Energetic young string bands, a new folk festival and a healthy pour of Irish music provide the backbone for the Ten Pound Fiddle’s 42nd season, which kicks off Friday with a performance by Irish singer Andy Irvine.
Once known as the MSU Folksong Society, the Ten Pound Fiddle has brought regional and international folk artists to the Lansing area since 1975. Jamie-Sue Seal, publicity coordinator for the Ten Pound Fiddle and a performing artist herself, said it is important to cast a widenet when booking a season of concerts.
“Folk has always sort of been an umbrella that covers a lot of different styles,” she said. “But as times change, as demographics change, it’s important to stay contemporary and live a little bit in the moment, because otherwise you may not be serving all your audiences.”
This year, that means hosting a quartet of up-and-coming string bands. The Ragbirds, a gypsy-influenced outfit from Ann Arbor, visits the Fiddle March 21, and Michigan natives Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys returns to its home state Oct. 21. Canadian trio Ten Strings and a Goatskin returns Feb. 10 after a well-received performance last year, and Americana quintet Run Boy Run makes its Ten Pound Fiddle debut Feb. 24.
This season also features a heavy dose of music from the Emerald Isle.
“Irish is one of those things that falls under the traditional folk genre,” Seal said. “We probably have a few more Irish acts this year than normal.”
In addition to Irvine, the Ten Pound Fiddle hosts Irish singer Karen Casey (March 10) and former East Lansing resident Kitty Donohoe (Oct. 7), who will be releasing her latest album, “The Irishman’s Daughter.” Irish singer Cathie Ryan presents “A Winter’s Heart: An Irish American Christmas” Dec. 9, and Irish band Monday’s Supper hosts a “pub sing” on March 17 for St. Patrick’s Day.
New this year is the Midwinter Singing and Folk Festival, formerly known as the Midwinter Singing Festival. The revamped event features a community sing Jan. 13, followed by a three-concert folk festival Jan. 14. The Jan. 14 program will also feature workshops for singers and instrumentalists.
“We try to continue to transform ourselves and have something a bit new and different each year,” Seal said, noting that Friday’s community sing “still maintains the things that people love” about the singing festival.
Ten Pound Fiddle is a traveling concert series, and this season it hosts events at the Allen Market Place, MSU Community Music School and UrbanBeat Event Center, among others.
“We have a great relationship with the MSU Community Music School; that’s where we hold most of our concerts,” Seal said. “We use the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing each year, where we host our Midwinter Singing and Folk Festival. Our contra dances are generally held at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing.”
Not having a permanent home, Seal explained, gives the group flexibility to move into larger or smaller spaces depending on an artists’ expected draw.
“Having a building would cause more responsibility and cause everything to run a lot differently,” Seal said. “For 42 years we’ve managed without having a building.”
The group also hosts community dances with live music and a dance caller and runs a monthly youth program, Fiddle Scouts, for children age 3 through 13.
“We’re trying to groom the next generation of folk lovers,” Seal said. “We bring in a new artist once a month, usually a performer from the night before. It’s a fun thing.”
Seal attributes Ten Pound Fiddle’s longevity to a simple thing: love of music.
“We have all done this for a long time,” she said. “We all have a really soft place in our heart for music, and we’re all very dedicated to what we do.”
Andy Irvine Ten Pound Fiddle Opening Night Party 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 $18/$15 members/$5 students. Allen Market Place 1629 E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing (517) 337-7744, tenpoundfiddle.org