Dearest Home presents live music from the Bayard Folk Song Collection at concerts, festivals and workshops. This summer they performed for the Warwick Folk Festival in England, and the Marymass Folk Festival, and Edinburgh’s Wee Folk Club at the Royal Oak, in Scotland. Plans are in motion for two more discs drawn from the collection, along with songbooks and dulcimer tablature. An EP album of other favorite American folk songs, including selections from the Carter Family and Jean Ritchie, will be released during the coming months. The band released their self-titled debut album, featuring authentic Civil War era music, in 2013.
Listen to clips and order Back to Laurel Hill at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dearesthome3. Visit the Arts Alliance of Great Waynesboro at http://artsalliancegw.org/.
Lightning flashed as rain descended. Electric power failed, and the batteries in the CD player were dead. So Beth Folkemer followed her friend Carl Rahkonen, Indiana University music librarian, to his car to listen to a 1948 field recording from rural Pennsylvania. Beth quickly identified Northern Appalachian versions of ballads from Scotland, Ireland and England. Back to Laurel Hill, Pennsylvania and West Virginia Folk Songs from the Bayard Collection: Volume 1, was born! The album’s official US release is slated for Nov. 13, 5:30-8:00 pm, at Gallery 50, 50 West Main Street, Waynesboro, PA, part of the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro. The album was released in Great Britain when Dearest Home performed at festivals there in July and August.
The songs Beth heard on that wet afternoon were only a few drops from the wellspring of traditional music that late Penn State professor, Samuel Bayard, collected in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The recordings that Carl had recently digitized contained only pieces from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. Bayard had collected most of his songs, ballads and spirituals over the 18 years before this period, patiently taking them down by ear. Only about a dozen folk songs had been published—the rest lay dormant in library archive boxes at State College.
It wasn’t long until Beth began regular trips to State College, where she dived into boxes of notebooks, transcriptions, index cards, articles and lecture notes. The raw materials were there, but tunes, their lyrics, and information about their singers were separated. She unearthed a table of contents for the book Sam Bayard was preparing, but the numerous notebooks were not indexed. Only slowly was she was able to reunite musical notes and words. At the same time, she perused every ballad and folk song collection she could find, comparing and contrasting Bayard’s versions with others’.
A year later, research was sufficiently underway that the Folkemer Family Band, which included Beth, her husband Stephen and their three young-adult children, Joel, Margaret and Nathan, began to perform and teach material from the Samuel Bayard Folk Song Collection. But as the work progressed, the Folkemer sons moved on to other responsibilities. By then the project had become Beth’s passion. So, in 2011, the band Dearest Home came together to perform Appalachian music, especially from North and North Central Appalachia, as well as to present authentic Civil War era music, another keen interest. Today Chuck Krepley, vocals, fiddle, and banjo, and Chris Barnabei, acoustic bass, round out the roster that still includes Margaret, vocals and pennywhistle, Stephen, vocals, concertina, and keyboards, and Beth, vocals, guitar, and mountain dulcimer.
The traditional folk songs that Sam Bayard found represent a musically rich, but oft-neglected region. This is especially true for Pennsylvania, which few people think of as an Appalachian state. Among the source singers he visited, Bayard heard the interplay of northern and southern American traditions, as well as obvious kinship with songs across the ocean, some narratives taking place in Ireland, Scotland and England. Now, despite the march of time, farmers, loggers, soldiers, sailors, parents, children, lovers, and believers spring to life, their tales leaping out of the box and into the ear as Dearest Home gives voice to the music Bayard preserved.
Dearest Home’s Album Recreates Civil War Era Music and Traditional PA Songs from the Bayard Collection Dearest Home’s inaugural album delivers the rare experience of authenticity and originality in perfect harmony. It recreates traditional American music, especially from the US Civil War Era, with three songs from the unpublished Samuel Bayard Folk Song Collection, held at Penn State University Libraries, and a pair of tunes from Bayard’s Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife. Si Kahn, 2010 Folk Alliance Triple Crown winner (#1 Artist, #1 CD, #1 Song) writes: If ‘home is where the heart is,’ then the singers and musicians who together make up Dearest Home have clearly poured their hearts into their new self-titled album. Deeply steeped in the traditional music of Pennsylvania, my own home state, they have chosen wisely from their wide repertoire of Civil War songs, Appalachian ballads and fiddle tunes. Singing with passion, skill and the resonant matching of voices that seems born in the blood of next-of-kin, Dearest Home presents us with close harmony in many senses of the phrase, on stage and on CD. In their voices, you can hear the peaks and valleys of the landscape, feel the past and future marching together, and sense the shadows of the mountains. Like the band’s membership, Dearest Home’s music unites generations! It features rich vocals, fiddle, concertina, guitar, bass, piano, mountain dulcimer, pennywhistle, flugelhorn, jaw harp, bones and tambourine. Tailoring programs to each venue, Dearest Home is known for performing authentic Civil War Era music (in period costume), presenting songs and tunes from the Samuel Bayard Collection (PA and WV), playing a variety of Appala-chian music including selections from the Ritchie and Carter Families and other sources, or offering a mix of their varied styles. They delight in playing for dances too! Additionally, they perform related traditional music from Scot-land, Ireland and England. Donna Chestnut, chair of the Fine Arts Series at First Lutheran Church, Carlisle, com-ments: Our audience really enjoyed participating in the singing.… We applaud you for your attention to historical detail, your excellent mu-sicianship, and your interaction with the audience…. Your concert was a real gift to our church and the community. Dearest Home’s music is featured in an installation of Gettysburg’s new Seminary Ridge Museum (Civil War, “Faith and Freedom”). Since forming in 2011, Dearest Home has played and offered workshops for venues including; the Grand Opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum, Gettysburg 150th Civil War Events, Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering, Common Ground on Seminary Ridge, Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital, Heart of the Arts Festival, Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Music, Gettysburg!, Waterford Fair, St. Michael’s Soiree, Seminary Ridge Civil War Symposium, Gettysburg College Library, the Midtown Scholar, Hauser Estate Winery, The Occupation of Mechanicsburg/Skirmish at Sporting Hill, and other concert series in MD, NY, PA and VA. Visit them at www.reverbnation.com/dearesthome, and www.dearesthome.com, as well as on Facebook, to listen to music, view more information and sign up for updates. They are available for concerts, festivals historical events, reenact-ments, dances, workshops, weddings, conferences, libraries, schools, restaurants, retirement villages and other ven-ues. Their CD, Dearest Home, is available by mail through contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.cdbaby.com/cd/dearesthome.
