Donnerstag, 31. August 2023

Detlef's report from Bonn Folk Club Meet # 137 from July 07.07.23

 Folk Club in July 2023 with a visit from Canada

On the last Folk Club evening before the summer break, the audience could look forward to an extensive contribution by our guest from Canada, guitarist Don Bartlett. As always, the programme was framed by contributions from John Harrison and music from local artists. In addition, the Cologne group Hofjebräu came to the Folk Club stage for the second time this year.

But as always, first things first. The traditional warm-up was performed by John Harrison. As a little allusion to Don Bartlett, whose home is the Canadian province of Alberta (twice the geographical size of Germany with about 4.5 million inhabitants), John started with the song "Alberta, Alberta". However, this has nothing to do with Canada but is directed at a woman with the same name. The origin of the melody is not clear. The first recording from 1926 is attributed to the blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson. At that time the song was still called "Corrinne, Corrina". Others give Bo Carter Chapman of The Mississippi Sheiks as the originator. The lyrics in honour of an Alberta were only later combined with the melody and were written by Lead Belly*. But with the old blues tunes, it is not unusual that different authors are assumed to be the originators and some things were mixed up. The cudgel of copyright had not yet been developed. Clearly, by John himself is the song "Trouble And Strife", which deals with the devastating events of the Yugoslav War in 1991.

. Also from John's own pen is the song "Albert McShah", which sings about a somewhat unusual sheikh in whose harem live 50 women who like to sing blues. But the women sing slightly off-key. Here John skilfully used his resonator guitar with bottleneck slide technique - very funny!

Hans Ihnen always has little gems of folk music from earlier years in store. This time he had chosen songs by the unforgotten John Denver, which fitted well with the theme of the evening "Arrival and Farewell": Some listeners were already singing along with "Leaving On A Jet Plane". "Back Home Again" was obviously not quite as well known by the audience, but no less beautiful. The third song was then a reference both to Canada and to Darrel Delaronde, who together with his wife Saskia thrilled the audience at the Folk Club in May 2018 as the duo "Great Plains". Darrel, however, sadly passed away in October 2020. "My Father's Land" is one of his songs from the album "Holy Ground" - Thank you, Hans, for your songs and especially for remembering Darrel and Saskia.

Quite against his usual habit, Mario Dompke this time resorted to songs by other authors. "Ich bin Soldat" is a song that first became known in connection with the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The song is attributed to the Saxon socialist Max Kegel, but the Zwickau newspaper editor Karl Hirsch is also believed to be the author of the lyrics. Mario also linked the song to the Napoleonic Wars, which took place some 70 years earlier. Be that as it may, the song became known to a larger public in the interpretation of the group Zupfgeigenhansel in 1976. The song "Leicht Gepäck" (Light Luggage) with the refrain line "Mein ganzer Reichtum ist mein Lied" (My whole wealth is my song) was written by Georg Herwegh. Herwegh was a contemporary and kindred spirit of Kegel's who campaigned for liberation from the authoritarian state and took an active part in the revolution of 1848. Mario then reached into the folk song box with the song,

"Lustig, lustig, ihr lieben Brüder" ("Merry, merry, my dear brothers"), in which the audience sang the refrain,

"While our craft is corrupted
The best-drinking brothers have died
There's none more alive than I and you"

were allowed to sing along. The song is about the experiences of a wandering journeyman craftsman who has travelled all over Europe.

After this somewhat lengthy introduction, Don Bartlett, the featured artist of the evening, gave us a taste of his virtuoso guitar skills in his first set before the interval. To anticipate: If you see his name on a programme somewhere: Go for it! It was simply a musical firework display the likes of which you don't often get to hear. Don, who was already a guest at the Folk Club four years ago, has developed enormously since then and is a real musical highlight.

For tonight he had mainly chosen instrumental interpretations of pieces by other authors. "Spiritual Groove" by Antoine Dufour is a furious piece with percussion elements on the guitar body. "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica only gets the right effect through Don's instrumental version. His version of the song "Here, There And Everywhere" by the Beatles is beautiful enough to make you cry. Other interpretations were "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Charlie Puth and an arrangement by Canadian Lenny Breau of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" with artfully interwoven additions of jazz elements.

