I had a fantastic time in Toronto this past week at the Folk Alliance International 25th Annual Conference. (www.folk.org) Met some wonderful people, gracious presenters, and some extraordinary players, writers and singers.
I was completely knocked out by Katie Noonan (www.katienoonan.com). An Australian artist, I can’t believe that she hasn’t been here before, as she has an enormous amount to offer the discerning listener. Evidently, she is quite well regarded in her homeland. We would be wise to do the same.
She brought a rare elegance to the stage and sang with such remarkable control it was almost as if I had never heard anyone ever sing before. Every note was a joy to hear and her piano accompaniment was exquisite. And what was more remarkable was how effortlessly and musically she floated through the key centers in her compositions.
At a folk conference the music tends to be homophonic, so it was very refreshing to hear the key center move through such surprises, and the choices she made were very satisfying ones. Go see her while she’s in America.
Another performer I really enjoyed was the unorthodox and multi gifted Mark Ettinger. As I was looking at him, I thought, “why do I know this guy?”
It turns out he was one of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, the juggling phenom of the past couple of decades. In case you still don’t know who I mean, they were the jugglers in the Seinfeld episode when Jerry lost his Friars Club jacket. Those guys.
As it happens, Mark is quite a gifted songwriter and the songs he writes are not your usual fare.
Interesting topics, unique chord progressions and even some very fun choreographer make for a very enjoyable performance. He brought so much joy and commitment to his performance, he literally affected my performance that night. I told you, you learn everytime you see someone, but when you see someone really good, you learn even more.
You can tell by the songs, the topics and the presentation that Mark is bright and original and a thoughtful fellow. No one gets enough of that and one show by him, wasn’t enough for me.
Music performance isn’t the only thing that happens at the Folk Alliance International conference.
There are concert presenters, managers, agents, and representatives of all the ancillary businesses that music creates. Not to mention luthiers.
As this was in Toronto, I left my Brazilian Collings D2H at home and brought my trusty Taylor 810ce, so I had to stop by and play some of the new offerings that Taylor Gujitars (www.taylorguitars.com) brought with them. They are making some incredible guitars and you must check them out.
If independent luthiers are the way you want to go, please look up Ron Belanger. He brought some amazing guitars to the party and I loved the look, the sound and the playabililty of them. He is an outstanding luthier and deserves to be recognized as such. www.ronbelangerguitars.com
Next year the conference is in Kansas City, MO and if you can swing it, you should most definitely come.
The conference is an enriching and joyous celebration of acoustic music and the community of live performers, singers and composers.
As Jumping Jack Flash said, “it’s a gas, gas, gas!”