Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Music · O‘Rourke & Zeitler‘s...
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O‘Rourke & Zeitler‘s Irish afternoon

Kristi Kates - March 7th, 2011
O’Rourke and Zeitler’s Irish Afternoon
By Kristi Kates
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, purveyor of roots Americana and folk music.
These are all worthy subtitles given to not one, but two performers, namely Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler, the talented folk music couple who will be performing “An Afternoon of Irish Music” at Boyne City’s BAC (Boyne Arts Collective) as part of local St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
O’Rourke is daughter of a first-generation Irish family from Brooklyn, NY, while Zeitler is a gentleman of Irish, Scottish, French, and German heritage (“His Irish family was actually from the same county as mine - Maigheo, or in English ‘Mayo,’” O’Rouke explains, “the twist of the story was that we were feuding families, with an actual murder happening between the families - one dying and one being hung for it - amazing, but true.”)
The pair met, fortuitously, in Zeitler’s own recording studio in Freeland, Michigan (Mojatona Studios), when O’Rourke and another musician she was working with, harmony vocalist Joyce Hagerman, were seeking a facility to work on a “serious” recording, as O’Rourke puts it.
“We asked around the area for recommendations for studios that would be good at mixing acoustic recordings,” she explains, “and we were sent to Zig’s studio. Zig had shown interest in playing Irish music, so he, I, and Joyce ended up as a three-piece for a year - and then, when Joyce moved out of the area, we ended up as a duo.”
O’Rourke playfully calls the personal relationship that developed between her and Zeitler “The Bonus,” and says that being a couple has definitely made their music even better.

FOLK LOCATIONS
While their music most definitively falls into the “folk” category - and has heavy Irish influences - it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact folk genre. O’Rourke’s pretty alto vocals add a dense, classic, retro feel to their sound, while Zeitler’s talents on instruments from the harmonica to the guitar, fiddle, banjo, and Irish bouzouki add even more European flair and texture.
Their current home of Michigan occasionally finds its way into their songs (“Up on Saginaw Bay” being perhaps one of the more obvious), but for O’Rourke, it’s her Irish heritage that finds its way into everything she writes.
“It is very difficult to separate myself from a part of my life that is very much like a living limb in itself,” she explains, “I believe when I write I try to incorporate humor and light heartedness in my Americana material, more so certainly than when I write for the Irish genre, but I find very close similarities that maybe most folks wouldn’t recognize.”
What folks do recognize is an emotional component of the music, which O’Rourke explains is all about connecting with other people.
“I know this will sound corny but the truth is, the best part of a performance is finding the gem of the evening that might have helped me connect with someone, and it seems like it is never the same song that does it. Irish music seems to bring out a lot of experiences for the listener. I very often have had folks tell me a song might have reminded them of someone or something they had not thought of in years. We are always amazed at the common thread we find between ourselves and our audience, and we pretty much always leave feeling like we’ve met some great folks, having more in common with each other than we ever thought possible.”
Many stories of the old country find their way into O’Rourke and Zeitler’s songs, as well - whether in traditional form, or repurposed to reflect some of the happenings of today. O’Rourke’s own view of what Americans call “Celtic music” is an interesting look into both musical and cultural misperceptions.

CULTURAL CONNECTIONS
“I find the common phrase Celtic to be a bit like calling the Chinese and the Japanese all Asian,“ she says. “We as Americans lose the sense of the importance of those individual cultures because we are a melting pot society. Irish music in the country has that as a battle - Irish, Scottish and Welsh all lumped into a pile. Renaissance festivals are billed as Irish festivals. Irish rock bands abound at some of the biggest festivals in the U.S. - but with very few traditional players present.”
“These festivals fill beer tents, but do nothing to actually pass on the culture,” she points out, “in an effort to bring in new fans of the genre we see a lot of diversion from the traditional pieces, so much so that the original music is unrecognizable within the new works.”
O’Rourke points out, however, that this doesn’t mean there’s zero room for growth.
“On the other side of the table, the traditionalists are grasping the Irish music so tightly in sessions that they are strangling it,” she says, “never varying from the written note. A lot of this certainly has to do with the history of the music itself, and how closely the Irish people came to losing their music entirely by the oppression of their culture. But when you travel to Ireland and sit in at a session, they are much more free with the movement of the music than we are here in the U.S. Maybe because we as Irish Americans cling to it more as a part of our connection to Ireland.“
“The beautiful thing though, is regardless of how old the piece is or how you arrange the music, whether you sing it note for note or bang it out in an Irish rock band, it is always, and will always, be contemporary, and folks will be drawn to it, these songs that are steeped in love and grief, separation and want, unrequited love and death.
“These are the constants throughout history that we all connect with, regardless of age, year or country of origin,” she concludes, “the human element is present in Irish music and that’s why it crosses borders and time and finds its way into so many other cultures.”

The Boyne Arts Collective Concert Series presents Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler live in concert on Sunday March 13 at 4:00 pm. Tix are $15 via www.boynearts.org, in-person at the BAC, or by telephoning Michael Lee Seiler at 231-582-2226.


 
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