.” A song from a Catholic hymnal? A Protestant prayer book? Not even close: it’s from Lift Every Voice, the second left wing People's Songbook of 1953, the same book that contained songs by the soon-to-be blacklisted Pete Seeger, suspected communist Paul Robeson, executed IWW troubadour Joe Hill and Dust Bowl Balladeer Woody Guthrie. It was written by a professor of Renaissance Literature at Cal State Northridge and People’s songster, Dick Blakeslee. What’s a Godless commie folk singer doing writing songs about Jesus? Maybe because Jesus was himself a textbook case of a radical misfit.
Who said “The meek shall inherit the earth.”? Who said, “As you do unto the least among us, you do unto me”? Who said “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”? Who drove the money changers out of the temple? Hint: it wasn’t Karl Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto in the safe confines of the British Museum’s Reading Room. So what kind of a man was Jesus?
I wanted to find out for myself, so I figured where better than the best passion play in town, which Jill and I had the good fortune to see last night at the sold-out production of The Passion Play at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, with a cast of hundreds, including children, teens and adults, some of them highly esteemed Hollywood professionals. If you want to see a passion play, theirs is the production to see.
ANNUAL BENEFIT CONCERT
Saturday April 26 8pm
Reception at 7pm
Our annual benefit concert has always been a fun, ear-opening event and this year promises to be no exception.
SANTA MONICA Woman's Club
1210 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
(near Wilshire & 4th St.)
Tickets: $20 general admission,
$25 VIP reserved seating
Info: concerts@FolkWorks.org 818-785-3839
Emcee Tracy Newman
Always entertaining, Tracy may throw in some of her own songs.
Los Angeles’ all-natural hillbilly and country blues band, combines the traditional sounds of fiddle and banjo breakdowns with the low-down sound of country blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz. The versatile acoustic ensemble features fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, washboard, and a few odds and ends.
The popular Los Angeles-based women’s chorus that brings to life vocal folk/roots traditions from around the world. Their songs range from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Bosnia to Rom and Sephardic songs - as well as recently added American and Irish music. Their spellbinding harmonies are at the core of their eclectic repertoire. Whether a simple American song or the complex harmonies of Bulgaria the voices of Nevenka’s women are sure to move you. While mostly singing a cappella, they are occasionally accompanied by percussion, mandolin, guitar, citern or panduri.
Swing Riots Quirktette
The Swing Riots are comprised of 6 core members who have played for decades in everything from Balkan dance bands to traditional Swing groups. They perform an irreverent gumbo of Gypsy & Creole Jazz, Klezmer & Romanian Horas, Parisian Musette & the occasional wild card thrown in for good measure.
Tunacious is a Celtic genre-bending band with songs and dance tunes with a blowout contra dance to wind up the evening.
(Click on hyperlink for tickets)
Series at the Talking Stick Café
FolkWorks Benefit Concert April 26th
Swing Riots Quirktette, Sausage Grinder, Nevenka, Tunacious
emcee: Tracy Newman
Rose Garden of Peace Concert May 31st
With Yuval Ron Ensemble
Remembering Leslie Perry
(May 28, 1936-March 5, 2014)
The last time I saw storyteller Leslie Perry was at a gathering he hosted in Pasadena in order to have his close friends surrounding him one more time; photographs were taken, memories shared and of course stories told.. His body was withering away from the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but his smile was still incandescent as he held forth in typical Leslie fashion, all eyes upon him till the end. He had hosted many such gatherings in recent years, refusing to stop living in the face of his dire medical diagnosis. Indeed, it seemed to propel him into action, as he published two books, organized fundraisers for the Pasadena ALS (Amytropic Lateral Sclerosis) Society and became the center of gravity to his friends who were already missing him. And always this Michigan-born California transplant continued to practice his craft and tell his stories.
One of four African-American storytellers of my acquaintance (Michael McCarty, Barbara Clark and Nick Smith are the others) from LAs Community Storytellers, he devoted as much energy to being the main organizer of storytelling events as he did to actually telling stories. He was a focal point for WOW—With Our Words—whose leader Karen Golden has now put some of Leslie’s best known tales from live performances at the Beverly Hills’ Public Library up on YouTube. But the thing I remember with most fondness about Leslie is not his own storytelling—it was the fact that if he wasn’t performing himself he would always be in the audience listening. He was the Supporter-in-Chief of the entire community and it didn’t diminish his pleasure one iota to be in the audience rather than up on stage. He taught me that the story listener is just as important as the story teller. Without fail with Leslie in the audience you could count on a great performance from the stage; his kinetic energy, his rapt attention, his joy in the entire relationship was profoundly contagious and enveloped the performer as well as the room of other audience members.
Beauty’s Currency: Janis Ian and Tom Paxton
Barbican, London 25.3.14
FolkWorks’ British correspondent Rosa Redoz reviews Ian and Paxton’s Together At Last Tour.
Beauty is a strange currency. Janis Ian’s ode to a youth impoverished by plainness is a lilting bossa nova gem. Had she thought herself endowed with familiar features the art would not have been created.
“That seat will go.” said my neighbour as I spread my coat on an adjacent spare seat in the sold out concert in the Barbican, London on Tuesday evening.
“Have you seen Janis Ian before?” she asked me. “I did a few years ago and she was fabulous.”
And they were; from the moment Tom Paxton and Janis Ian took to the stage with Robin Bullock on mandolin.
“Yes we all still sing songs of hope and peace,” said Paxton after a fine opening rendition of How Beautiful upon the Mountain - the harmonies were perfect; the mandolin fills were divine and I caught glimpses of the extraordinary guitar skill Ian was to reveal as the set continued.
