by Karana Drayton,
Amelia Ryan, & Tony Imperatrice
The Rogue Festival will be here soon-it opens on March 1! Here we have 3 more Rogue Show Previews all of which involve music, and all by local performers! There are more preview articles this weekend, and more to come all the way up to Rogue! You will be able to find them all in our Arts & Entertainment section. We also have a Rogue Festival event page with many of their press releases, and an article about this year’s Muse.
Two for the Road: Brain Cloudy Blues
By Karana Drayton
All folks sing the blues, whether in a typical 12-bar format as in American music or as a lament in the Irish and Scottish tradition. Fresno duet Two for the Road returns to the 2019 Rogue Festival with a show dedicated to the blues from a variety of genres, Celtic to Western swing, including the Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan signature song, Brain Cloudy Blues. Two for the Road will be “on stage” at the Spectrum Gallery, 608 E. Olive Avenue in Fresno’s Tower District on Friday, March 1 (8:30 p.m.), Saturday March 2 (4:15 p.m.), Friday, March 8 (6 p.m.) and Saturday, March 9 (8 p.m.).
The Fresno duet playfully refers to their repertoire as “Celtic Cowboy” music. Thus they play Celtic and American Roots tunes and songs from Irish and Scottish reels to Western swing and bluegrass favorites.
Donn Beedle (fiddle/viola) and Karana Hattersley-Drayton (vocals/keyboard) will include a diversity of “blues” in their sets including “Teabag Blues” (by Seattle fiddler Hank Bradley), Trixie Smith’s “Mining Camp Blues” (1925) and “Brain Cloudy Blues” which was recorded when Bob Wills and band members lived here in Fresno in the 1940s on the Triple B Ranch. Laments from the Celtic tradition include the fiddle tune, “Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife” and the Scottish border ballad, “Jock O’Hazeldean.”
American blues songs reflect the melding of West African and Anglo-American traditional musical forms that developed in slavery and post-slavery times with influences from field hollers and the folk hymns of the Great Awakening. And why blue? The slang term for being sad, forlorn or dejected also has it roots in British and American folk speech (first cited in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1586) but is also undoubtedly derived from the custom of wearing blue-indigo dyed garments for mourning in West and Central Africa.
Donn Beedle studied classical violin as a child and played bass professionally through college. He switched to fiddle in the 1960s with encouragement from traditional musicians Kenny Hall and Harry Liedstrand. Karana Hattersley-Drayton also has a background in classical music. Karana co-founded the American string band The Arkansas Sheiks which toured the country in the 1970s. She has an academic interest in traditional music and studied ethnomusicology at U.C. Berkeley on her way to completing a Master’s in Folklore. Both musicians also play together in Pipe on the Hob, a Celtic music quartet which Donn founded.
Two for the Road has played diverse venues over the past five years including Clovis Bluegrass in the Park, The Kings River Bluegrass Festival, Twilight Thursdays at Clovis Botanical Gardens, The Bakersfield Scottish Games, and local libraries. They first appeared at the 2016 Rogue Festival which garnered them rave reviews. Two for the Road’s recording “Bring It On Down to My House” was released in fall 2016. Their Rogue shows will include several numbers from this collection as well as new material.
For more information visit the band’s Facebook page.
Songs to Live By
By Amelia Ryan
Amelia Ryan sings an eclectic mix of musical theater, folk, pop, and opera, and tells stories from a mixed-up musical life.
Four distinct shows: The first is an all-Irish program.
The second, third, and fourth are a musical autobiography in three sets, from international folk to American songbook, opera, and musical theater.
With special guests!
I knew I wanted to do a different sort of Rogue Festival show this year. Twice now at the Rogue, I’ve performed State Your Name for the Record, a script that I wrote about the world of court reporting and the justice system’s treatment of the mentally ill. This year I wanted to do something entirely different.
The first show, on Friday, March 1, is composed entirely of Irish music. I’ve been singing Irish traditional, and not-so-traditional, songs all my life. Kathryn Johnsen, who’s a wonderful musician and member of Pipe on the Hob, will be accompanying me on Celtic harp. We’ve performed a few of these songs together over the years, but usually in a more impromptu way. There are so many wonderful Irish songs to choose from, but I think we have a good mix of art songs, traditional ballads, a few in Irish (Gaelic), and familiar, sing-along-type songs. My son Mark is a wonderful Irish fiddler. He’ll be playing a few tunes with us, and I’ve invited other Irish musicians we know to join us for a tune or two.
The Irish set will be for just that one night only. The other three performances will also each be unique, but they are connected. I’m not a songwriter, although I’ve dabbled in writing songs. I’m a singer and actress, but when I was selecting songs that I wanted to sing, I realized that I was picking songs that had significance for me at different phases of my life.
So I’ve put together three different sets that feature songs that I sang at different stages, and through those, I kind of tell my story. Each of us could probably tell our stories through the songs that touched us. Sometimes the connection between the song and our lives is obscure and can’t be defined. For me, these shows have been writing themselves, or so it seems.
