Tomorrow at 3 p.m., there is a great treat in store for lovers of folk music, at Fredonia's 1891 Opera House.
One of the most popular elements of the annual presenting program of the Opera House is a series of concerts which are called ''Folk in Fredonia.''
The driving force behind that series of concerts has been the hard work of a Fredonia couple: Dick and Carmen Gilman. Each season since the mid-1990s, when the beautiful opera house was opened again, after decades in darkness and decay, the couple have gathered a group of their friends from around Chautauqua County, and indeed, around North America, and presented an afternoon of good times, good stories, and good music, which is called ''The Free-For-All.''
Fredonia residents and folk musicians Dick and Carmen Gilman are the principal sponsors of the Folk in Fredonia series of concerts at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House.
And the really good news is, attendance actually is free, for anyone lucky enough to get a ticket.
Obviously, there are only so many seats in the hall, and fire regulations place a maximum number on how many people may attend, so only those with tickets will be admitted. This week, I want to tell you a bit about tomorrow's concert, a bit about the Gilmans, and just a bit about folk music itself.
''This will be the 16th Free-for-All,'' Dick Gilman told me, recently. ''I can tell you who we're planning on having, at this time, although the idea has always been that people come as they are able. Nobody gets paid, except that Carmen and I take all the performers out for a good dinner, at a local restaurant, after the show.
''We meet on stage at noon on the day of the performance. We tell everyone to bring two or three numbers which they want to perform, and we put together the afternoon's program. If someone thinks their number would sound better with some extra instruments or with a vocalist, we volunteer or we ask each other, and pretty soon, we have two sets of numbers, each set of which is about an hour long,'' he continued.
Once everyone has agreed on who will begin, who will support whom, and how much everyone will do, they run through it all once and then they let the audience in and get started.''
''Everyone sits on stage through the entire performance, we all enjoy each other, and we enjoy having the audience with us. It makes for a very enjoyable afternoon,'' Gilman continued.
This year's bill of fare is expected to be as follows:
You're invited to spend approximately two hours with them, tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House. It's official address is 9 Church St., in Fredonia, although when you arrive at pretty Barker Common, which is the Town Square of Fredonia, it's pretty hard to miss. It's the big, red and white building which also includes the Village Hall, the Police Station, and other local services.
In addition to the performing, there will be raffles and other voluntary fundraising opportunities, performed without a lot of pressure. Tickets to later performances in the Folk in Fredonia series and specially-created T-shirts with the series printed on them are among the objects to be raffled. Gilman has a tradition of announcing that the concert costs nothing to enter, but there is a charge to leave. He's kidding.
Tickets are free, but you need them to get in. Reserve them by phoning 679-1891 or at their web site at www.fredopera.org. Or, ask in person, of course.
FOLK IN FREDONIA
The purpose of the Free-for-All is to get the community into the mood for the upcoming series of concerts, called ''Folk in Fredonia.''
This season, there will be four regular concerts in the season.
Joining Kennedy will be the young ladies of Clann Na Cara, an Irish step dancing troupe, ranging in age from, four to 21.
Tickets for each of the four concerts are $15 for the general public, and $13 for members of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, and you can get them by following the directions above, for getting free tickets to tomorrow's performance.
Dick Gilman is a retired member of the faculty of the Geology Department at the State University of New York at Fredonia. After all these years, he has learned to deal affably with suggestions that instead of folk music, he should play rock music.
His wife Carmen is a painter, both in oils and water colors, whose work hangs in a number of public sites around the Fredonia area.
Both were members for many years of the Newton St. Irregulars, a folk music ensemble of neighbors who headlined around the area for many years, until two of them moved out of the area. The couple still performs with the former members of their group when the occasion arises.
Both of them sing. She plays guitar and hammer dulcimer. He plays banjo, mountain dulcimer and fiddle. In his spare time, Dick makes mountain dulcimers and mountain banjos, which differ from regular banjos because they have no metal frets.