The second part of the evening started again with John Harrison, this time accompanied by Christoph Thiebes and Michael Ralph Pfeil with their harmonicas. "Walking Blues" is a piece from the 1930s. It was written by Son House, but it got its popularity in the interpretation of Robert Johnson. "Mr. Solitaire" was penned by John himself, while the blues "Little Red Rooster" was written by Willie Dixon. It became famous in 1961 in the recording with Howling Wolf (and later was an early hit for the Rolling Stones).

John Hay had also chosen songs to match the evening's theme, which were also good to sing along to. Apparently, John Denver is a real treasure trove on the subject of "arrival and farewell", as he had already helped himself to Hans Ihnen in the box in the first part of the evening. The lyrics of "Country Road" fulfilled the motto criterion perfectly. Today Here, Tomorrow There" by Hannes Wader also fit well and was also a German-language contribution, with which the audience sang along vigorously. The song "Oceans" by Hillsong United, a music collective belonging to the Australian "Hillsong community", a denomination belonging to the Christian Pentecostal church movement, has a strong religious reference.

Bringing us back down to earth was "Hofjebräu", who had already performed at the beginning of the year. The group consists of Michael Ralph Pfeil and Axel Meyer. The two devote themselves to German-language rock music with great fervour. As a successful combination of the Ruhr region (Michael) and the Rhineland (Axel), they also have songs in the Rhenish dialect in their repertoire. They started right away with "Helfen kann dir keiner" by BAP and stirred up the audience. They were accompanied by John Harrison and Christoph Thiebes on the harmonica. The Ruhr area section then got their contribution with the song "Willie und Gerd" by Stoppok, where the two of them really rocked out. Then it was back to the Rhenish and contemplative with "Wellenreiter" by BAP, in which Axel was able to show that he is well versed in Rhenish dialect. Marius Müller-Westernhagen's song "Hier in der Kneipe" (Here in the pub), which the two had slightly adapted in terms of lyrics, proved to be well suited for a homage to our pub "Dotty's". Big applause for "Hofjebräu"!

Afterwards, Don Bartlett had the rest of the evening at his disposal. In honour of his friend Steve Perry, who died last year, Don had taken a tune composed by Steve and rearranged it. "Today Is Forever" is the title of the piece, into which Don wove elements of Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" - We are sure Steve will like it!

Apparently also known in Canada is Nena's song "Ninety-Nine Balloons", for which Don has arranged a wonderful instrumental version. Again a combination of elements from different melodies and Don arranged a wonderful instrumental version. Again a combination of elements from different tunes was the following piece. He wove "Freight Train" by Elisabeth Cotten into the "Cannonball Rag" by Merle Travis (guitar virtuoso Tommy Emanuel calls the piece "the anthem of fingerpicking guitarists") and combined this with a ride through several keys - very virtuoso and apart. For a change, Don presented the secret anthem of Scotland, "Caledonia" by Dougie MacLean - a reference to Don's Scottish ancestors. The song has been heard several times at the Folk Club - it is simply heartrending. Then it went on with instrumentals: "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" by Kylie Minogue, "Mad World" by Tears for Fears, and last but not least the edited and slightly alienated Beatles song "Nowhere Man". No, Don's performance was not quite over after that. The enthusiastic audience would not let him go without an encore. He chose the piece "Midna's Lament". Funnily enough, it is a theme song of a video game Don had played as a teenager: "The Legend Of Zelda". 

As usual, our patron saint, Jock Stewart, brought the colourful evening to a close, this time accompanied by our grand stalwart Hans-Günter Peters, the folk club's own nonagenarian on the piano, and another man, from the club's very first hours in the Schutzenhaus in Graurheindorf, that you don't meet every day, proving that regularly playing music very often furthers one's longevity, and long may it be so!

Good on you Günter!

Well, we don't have legends to tell, but we do have "true stories". One of these true stories is that the Folk Club has become a crowd puller again after the interruptions and restrictions caused by the Corona wave.

Another "true story" is that the next edition of the Folk Club is already just around the corner, on Friday 1st September. This time there will be a Singers' Night. Let us surprise you!

One more thing: If you can't get enough of folk and blues music, you should drop by the Kater 26 pub at Römerstraße 26 on 31 August 2023 from 8 pm. John Harrison and Christoph Thiebes will be giving a concert there with the theme "A little bit of Folk and a whole lotta Blues!"

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