Letters

Letters 07-27-2015

Next For Brownfields In regard to your recent piece on brownfield redevelopment in TC, the Randolph Street project appears to be proceeding without receiving its requested $600k in brownfield funding from the county. In response to this, the mayor is quoted as saying that the developer bought the property prior to performing an environmental assessment and had little choice but to now build it...

Defending Our Freedom This is in response to Sally MacFarlane Neal’s recent letter, “War Machines for Family Entertainment.” Wake Up! Make no mistake about it, we are at war! Even though the idiot we have for a president won’t accept the fact because he believes we can negotiate with Iran, etc., ISIS and their like make it very clear they intend to destroy the free world as we know it. If you take notice of the way are constantly destroying their own people, is that living...

What Is Far Left? Columnist Steve Tuttle, who so many lambaste as a liberal, considers Sen. Sanders a far out liberal “nearly invisible from the middle.” Has the middle really shifted that far right? Sanders has opposed endless war and the Patriot Act. Does Mr. Tuttle believe most of our citizens praise our wars and the positive results we have achieved from them? Is supporting endless war or giving up our civil liberties middle of the road...

Parking Corrected Stephen Tuttle commented on parking in the July 13 Northern Express. As Director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, I feel compelled to address a couple key issues. But first, I acknowledge that  there is some consternation about parking downtown. As more people come downtown served by less parking, the pressure on what parking we have increases. Downtown serves a county with a population of 90,000 and plays host to over three million visitors annually...

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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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