The folk tradition of passing songs and stories down through the generations is at the very core of the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s values. From our song circles at the Guilded Cage in 1957 to the Wee Folk music classes for parents and their infants taking place at the Philadelphia Folk School in 2019, securing the future of folk music and related forms of expression is our mission. It’s when we see young acts that honor the folk tradition and build upon it that we get really, really excited.
At 15 and 16 years-old, Katie Larson and Savannah Buist met in their high school orchestra class on cello and fiddle (it was called a violin back then for some reason), respectively. They were participants in an after-school orchestra extracurricular that taught string players pop and rock songs along with the classics (think Zeppelin!). When their teacher asked for volunteers to represent these “alternative styles” in a school concert, only two students volunteered: Katie and Savannah. The rest is history.
“Katie came over to my house to rehearse for it and, at the time, I was moving and I had a bunch of stuff lying around, including a guitar case. She said ‘oh, is that a guitar?’ and ran over to pick it up. Katie started playing the ‘We’re Going to be Friends’ by the White Stripes and I started playing with her on ukulele and we were pretty much a band that night,” said Savannah.
Equally comfortable with Chopin as original music, The Accidentals carry a vast back catalog of classical, folk, and rock masterworks with them while performing and crafting their own music that belies their years (they’re in their early twenties now). An Accidentals show, featured below on the Martin Guitar Main Stage of the 57th Philadelphia Folk Festival, is a journey as you see what happens when public school educated classical musicians become true folk artists.
Les Poules à Colin were brought up musically in a very trad background and have evolved exquisitely into a modern Quebécois force as they formed their band. Songlines Magazine put it best: ”Hailing from top traditional musical stock, what especially elevates this group is the musicians’ conscious modernity; the sum of its parts is very 21st century.” Take their name for example. At face value “Les Poules à Colin” translates to “Colin’s Hens,” which is a rather un-PC name for a quintet made up on four kickass female musicians and their cohort Colin… but there is more to their name than meets the eye. “La Poule à Colin” is a traditional folksong from Quebéc about a hen that gets lost. In doing so, the hen eventually becomes a meal that feeds an entire church congregation. So too do the lost traditional Quebécois songs that make up Les Poule’s set lists feed their entire audiences.
With a deft balance, a live Les Poules concert contains an amazing balance of instrumental, English, and French tunes, though singing in French is the most important part of the band’s folk tradition. “Where we’re from in Quebéc there’s still a lot of tension between the English language and French,” says lead singer and violinist Béatrix Méthé. “We’re encouraged from a young age to play music and sing in French and preserve that part of our culture that some are afraid is going to die.” That encouragement came from Les Poules’ parents, many of whom played together in bands before the members of Les Poules were even born. Carrying this legacy into the future is at the core of Les Poules à Colin’s music… but you’ve never heard traditional Quebéc songs like this before!
“We’ve been in the traditional world of Québécois music since we were really young,” Béatrix says. “If you take the time to listen to a lot of these songs they are really dark: people being too drunk to take care of their kids, jealousy, strange dark subjects that are forgotten because they are played in an upbeat tempo and they are really fun. We thought it would be interesting to dig up some of these old songs, embrace that darkness.” And embrace the darkness they have! A Les Poules concert, featured below at the Folk North 2016 conference, embraces the weird and wonderful side of trad with their own trademark enthusiasm and exuberance… not to mention Colin’s podorythmie – traditional québecois seated clogging… while he plays the banjo.
Though at vastly different areas under the “FOLK” umbrella, The Accidentals and Les Poules à Colin are moving music forward while honoring its past. We are so thrilled to be presenting The Accidentals on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 8pm and Les Poules à Colin on Friday, March 15, 2019 at 8pm. We hope you’ll come see both phenomenal acts!