Tunes from Across the Sea

May 31st, 2011 by Maria

Wow! What a trip! As Jason said, we have a ton of stories and joys to share with you!

Here are a couple of tunes we played at a pub called the Tap and Spile at the end of the Hexham Gathering. The session and conversations were the perfect ending to a wonderful festival!

Jaime Allen is a really popular tune, we heard it all throughout the week! I think it’s kind of like our Angeline the Baker (which they also play! :)

Some say that Jaime Allen was the last man to be hung in Durham – whoa!

Here is Jaime Allen with Salmon Tails Up the Water

Here is Reed House Rant, a tune a thought just bounced up to the sun!

These tunes are also being added to the Tune Archive if you wan to check out some other tunes, too!

We’re playing Boil Em Cabbage Down today with some teachers students and friends as part of a free concert today @ Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln in the Concert Hall. Those of you in Chicago, come on down! To our friends across the sea, we love you!

Maria :)

Home again, home again, jig-a-de-jig

May 30th, 2011 by Jason

Hey everyone,
Maria and I are back in Chicago. It was a whirlwind trip and we have so much to share. We’ll continue posting on the blog as we unpack our cases and get back to things at the Old Town School. We have a ton of great stories, videos and recordings to share and friends we’d like you to meet over the internet.
For now, here’s a picture of me at Hadrian’s Wall. Visiting here made me think a great deal about Mr. Norgren, my 10th grade history teacher. He was a great teacher.
Cheer-i-o. Check back soon.
Jason at Hadrian's Wall

Friday, On the Road Again….

May 27th, 2011 by Maria

The performance we saw last night was so inspiring! It took place at the Stocksfield Institute and Community center. Several groups performed – children, teens, college students and a wonderful artist named Tim Dalling.

We had made friends with Year 3′s from Broomley school (7 and 8 year olds) earlier in the day. They created a wonderful set of songs with Tim Dalling that lifted us up! Tim is a wonderful musician and teacher and really worked very well with the students.

Here is Tim’s website

After their rehearsal, we walked the students back to school playing fiddle and harmonica along the countryside, what a treat!

In the evening, the Broomley students really brought some wonderful energy, joy and spirit to their music! The Stocksfield Stompers performed as well, they’re brilliant!

Jason and I were invited to play a few tunes, we played Snake Baked a Hoecake and our friends sang along. We also played Spotted Pony!

We’re hanging out at The Sage today, we’ve jammed, seen some wonderful perfomances on the concourse (the lobby) and had a musical exchange with our friend Jenny. She shared several songs and tunes for us to bring back home…

We’re off to stay at Ridley Place tonight in Hexham and immerse ourselves in the festival.

On the road again…
Maria :)

Need to Go to Bed – A quick note

May 26th, 2011 by Jason

Hey everyone,
Oh my gosh! What a night. I need to go to sleep (it’s 3:30am here), but I wanted to share a quick video. It’s not my video. It’s from last years Hexham Gathering.
These are our new friends The Stocksfield Stompers. I can’t wait for the Young Stracke All-Stars to meet with them . . . Someday.
More about the group, it’s members and it’s history in a future post. Off to bed.

Day 3- Continued

May 26th, 2011 by Maria

Here are some more recordings and video from yesterday’s adventures!

We were at the Cumberland Arms last night. We started some Old Time tunes with our fiddler/rapper dancer friend Thomas. Another man named Tom joined us on the mandolin and after playing Over the Waterfall, asked us if we knew the Volo Bogtrotters! I said, “They’re our mentors!”

Volo Bogtrotters at play

Next we played some Soldier’s Joy:


Here are some more recordings from the Bob Dylan jam with Tom, he was really nice to us :)

YouAintGoingNowhereCumberland Arms


We went upstairs to the Rapper Dance rehearsal led by Tom Besford, and were even given a lesson ourselves by Chris and Don. Don has been part of the King’s Men for 33 years! I was able to chat with Tom Cronin who I had met on my last trip. Here’s a sample of their rehearsal.


Don gave us a ride to the station after rehearsal, he was full of great stories…

We’re off to a rehearsal of students from Broomley First School!

More soon!

Maria :)

This Land is Your Land, Also

May 25th, 2011 by Jason

Oh man! What a couple of days. I have so much to write. But I do want to share this.