Both are supporters of the programming at the 1891 Opera House, and both were convinced that folk music is popular in our area and ought to be a regular part of the house's programming, which has happened, because of their support.
''Whatever happens in these events, both performers and audience members have a grand good time,'' Gilman said.
There are dozens of definitions of the term ''folk music.'' Most of them make some reference to the fact that it originates among the people who make it, according to their individual tastes, so that one example of it may differ vastly from a different example.
One definition which has been popular is ''old songs which have no known composer.''
Another is ''music which has been passed from generation to generation by the memories of musicians, rather than being formally written.''
Like the terms folk dance, folk song, and folk lore, the words seem not to have been used before the mid-19th Century. English historian William Thoms is the first known person to have used the terms.
Ironically, while the style of folk music goes back to the earliest known civilizations on earth, because they were not written down or recorded in any way, we don't know for certain which examples are oldest. Because the tradition has always been that each singer or instrumentalist added his or her own variations to the music, it's virtually impossible to say that one example is more or less pure.
In more modern times, individuals have taken the traditional melodies and created musical arrangements. These often include specific, assigned parts for voices and/or instruments. These arrangements have been copywritten, and anyone wishing to perform those specific arrangements must pay royalties to the arrangers, although someone who wishes to perform just the melodies, separate from the arranger's stylings, are free to do so.
In some cases, lengthy legal battles have broken out between arrangers who believe that certain performances or recordings resemble their arrangements too closely for comfort, and performers who believe they have exercised their own unique version of the works.
According to the research which I did to produce the column, some people believe that traditional hymns are a unique art form, while others lump them with love ballads such as ''Barbara Allen.'' Some include epic poems such as ''The Odyssey'' and ''The Iliad'' in with folk music, while others insist they are separate art forms.
In the 19th Century, there emerged in Europe, in the shadow of the defeat of Napoleon's armies, a strong sense of nationalism. Not only did Germans begin to sense themselves as a unique people from the French, they began to feel that they were Bavarians, Prussians, and Pomeranians, for example, while the French increasingly thought of themselves as Provencals, Burgundians, and Basques. The same type of movements happened in Africa, in Asia, and in Latin America.
People began to claim certain styles of singing or dance or clothing styles which they felt were unique to their own country, or their own region of a country.
Classical composers heard the beauty in traditional folk melodies, and began to include them in their formal compositions. Bartok, Brahms, Grainger, Vaughn Williams and Grieg were just a few of these. Some of them hiked through isolated areas, seeking to write down or to record centuries-old music which had nearly been eradicated as roads and railroads brought isolated groups of people into the mainstream.
By early in the 20th century, music lovers had begun to react to an increasing trend in conservatories and formal music organizations to produce music which required extensive training and education in order to appreciate it. Indeed, many believed there was an element of ''Emperor's New Clothes'' about the honks, bleats and silences of this music.
In other words, people were afraid to dislike the music for fear others would believe their dislike meant that they were uneducated or lacked refinement. By the 1950s, there was a large and popular return to the style of music which had been sung and enjoyed in earlier centuries.
Singers such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Joan Baez, and the Kingston Trio began performing traditional folk melodies, then increased their repertoire to include newly composed music which had similar qualities to the traditional sounds.
It is not uncommon that after a war, some survivors come to believe they have been manipulated into the conflict, and that the loss of life, wealth, and innocence in the war was the result of a trick, for the gain of others. The high sounding slogans which usually precede a conflict often ring untrue, in face of the conflict's aftermath.
No single war has been as destructive as World War II, so it is not surprising that people in the 1950s and 1960s turned the words which they put to the self-made music of the folk tradition to a sense of ''Now I see the light. Now I understand what is most important.''
Scholars typically separate centuries old folk music from more recently composed music designed to sound like the traditional melodies. The more recent compositions are usually called ''Contemporary Folk.''
