Ten Pound Fiddle has spent 44 years providing a platform for the folk music scene in Greater Lansing. The upcoming year of Fiddle gigs will see a consistent stream of dances, gigs and community sings flow into Lansing, starting Friday with “A Night of Ukes & Steel” at the MSU Community Music School.
“You have to always keep your eye on the prize. You need a couple of Irish musicians and a couple of singer/songwriters and two, three, four or five young new bands coming in,” said Sally Potter, Ten Pound Fiddle’s booking agent for the past decade. “They need to be solid — able to put two sets of music together and keep it tight for two hours.”
The Fiddle has big names, à la Joshua Davis, up and comers, such as Jarlath Henderson, Matthew Byrne and Crys Matthews, and Fiddle favorites Jen Sygit and Joel Mabus on its plate.
While the Fiddle showcases international talent, with a particular fascination for Ireland and Cape Breton Island, Michigan’s own folk scene is heavily celebrated.
Ann Arbor’s Mustard Retreat has an album release concert Sept. 28, while Sygit, a Lansing-based singer/songwriter, is releasing her fourth studio album at an Oct. 12 show. And breakout star Davis, a Traverse City resident, performs Feb. 1.
Greater Lansing has made an excellent home for folk music shows, due to a strong community and several platforms that pump up the genre locally, Potter said.
“There’s a lot of reasons. Elderly Instruments — you can go get lessons, you can go buy an instrument and you can go to their jam sessions. WKAR has a stunning folk music show — one of the best in the country.”
The Fiddle Scouts, a program that encourages children to explore folk music, also continues the Michigan tradition.
“You don’t have to sign up ahead of time.
You just show up with your 3 to 12-year-old and play music with really, really good performers,” Potter said.
The new Fiddle schedule offers several educational opportunities that illustrate how folk music impacts culture — especially the power it has for marginalized groups.
Lansing group Heartland Klezmorim’s Jan. 18 performance will detail the Jewish- American experience through music. Matt Watroba and Robert Jones’ Jan. 25 show will tackle the African-American experience, performing music with roots dating back to the slavery-era.
And, of course, there are the shows that invite the audience to participate — a trademark of the Fiddle. Potter herself leads a pub sing March 8, Moira Smiley hosts one Nov. 5, and the biggest one of all goes down as part of the Mid-Winter Singing & Folk Festival, Feb. 2. The community will also come together to celebrate the music of Pete Seeger April 26 — the final show of the season.
Potter said the Fiddle is always willing to help musicians that have yet to break in Michigan. She hopes they too can eventually graduate from filling the 100-seat venues like the Robin Theatre to playing to crowds of several hundred.
“There are fabulous acts that people don’t really know,” Potter said. “Then three years later when they come through again, there’ll be probably be about 50 to 100 percent more people there the second time.”
Intersecting touring routes is ultimately the No. 1 factor in deciding who and who doesn’t wind up on a Fiddle gig. Potter has a literal road map of folk musicians; each artist is contacted on the basis of where they’re heading next. If Lansing is on the way, she gives them a call.
“There’s a list of maybe 150 acts that the Fiddle would like to book. I ask myself, ‘Are they going they going to be available Friday? We have some Sunday night shows, because they’re available Sunday. What’s the routing? What does it cost to get them here?’” “For example, Jarlath Henderson,” she said, referring to the Irish uilleann piper and singer booked for the last Sunday in September. “He’s going to be at the Lotus Festival, a huge festival in Indianapolis, but he’s driving from Indianapolis to Canada. So he’s going to stop here and give a concert.” Potter said. “His agent asked, ‘Do you have a place for him to stay?’ And I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ Anybody who sees his show at the Robin Theatre is going to get blown away.”
Ten Pound Fiddle Complete 2018-2019 schedule at: www.tenpoundfiddle.org 24 Hour Concert Info Hotline: (517) 337-7744