Long story short – we went to have dinner before we were going to attend a practice of some Rapper Dancers that Maria had met on her previous trip.

We stumbled into an Irish Session that wasn’t. Turns out the session was reschedule to make way for a Bob Dylan 70th birthday sing-a-long jam.

This is our new friend Tom.

Tom, host of the Bob Dylan 70th Birthday Celebration at The Cumberland Arms

This is us singing This Land is Your Land with him and some friends. He called the song as the first tune of the Bob Dylan sing-a-long.

This Land is Your Land – Cumberland Arms

My love of Bob Dylan in high school slowly but surely lead me to the Old Town School of Folk Music.

We also sang I Am a Pilgrim and You Ain’t Goin’ No Where. I think Maria has recordings of those.

Then we were off to the Rapper Dance rehearsal. There’s at least two other great stories from this one evening. Those will have to wait.

Today was the official kick-off the The Hexham Gathering, although we’ll be checking it out for the first time tomorrow (Thursday). We’ve got 15 minutes on a bill with Hannah James on Friday. The days are going by quickly.
Tomorrow (Thursday, May 26) is the Thursday Night Open Jam – 7:00 until 10:30 or so – every Thursday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. Go sing those songs!

Day 2

May 25th, 2011 by Maria

Wow! We saw and played so much music yesterday! We began our day with a train ride from Stocksfield to Newcastle.

We sat in the lobby of the Sage Gateshead and played some tunes and made some new friends. After lunch we headed downstairs to some classrooms.

The Sage Gateshead is host to classes for a folk degree program for Newcastle University Students. We saw a recital of 2nd year folk degree music students. Each band had it’s own flavor and style, it was really neat to see them play traditional folk tunes, mixed with contemporary music, mixed with original compositions.

We headed over to the the Free Trade Inn afterwards where the students could let out a deep breathe. They are so nice to us and really welcoming showing us around! Some folks started playing Gypsy Jazz tunes, neat! I had a little exchange with our new friend Natalie who is a vocal major. I played her an Old Time tune and sang her a song from Mexico and she sang me a beautiful Odetta tune, her voice was so deep and soulful, what a treat!

JMac discovered everyone new a bunch of Old Time tunes and gathered a list of tunes everyone knows here so that we can bring back a few!

We headed over to the Sage Gateshead for the evening Adult classes. From 7-8pm have beginning classes for fiddle, guitar, whistle, and accordian. Later in the evening they also have choir and Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Ensembles. I saw that Ruth Ball was teaching fiddle. She’s a musician I met several years ago. I was fun to have the opportunity to see her teach! I followed her over to the Beginning Ensemble, and we played from French dance tunes! A group of folks grabbed my hands to dance to the tune first, they had to be sure I new the dance, I loved it!

Here’s a recording of the French Set:
Breton, france set

I went to the choir group and sang a song in Zulu called Wajikele. I sat next to woman from Poland and we had great fun! Next we sang Wild Mountain Thyme, pretty awesome!

Wild moutain thyme

After class, our friend Matt led us to some fish and chips and then we headed to Bob Trollop’s for a super jam of fiddles, electric bass, whistle, guitar, cello, clogging, dancing and energy! It was so exciting to sit and play tunes from England, Ireland, Scotland, the U.S. and Mexico. The group was very welcoming to us really up for swapping some tunes!

More fun adventures to come, the Hexham Gathering begins tonight! :)

Follow-up: Four Men and A Dog – Day 1 – Newcastle

May 24th, 2011 by Jason

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to follow up with Maria’s previous post about 4 Men and a Dog.

Here is a picture of Hall 2.

Here is a picture of 4 Men and a Dog.

Here is a recording of 4 Men and a Dog playing a great song by The Band – The Shape that I’m In.

The Shape That I’m In – 4 Men and A Dog

They were great. Awesome entertainers. I really loved the percussionist.
Catch you later, everyone.

And we’re off!

May 24th, 2011 by Maria

Hi friends!

We arrived safely in England yesterday and we’re having a great adventure. We’re staying with Chris Pentney who is a Folkworks Programme Manager at The Sage Gatehead. Chris came to visit us at the Old Town School of Folk Music last year, she’s taking very good care of us and three of us sang and jammed into the night!