Ancient or contemporary, soul soothing or soul stirring, folk music of many origins and intents will be available on the stage of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, tomorrow at 3 p.m. I hope as many as may do so will take advantage of sharing it - Free-for-All?
The Uncommoners of Jamestown Community College will perform ''The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,'' by Rebecca Feldman and William Finn.
The musical show portrays a fictional spelling bee, in which six quirky adolescents compete, under the supervision of three equally unusual adults. Performances will be offered at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, beginning Nov. 4 and continuing through Nov. 19. There will be an additional matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 13.
Additional information and ticket purchases may be obtained by phoning 338-1187.
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Singer k.d. lang will perform Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for the Arts, at the University at Buffalo. Accompanying will be the Siss Boom Bang. Guest artist is Teddy Thompson.
Tickets range in price from $52 to $72. Purchase them in person from the Center for the Arts box office, or from any Ticketmaster location. Purchase them by phone at (800) 745-3000.
The center has a web site at ubcfa.org.
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The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, conducted by Doreen Rao, will perform a concert dedicated to the music of composer Leonard Bernstein, on Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m., at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Buffalo.
The featured work of music will be Bernstein's rarely performed and greatly admired ''Mass,'' a piece of music which was composed to mark the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C.
The performance is a repeat of the performance of the same work, given at Chautauqua Institution, in July. Also on the program will be music from Bernstein's compositions of ''Candide'' and ''West Side Story.'' Selections from Brahms' ''B-minor Mass'' will also be performed.
Next Saturday, the chorus will perform ''Carmina Burana,'' by Carl Orff, at Kleinhans Music Hall.
For additional information about either of these performances or to purchase tickets, visit the Chorus's web site at www.BPChorus.org or phone them at 833-6642.
The Buffalo Phlharmonic Chorus was began under the title Schola Cantorum, in 1937, and has operated without interruption since then.
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Tuesday at 8 p.m., bassonist Laura Koepke will offer a recital of solo and chamber music, in the Rosch Recital Hall, on the campus of the State University of New York at Fredonia. Ms. Keopke is a member of the Music Faculty of the University.
Music will range in style from compositions by Weber to jazz arrangements of ''Take Five.''
No ticket prices are given on the news release, and recitals are often free of admission charge. To inquire, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 673-3151.
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The Buffalo Film Festival will take place Oct. 7 to 23. Most events will take place at The Screening Room, in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst.
Filmmakers will attend showings of their films, and will conduct question and answer sessions, following the screenings. Headlining the festival will be Tom Fontana, a Buffalo native, whose production credits include the television series ''St. Elsewhere'' and ''Oz,'' as well as ''The Borgias.''
For additional information about the festival, you may e-mail BuffaloFilmFestival@Gmail.com. The festival calls your attention that another organization in the community uses a similar name. This organization is the one which has been operating a yearly event since 2003.
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The Friends of St. Paul's Cathedral, in Buffalo, invite the public to 30-minute concerts, each Friday beginning at 12:30 p.m.
This Friday, hear Chautauqua County resident David Allen Coester, who performs on guitar. Sept. 30, hear pianist Stephen Saviola. St. Paul's is the Episcopal Cathedral, at the intersection of Church and Pearl Streets, in downtown Buffalo. Friday concerts are free of admisssion charges and open to the public.
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Tickets are now on sale for the national touring company of the musical ''Million Dollar Quartet,'' which will be performed at Shea's Performing Arts Center, Nov. 8-13.
The show celebrates a real life encounter which took place in Memphis, Tennessee, when Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley all met up at the offices of Sun Records. The show includes performances of ''Blue Suede Shoes,'' ''Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On,'' and ''Folsom Prison Blues,'' among many more popular favorites.
Tickets range in price from $27.50 to $62.50. Purchase them by phone at (800) 745-3000 or by computer at www.ticketmaster.com. Purchase them in person at Shea's Box Office or any Ticketmaster outlet. For curtain times and other information, go to www.sheas.org.