Stephen Folkemer, who admits his all-time favorite birthday present is his Hayden Duet Concertina, also plays keyboards and contributes his pleasing bass voice and music-arranging support to the band. Since 1979, Stephen has served as the music director at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, where he is Pro-fessor of Church Music and Cantor. He is the organist and choir director at Christ Lutheran Church, Gettys-burg. He is founder and director of the Schola Cantorum of Gettysburg, and serves on the Music, Gettysburg executive committee. He has composed and published numerous choral and organ works, along with writing many commissioned works for national as well as local and regional organizations. With his wife Beth he has written Of the Land and Seasons: A Folk Song Setting for Holy Communion. Beth Folkemer plays a guitar custom-designed and built by Oriskany Stringed Instruments, Huntingdon, PA, www.oriskanyguitars.com. She brings a versatile alto voice plus music-arranging and mountain dulcimer skills to the ensemble. Her deep love of American, Scottish, Irish, and English folk music was the gift of her family of origin. She has been published in two hymnals. She is spearheading the band's research on the material from the Samuel Bayard Pennsylvania folk song collection. Beth’s professional background includes work with adults and children, as well as a wealth of experience interpreting historical texts. She is the music coordinator for Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital series at Christ Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, and has served as an assistant children's choir director. Chris Barnabei provides the foundation for Dearest Home, contributing acoustic bass in a style that is intuitive and lively, with impeccable tuning. Chris has played in bands and ensembles that span the musical spectrum, mainly in the Pittsburgh area. A technology coordinator /librarian in the Chambersburg school district, he resides in Gettysburg with his wife Tara.
Dearest Home Authenticity and Originality in Perfect Harmony Margaret Folkemer’s lilting soprano adds grace to her ballads and parlor songs, but she is capable of belting out driving songs as well. Along with her accomplishments as a vocalist, pennywhistle player and pianist, she has studied oboe and helps to arrange music for the band. A frequent soloist for the Music, Gettysburg! series, she sings also in Bel Voce (choir). Meg graduated from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, Montreal, where she performed in the medieval music ensemble, was featured in Gilbert and Sullivan productions and sang with Cappella Antiqua and other choirs. She performed and was a stage manager for Opera McGill. She has been an assistant stage manager and a production manager for the Green Mountain Opera Festival, and a stage manager for Amherst Early Music Festival. She is a private voice instructor and choir director. Chuck Krepley’s two great passions are music and history. Once a professional Bluegrass banjo player, he took up the fiddle in the 1980s. Chuck spent many years studying Scottish fiddle music, winning a couple of fiddle contests along the way. He has studied and performed historical music covering every period from the French & Indian War of the 1750s through the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Chuck was the music director for French and Indian War documentary film, Washington’s First War: The Battles for Fort Du-quesne, by Paladin Communications. Chuck performs and records with his own Civil War band, Home Front, and enjoys guest appearances with several other Civil War bands. He also performs with Celtic band Across the Pond. Mr. Krepley, a former research chemist, recently completed an apprenticeship as a violinmaker in York, PA. His handmade fiddle, historic banjo, and pleasant baritone voice are essential ingredients to Dearest Home’s authentic sound.
Charles Thompson’s clear tenor voice conveys the depth of his ballads and hymns, he plays a mellow flugelhorn and soaring trumpet, and he’s the band’s heart-beat with various percussion instruments. You may also hear his trumpet adding just the right color to period music. Charles is frequent soloist for the Schola Cantorum, and a former choir director. A programmer/analyst at Shepherd University, he lives in Gettysburg with his wife Connie and stepson Colin.