THERE was a rare treat at the Swallow Theatre on April 21st when the group, Bayou Seco, regaled the audience with music from south-western U.S.
Ken Keppeler and Jeanie McLerie have collected and played cross-cultural music from this vast area for many years and are joined in their current British tour by their young and talented god-son, Tomas Wentz, who usually plays in a punk folk band called Grog. It’s great to see the young generation learning and celebrating this rich and energetic musical tradition, which includes Cajun, Hispanic, Cowboy fiddle music and multilingual songs from New Mexico and Arizona as well as Louisiana. All three play fiddle, often together, and there was guitar, two types of melodeon, banjo, harmonica and triangle. The singing was strong and thrilling and the musicianship of very high quality. Traditional musicians are great virtuosos.
Jeanie (who has Scottish roots) and Ken have gathered together a remarkable collection of material from old singers and musicians and from family traditions. They shared this wealth of knowledge, telling its history and its travel as well as delightful stories of its exponents. In particular they talked about the Lewis family, originally from Texas, but migrated to Arizona, and played their distinctive cowboy melodies and songs. Most startlingly, they told us of Elliot Johnson a Native American fiddler from the Tohono O’Odham people who continued a tradition of European influenced dance music first brought over by the Jesuits at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The priests had violins and the patterns which showed how they were made and Native Americans from many different areas took up the instrument and made it their own. Astonishing information! It was a wonderful night of song, tune and dance and the Swallow once again proved its acoustic value as a fine and unusual venue. For further information of programme etc. tel: 01988 850368 or see www.swallowtheatre.com.