Apr 072009

Last night my brother and his wife hosted a house concert for the first time. The performer was Geoff Kaufman, a folk singer who specializes in sea songs, work songs, environmental and social action songs, and lots of sing-along mixed in throughout.

the concert was a lot of fun. It seemed like my brother and his wife were not the first ones to be taking in a house concert. but, the logistics were fine. They set up lots of chairs in the basement after clearing out the furniture, and I was surprised to see their lower-level living room turned into a spot for maybe twenty-five listeners.

Kaufman was really great. I had heard some of his songs beforehand, so I knew what to expect. He started off with some singing with concertina accompaniment. He did some acapella sing-along stuff, a few with guitar, one or two with pennywhistle, and some good old bones playing too. Several times during the first few songs I thought of Pete Seeger. Then, Geoff mentioned that he had performed with Seeger and the other musicians who were working to clean up the Hudson River. Ah, it all fit together, and not just in my weird mind.

I sang along when prompted by Kaufman, and many others did too. I must admit that it was a little tiring to be participating so much in the music after working all day, and maybe a few glasses of wine along the way slowed me down too. but the singing was fun and felt good.

to me, the most moving part of Kaufman’s performance was the old war horse, “Wreck of the Edmund fitzgerald.” I have not heard Lightfoot’s original recording for many years, but I hadn’t missed it much. I’ve heard the song done so many times that I have trouble listening to it. so when someone requested it, I braced for non-impact. Kaufman did a very touching, emotional version of the song. I really was taken back to the sad story of the shipwreck and the lost lives, and the song regained some meaning for me. Very well done.

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