Who Put the Jangle in Mr. Bojangles?
In Concert at McCabe’s March 16, 2014
There are guitarists, and then there are guitarists. And then there is David Bromberg, the guitarist who put the jangle in Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker’s hit song about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary African-American tap dancer who was for black America what Fred Astaire was to white America—the standard against which all others would be judged. But before you even heard Jerry Jeff’s voice on his signature recording, you already were captured by its descending bass-line guitar intro hook—that made you see Mr. Bojangles descending a staircase—as he did in one of his famous dance routines. It was musical magic at its finest—and the guitarist who came up with it was David Bromberg.
To see him live at McCabe’s last night was pure acoustic artistry that comes along about as often as that great dancer—once in a generation—if you’re lucky.
We were lucky to hear him—solo (for the most part) acoustic—just Bromberg and his orchestral vintage Martin D-28 sitting on stage in front of McCabe’s legendary microphone—where so many great musicians have now stood—and none greater than David Bromberg; if you love folk music, Bromberg is as good as it gets. And it is truly a rare pleasure to get to hear him solo; on his current tour every one of his other bookings is with his band, or at larger venues his “Big Band.” I prefer the one-man band and he gave us a very generous two and a half hour concert with one intermission, two standing ovations and three—three!—encores.
The Young Lady with Strong Sweet Voice
In my last column, I mentioned that the Battlefield Band’s latest album, Room Enough for All, had been named album of the year at the 2013 Scottish Traditional Music Awards. The awards this year were, I think, interesting in the way that they reflected the shifting and merging of the old and the new. The composer of the year award went to Donald Shaw, founding member and keyboard player of Capercaillie and the driving force behind the annual Celtic Connections festival. Though certainly a member of the “old guard” of modern Scottish music, he is also known as one of its most innovative and creative players.
The Scots Singer of the Year award usually goes to someone who fits the standard image of a tradition-bearer; someone of fairly advanced years who has a long history of learning, singing and sharing the old bothy ballads and travelers’ songs. Not so this year… the award was given to Siobhan Miller, a young lady whose strong, sweet voice is among the newest in the genre. Siobhan could easily have taken the folk singer-songwriter path, but instead she’s dedicated herself to learning and preserving the old songs.
Folk music is always going to evolve. If it didn’t, then it would cease to be the peoples’ music as the people left it behind. I find it reassuring to see the young and the older musicians joining forces both to preserve the past and shepherd the future.
If you’d like the results of the remaining Scots Trad Award categories, they are online.
ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS
TITLE: CAN’T FIX CRAZY
LABEL: BUTTON BOX RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: MARCH, 2014
On this, her fourth album, Jackie Morris demonstrates the maturation of her craft in every way. Her delivery has developed beautifully and the songs are skillfully formulated, with pleasing melodies, spot-on backup, excellent arrangements and outstanding production.
Opening with her first-rate whistling on Come and Gone, a sweet tribute to musician friends that have departed, she establishes that ability as a legitimate instrument. It is employed as well on North Hampton Road, a haunting love-gone-wrong song.
The harmonies provided by Jim St. Ours, Cinder Jean and Rebecca Troon are subtle, well-balanced and complementary, adding greatly to the listenability of the seven tunes where they’re used.
The instrumentation is top-notch, with accomplished multi-instrumentalist David West once again supplying a myriad of support on guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and bass. John O’Kennedy contributes some nice guitar work, subtly complementing four of the prettiest songs. Other contributors include Lorenzo Martinez on percussion, David Piltch on upright bass, Alastair Greene on resonator guitar and the no-less-than-amazing Gabe Witcher on fiddle, adding a gorgeous melodic overtone to several of the ballads.
TITLE: STREETS CRACKED
ARTIST: JEFF GOLD
LABEL: WINDYAPPLE RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 18, 2014
The Power of Critical Thinking:
As a freshman at UCLA in 1965 I had the good fortune to study American History with Professor Donald Meyer, author of the new book and now modern classic The Positive Thinkers, an analytic survey of the predecessors to Norman Vincent Peale’s bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. He demonstrated that the sources of Peale’s panaceas ran deep in our culture, from popular religious figures like Mary Baker Eddy to politicians like Ronald Reagan, from 19th Century snake oil salesman to medicine show entertainers to modern TV preacher/hucksters like Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. Dr. Meyer counseled a wry skepticism towards such gospels of wealth and materialism disguised as Christian values and made an alternative case for the Power of Critical Thinking to combat its promise of a one-dimensional view of individual success with counter-cultural values like community, spiritual fulfillment and the good life.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
KHUKH TENGER / HUUN-HUUR TU
TAIKOPROJECT / RYUTARO KANEKO
TRACY NEWMAN AND THE REINFORCEMENTS / ELAYNA
CATHY BARTON & DAVE PARA
WENDY WALDMAN / STEVE FERGUSON
Sunday, April 20, 2014
CATHY BARTON & DAVE PARA
Thursday, April 24, 2014
CHICK COREA / BELA FLECK
Friday, April 25, 2014
STAGECOACH MUSIC FESTIVAL
NOEL PAUL STOOKEY
I SEE HAWKS in L. A.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
STAGECOACH MUSIC FESTIVAL
WORLD MUSIC FOR KIDS - THE MUSIC OF VERACRUZ
HOSSEIN ALIZADEH & HAMAVAYAN ENSEMBLE
Sunday, April 27, 2014
AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC FEST
BERKLEY HART / JACK TEMPCHIN
TRAMPLED BY TURTLES / SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION
Tuesday, April 29, 2014