Part 1, which I’m performing on Saturday, March 2, begins with songs I learned from my mother, who was a wonderful singer and remembered all the words to pretty much every song she’d ever heard. She would burst out in song quite unexpectedly. I also include songs from my parents’ record collection, which was weighted toward folk and Broadway, and then songs that I performed in my first years doing theater. Tim Fletcher, who’s a wonderful pianist and music director, is accompanying me for Parts 1 and 2.
Part 2, on Thursday, March 7, covers my late teens and twenties, which were full of ups and downs. I dropped out of two colleges, fell in and out of love, lost my voice, got it back, and had a traumatic time in New York, but I also had some wonderful experiences as a performer. I acted Shakespeare and Noel Coward, sang opera for the first time, was a singing waitress on Cape Cod, performed at Opryland theme park in Nashville, took part in two original musicals at New Playwrights Theatre, understudied roles in the wonderful Menken and Ashman musical God Bless You Mr. Rosewater at Arena Stage, performed at Ford’s Theatre, and sang at the White House. And played keyboard and sang backup in a New Wave rock band. I got to indulge my funny side as well as sing, so there’s that too. There’s a mix of familiar and unfamiliar music in all the shows, but this one is especially varied.
The fourth show, on Saturday, March 9, features the fabulous Terry Lewis on piano. This last show is basically my musical life from my thirties to now. At thirty, I went off to Germany to pursue a career in opera. While I was there, I fell in love, got married, and had two children. Performing became secondary to family, but I kept on singing. After eleven years in Germany, we moved to Fresno, and in the last several years, I’ve sung some music that has a special place in my heart, especially from shows I’ve done with Stageworks Fresno. There will be some surprises in this show as well. And it all comes back to my mom, the first and most influential voice in my life.
Compared to some other local actors, I don’t perform that often, but I’ve been fortunate to do some wonderful roles at Second Space (in The Heiress, The Glass Menagerie, The Grapes of Wrath, Love Letters, etc.); StageWorks Fresno (Mothers and Sons, A Little Night Music, The Light in the Piazza); and Woodward Shakespeare Festival (All My Sons, The Merry Wives of Windsor). I’ve also been involved with The Fools Collaborative (formerly The Motley Fools) and, with my daughter Alice, performed a reading of Memory House by Kathleen Tolan.
Outside of the theater, I sing with the floating Irish session from time to time: at Grogg’s on Willow and Nees on the fourth Wednesday of the month, or on the patio at La Boulangerie on the second Sunday of the month, or just at each other’s houses. Around St. Patrick’s Day, I’m usually singing at some party or other.
The Rogue Festival this year gives me a chance to revisit songs from my past in a format that is all mine. My voice isn’t what it used to be. There’s no denying it. It’s not just a matter of getting my voice in shape. Vocal chords thicken with time. They don’t perform the way they once did, and no amount of warming up can change that. But if I can’t float high notes the way I used to – and I can’t – I still have the urge to interpret these songs and to talk about them. And to talk about my life. It’s scary and exciting, and I know I’m crazy to try to pull off four different shows when one would do. But it feels like it’s the right time to do it, and I hope audiences think so too.
Songs to Live By, four distinct musical performances at the 2019 Rogue Festival.
Amelia Ryan & Friends
Spectrum Art Gallery, 608 E Olive Ave, Fresno, California 93728
Friday, March 1 – 9:15 p.m. Irish Songs with Kathryn Johnsen, Celtic Harp
Saturday, March 2 – 5:30 p.m. Songs & Stories, Part 1 with Tim Fletcher, piano
Thursday, March 7 – 6 p.m.Songs & Stories, Part 2 with Tim Fletcher, piano
Saturday, March 9 – 6:45 p.m. Songs & Stories, Part 3 with Terry Lewis, piano
TO BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE: roguefestival.com
Confessions of a Church Organist
By Tony Imperatrice
A sordid tale of booze, sex, and hymns! Featuring live music and screamingly funny stories, Confessions of a Church Organist reveals what really goes on behind the scenes at church — and it’s not all candles and prayers. This is the hilarious true story of how a boy raised atheist became a church organist and plunged into a lurid world of drugs and debauchery, including sex in church, being pimped out by stage parents, and inspiring a priest to yell obscenities during Mass. You’ll never look at church the same way again. This show contains descriptions of sexual activity and drug use and is not recommended for children or easily offended adults.
I grew up in the 70s, a different time for sure. My parents were actively anti church. They were eager to tell anyone just exactly how stupid they thought church people must be. Their vision of my life was very specific, so when I chose a different path, all hell broke loose. In spite of their resistance I found a way to follow my dreams. Over time the world changed, and I had to adjust my path. But, through it all and to this day, I remain ‘The Organ Guy.”
“Confessions of a Church Organist” will take you on a hilarious journey through time. You will have a roaring good time laughing at my foolish exploits and at the insanity of my phenomenally dysfunctional family.
Comedy storytelling and live music.
California Arts Academy
1401 N Wishon Ave
Fresno, California 93726
March 2 at 6:30 p.m.
March 3 at 3:30 p.m.
March 7 at 8:30 p.m.
March 9 at 3:30 p.m.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 13 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.