Letters

Letters 02-08-2016

Less Ageism, Please The January 4 issue of this publication proved to me that there are some sensible voices of reason in our community regarding all things “inter-generational.” I offer a word of thanks to Elizabeth Myers. I too have worked hard for what I’ve earned throughout my years in the various positions I’ve held. While I too cannot speak for each millennial, brash generalizations about a lack of work ethic don’t sit well with me...Joe Connolly, Traverse City

Now That’s an Escalation I just read the letter from Greg and his defense of the AR15. The letter started with great information but then out of nowhere his opinion went off the rails. “The government wants total gun control and then confiscation; then the elimination of all Constitutional rights.” Wait... what?! To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!”

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Children Healthy foods and exercise are important for children of all ages. It is important for children because it empowers them to do their best at school and be able to do their homework and study...

Mascots and Harsh Native American Truths The letter from the Choctaw lady deserves an answer. I have had a gutful of the whining about the fate of the American Indian. The American Indians were the losers in an imperial expansion; as such, they have, overall, fared much better than a lot of such losers throughout history. Everything the lady complains about in the way of what was done by the nasty, evil Whites was being done by Indians to other Indians long before Europeans arrived...

Snyder Must Go I believe it’s time. It’s time for Governor Snyder to go. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are now investigating the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of people. Governor Snyder signed the legislation that established the Emergency Manager law. Since its inception it has proven to be a dismal failure...

Erosion of Public Trust Let’s look at how we’ve been experiencing global warming. Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds along with more rain-free days have combined to stretch fire seasons worldwide by 20 percent. In the U.S., the fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s...

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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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