Tonight at the Virginia Theatre, turn the clock back to the mid-1800s for “Granny’s Porch: Lincoln and his Music; Melodies that Moved the Man and the Nation.” Get a feel for what Illinois culture was like when Abe was around through various old-timey musicians, as well as several speakers.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and it’s $15 for adults, $10 for students or groups of ten or more and $5 for children. Artists to appear include but are not limited to: Jordan Kaye of the Prairie Dogs, Oberon, the Possum King , Bow-Dacious String Band, Boneyard Creek Cloggers, the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band, Deborah Hyland and Tom and Matt Turino.
After the jump, hear from Robin Kearton about the wide repertoire of Oberon and let Matt Turino give you a preview of the songs that he and his father, Tom, will play tonight.
I traded emails with Robin Kearton earlier this week:
Smile Politely: How much crossover in personnel is there between Oberon and the Bow-Dacious String Band? Can you give me a little history of each group?
Robin Kearton: Oberon, the Possum King is a quintet of professional level adults. Our instrumentation is:
Tom Faux: banjo/button-accordion
Robin Kearton: fiddle/ol-timey viola
Randy McCabe: mandolin
Will Hope: guitar
Russell Clark: bass.
We take turns on vocals.
We’ve been together as a quartet since spring of ‘06 and recently added our bass player. We began several years ago as a typical midwestern old time string band, playing the usual hoedowns, reels and occasional waltzes (albeit at faster tempos than most!). Over the years we’ve expanded our repertoire and techniques to the point where local old-time musicians don’t recognize us anymore. In addition to southern-style, old-timey music, we play French-Canadian dance tunes, some Middle Eastern oud numbers, Fellini-esque Italian waltzes and even a bit of Ellington and Miles Davis. Still, the good ol’ fiddle and banjo dance groove remains our musical backbone.
We’re also playing for free this Saturday at Strawberry Fields from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you visit our website you can get a feel for the various places we’ve played.
The Bow-Dacious String Band is a group for teaching kids how to play non-classical music. It started in the summer of 2003 with 18 kids in a week-long summer camp. We’ve since grown to a 50-member band with members ranging in age from six to high school. We rehearse once weekly and perform often.
I’ve lost track of how many performances we’ve done, but it must be at least 100 since we started. We’ve been invited to play in Chicago and around the state several times. If you visit our website, check out the “coming events” and “archive” pages to get some idea of what we’ve done.
This coming spring, the group is going to Atlanta with me, where they will help me present a lecture/demonstration at the national conference of the American String Teachers’ Association. Little did I know, when I started a fun little summer camp, that I was actually trail blazing! It turns out that we’re a cutting edge string education group, one of the only (and very probably the first!) community-based multiple age and skill level groups in the entire country.
Crossover between the two groups varies. I’m the only constant person in both groups. I’m the director of Bow-Dacious and the main teacher, and I play fiddle with Possum King.
SP: Have you played at the Virginia before? What do you think will be different about it compared to a traditional venue?
RK: This Friday will be Bow-Dacious’ 3rd “Granny’s Porch” concert and the 2nd for Oberon, the Possum King. Both groups have played the Virginia and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on multiple occasions. The main difference is the ambience and I have to admit that people tend to take us more seriously when we’re in a more formal venue. It doesn’t make that much difference to us — we enjoy playing and we take our playing seriously no matter where we are.
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Yesterday, I caught up with Matt Turino after he’d spent a hard day substitute-teaching at Prairie School.
Smile Politely: Are you a full-time musician, or do you normally work on the side?
Matt Turino: I definitely have never tried making a full-out living being a musician.
SP: Are you originally from North Carolina?
MT: I’m actually from Urbana, but I went to school down there at Warren Wilson College in Ashville. I studied environmental policy. Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve pretty much just worked on farms and done other random jobs.
SP: Have you played Granny’s Porch before? What do you expect?
MT: I’ve never been to one, and I’m not really sure. I got the script from Scott Schwartz, who’s organizing it. They blend it towards teaching about the time of Lincoln, and also on the side teaching about what it was like during that time by making it more of a variety show by adding dancing and stuff like that.
SP: Are you playing a set, then, or will your songs be broken up?
MT: Actually, me and my father are playing four tunes right in the middle. We’re one act out of many. We tried to choose songs that were period-oriented. I’ve played a lot of old-time string band music. It’s definitely one of the styles that I play. ... The first song we’re playing is “The Cumberland Gap,” and that’s a tune that comes out of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and then we’re playing a song called “Pagan Hall,” and that’s basically about the end of equally manufacturing shoes, where people talk about cobblers losing their jobs to machines. And then we’re playing this weird tune that’s kind of a mix of two tunes. The first one is “Sally Ann” and then a song called “Drew Hill,” my dad sings that one and then we’re singing a song called “Red Rocking Chair.”