It was an interesting night at the Leo on Sunday, October 6. There were a couple of examples of Balladeers “bands” forming for impromptu performances at open mic, some rather haunting Irish acapella singing, a singer-songwriter set, and some gypsy jazz (and more) in French.
The first open mic set was performed by a foursome with Patty Walker on hammer dulcimer, Miriam Stenson on fiddle, Scott Nutter on guitar, and Kathy Tully Schneider on the bodhran. They performed Celtic dance tunes – or at least what I think we’re Celtic dance tunes. The foursome had been playing together at the upstairs Irish jam earlier in the evening.
For the middle open mic set, Kathy Tully Schneider entertained the audience with some traditional Irish acapella singing. I’d call the songs she sang ballads, but I think I could be wrong. In the Celtic/Irish tradition, as I understand it, ballads have a definite form and I can’t say for sure the songs fit the form. What I do know is Kathy has a fine voice and entertained us all greatly. I particularly appreciated her version of “The Wild Rover.” It’s mostly known as a kind of upbeat Irish drinking song, but Kathy’s version was, as she told me later, from an older tradition and much more melancholy. Listen to Kathy’s version here. Kathy teaches traditional Irish singing at the Riley School of Music.
The final open mic set of the evening included another example of Balladeer talent coming together, with Elizabeth Keller (the volunteer in charge of the food and drink table) singing lead vocals, joined by Brad Monti on guitar and harmony vocals and Bill Rogers on mandolin. Their set included a sing-along, with the audience joining in on the New Christy Minstrels’ tune “Today. “
Balladeer singer-songwriter Elle Fabe gave us a set of all originals, mostly from an upcoming CD that Elle’s working on. You can learn more about the CD and hear Elle’s some of Elle’s tunes on her ReverbNation page and Facebook page. Go there, listen, and “like” her pages.
In a Leo debut, the foursome Frenchaxe (follow the link to find out who is in the band) provided the final, feature set for the evening. Frenchaxe performs all original material all in French. (The music is in universal language.) To my ear, there were some Django-ish gypsy jazz kinds of tunes and some more folk-ish singer-songwriter tunes. (Judge for yourself on YouTube: examples of upbeat Frenchaxe tunes are here and examples of softer Frenchaxe songs are here.) Even if we couldn’t understand the words (and I doubt there are many of us fluent in French), the passion came through.
The next day, I asked Syl in an email if they enjoyed playing the Leo. His reply: “We had a great time, what an attentive audience!!!!” That’s an important point to remember. The Leo is the best listening room in the region. Talented local musicians like to play at (and are often a little intimidated by) the Leo because the audience pays attention.
In another Leo debut (I think), Balladeer Greg Hines was the emcee for the evening.
By an informal quick count, there were perhaps 60 to 70 people in the audience, and perhaps 20 or more joining jams in other parts of the building. These days, that audience is about average. I mention that because back when I was first involved with Balladeers in the 90s, an average audience was maybe 15 and we thought a fantastic night had an audience of about 35 to 40 – just trying to provide some perspective.