We landed in London yesterday and then took the tube to King’ Cross and then a beautiful train ride to Newcastle. This is the same train I rode several years ago with Bau Graves, Robert Tenges, Barbara Silverman, Boogie McClarin, Joe Filisko and Steve Levitt. That’s how we all got to know each other, traveling with music is such a great way to make friends!

We saw a great concert last night by an Irish group called Four Men and a Dog

They were so fun! They showed great musicianship, showmanship and generosity! I giggled a lot, the music was really fun. We got to meet them after the show and shake their hands and share some stories.

We saw them in Hall two at The Sage Gateshead last night which is a 10-sided hall where chairs can be moved around to change the feeling of the space.

More adventures, today! :)

Traveling with an Old Friend

May 24th, 2011 by Jason

Hey everyone,

Our first moments outside of transportation stations on a blustery day in England.

JMac here. I want to take a moment and write about my travel companion, Maria McCullough. We are colleagues at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, and Maria is one of my closest friends.

We’ll be spending seven days in Newcastle Upon the Tyne in northern England; attending a music festival called The Hexham Gathering, with is produced by The Sage Gateshead, a huge organization that is home to a folk music school and three concert venues. Their web site says,

“The Hexham Gathering is perhaps the country’s leading folk festival aimed at providing performance opportunities for a host of hugely talented young singers, dancers and instrumentalists. Hundreds or performers converge on Hexham each year providing a vibrant kaleidoscope of music and spectacle throughout the town centre and at a variety of other venues across Tynedale.

I am thrilled to have this chance to travel to the Hexham Gathing with Maria. We became friends in 2002 when we were both teaching for an organization called Music House. It was my first teaching gig. We taught before-school violin and guitar classes to first through fifth graders at Decatur Elementary. Those where some early, cold mornings waiting for two buses to get to the school by 7:00am. We learned a lot together and I am very thankful that my first teaching experience was so positive.

We became fast friends and we were both soon teaching at The Old Town School of Folk Music. We schemed to get our guitar and fiddle classes to play together and I remember, in particular, one conversation very early in our tenure at OTSFM. We were sitting in the cafe at The Book Cellar, discussing our classes, until we realized the power that the song Pay Me My Money Down, could have in bringing musicians and singers of all abilities together.

That was a moment that lead, several years later, to The Gather-All and the Young Stracke All-Stars. Now, young musicians are learning to play together in several Kids Ensemble class and our teaching weeks are capped by an incredible full Saturday of teaching and jamming at the Armitage Building of the Old Town School of Folk Music. Our community has grown with us and we were able ask our community for help to make this trip possible. You can see the awesome pictures our our super-fun fundraising party here.

We’ve grown and found ourselves in the thick of the wonderful community of teaching-artists and students at The School. As we’ve grown, we’ve done stints in Paul Tyler’s Fantastic Toe-Tripper Orchestra, seen hundreds of concerts at The Old Town School of Folk Music, have met music legends like Roger McGuinn, and traveled north the play with Chirps Smith, south to visit with Old Town School of Folk Music founder Frank Hamilton and found a way to meet up in Cuernavaca, México to play with the wonderful Chucho Peredo Flores.

Jamming with Chucho Flores Cuernavaca, México, 2008.

In addition, Maria has been to The Sage Gateshead before. You can read and watch some videos about her previous adventure, here.

Maria is now Chair of the Kids’ Fiddle Program at The School and I and so proud of the work she has done to grow the program. Her patience, dedication and enthusiasm are one-of-a-kind.

Recently, Maria was also incredibly supportive in helping me and the Old Town School Community produce the School’s inaugural Family Barn Dance where dozens of young musicians provided the music as their families do-se-doed and shashayed to the kids’ wonderful melodies. Her work, her musicianship and her friendship have been the inspiration for so much and I am very glad to know that we’ll keep playing and teaching and growing our musical friendship for many, many years to come.

To me this trip feels like a “next step” in our journey. We’re visiting The Sage Gateshead at the invitation of Chris Pentney, who programs many of the concerts at The Sage Gateshead, hoping to glean some tunes, some teaching styles and some of Northumberland’s great folk music energy. I’m very glad to be sharing this experience with Maria.

As Maria often says, “That’s all.”