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McCutcheon and Dalglish Focus on Folk

Well-known folksingers John McCutcheon and Malcolm Dalglish performed for Berea College recently, kicking off Berea's 32nd Celebration of Traditional Music with a playful, joyous performance between two old friends.

John McCutcheon and Malcolm Dalglish perform at Berea College.

The audience was filled with students and many members of the community who were eager to see the two men's captivating concert. John McCutcheon has not performed in Berea for thirty years, with his last local performance taking place at the Celebration of Traditional Music in 1976.

Born on the same day only half an hour apart, McCutcheon and Dalglish have been friends for years. "We've always called each other up to wish each other a happy birthday -- because we know when it is," said McCutcheon.

Despite their long friendship and time spent learning from the same hammer dulcimer instructor, the convocation "Songs and Strings: A Reunion of Two Masters" was the first time they had performed together in a joint concert. They seamlessly blended their two styles, their talented musical background and familiarity with each other to create an entertaining and unforgettable performance.

Both McCutcheon and Dalglish engaged the audience with humor and a conversational approach, sometimes taking turns performing and sometimes performing pieces together. At one point the two even played the same hammer dulcimer simultaneously.

McCutcheon prefaced each of his songs with an anecdote or explanation, often drawing on his personal life experiences. "There was one thing I knew I'd be really good at as a father: singing my kids to sleep," said McCutcheon. He paused and then joked, "I'd been putting people to sleep with my music for years."

Dalglish drew on his background as a choral composer, director, raconteur and teacher to bring his unusual mix of musical styles to the audience. He also demonstrated. "Seeing how this is an educational environment," said Dalglish, "I thought I would teach you how to play the spoons." Dalglish then played the spoons on nearby available surfaces such as his arms, legs and face. He cracked jokes about ninjas and elicited laughs from the audience at his humorous antics. Dalglish also performed sing-along songs and theatrical ballads, using his music to demonstrate unusual vocal sounds and storytelling styles. One song, "Danville Klude," required the audience to participate in the performance by calling out names of animals.

The duo also brought serious elements to their performance, playing pieces such as Dalglish's adaptation of a Wendell Berry poem and McCutcheon's classic song "Christmas in the Trenches." Before McCutcheon began singing, he mentioned the American soldiers currently overseas in Iraq. He offered the hope "that they come home safe, and they come home soon, and they never have to go again." McCutcheon also showed his grass-roots activist background for other pieces such as "Not In My Name," an anti-war ballad.

McCutcheon and Dalglish ended their concert with another sing-along, "Bright Morning Stars Are Rising."

"Now, this is a folk song," said McCutcheon, explaining why people must sing along. "We are folk singers. This makes you the folk. All you have to do is repeat almost everything I say."

John McCutcheon is an award-winning folksinger whose songwriting and mastery of a variety of instruments such as the hammer dulcimer has earned him critical acclaim throughout the world. He has recorded twenty-seven of his own albums and produced more than twenty for other artists, and has performed at many concert halls, music festivals, theaters and auditoriums across the world.

Malcolm Dalglish is a hammer dulcimer player and composer whose work draws on his diverse background in choir, theater and folk music. He has made more than twelve recordings and is the head of a folk choir called the Ooolites. During his summers, Dalglish tours with Ooolation!, his outdoor singing camp.

More information about both artists can be found at the links below. The convocation was co-sponsored by the Appalachian Center as part of the Celebration of Traditional Music.

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