Bringing the Bayou to the Driftless

March 14, 2013

Cajun Music and Dance Weekend returns to Folklore Village near Dodgeville on March 22-24, 2013.   Expect hot music, lots of dancing, workshops with master artists and an abundance of yummy Cajun food.  Louisiana among the Holsteins.

You never know which way March weather will turn in Wisconsin but the Cajun influence is not foreign to colder climes.  It all started when Acadian exiles from Canada – mostly from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – settled in southern Louisiana and brought the French language with them.

Cajun music is evolved from its roots in the music of the French-speaking Catholics of Canada. In earlier years the fiddle was the predominant instrument, but gradually the accordion has come to share the limelight. It gained national attention in 2007, when the Grammy Award for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album category was created. The category has since been folded into Best Regional Roots Album, and it is interesting to note that the 2013 winner – The Band Courtbouillon – includes Wilson Savoy, the brother of Joel Savoy, one of this year’s Cajun weekend headliners.


Joel Savoy and Jesse Lege

Workshops on guitar, fiddle, accordion, dance and even cooking will feature an outstanding lineup of artistic staff, headlined by master artists Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy, who have collaborated on numerous appearances and albums alike.  Jesse grew up in rural southwest Louisiana and is one of the most admired Cajun accordionists and vocalists in the region.  Jesse has been nominee and winner of numerous Cajun French Music Association awards: Traditional Band of the Year; Accordion Player of the Year; Male Vocalist of the Year; Band of the Year and Song of the Year. Whew!  In 1998 he was inducted into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.  He’ll teach advanced accordion and a vocal workshop.

Joel Savoy is one of the most requested fiddlers in Louisiana today – he comes from Cajun royalty they tell me – and has developed a style that is at once authentic and cutting edge.  His playing leaves little doubt that Cajun music is still alive.  Joel will teach advanced fiddle workshops.

Other artistic staff include Charlie Terr and John Terr, founders of the Chicago Cajun Aces band.  Charlie and John have been a part of the Folklore Village Cajun festival from the start.  Charlie will lead the intermediate accordion workshops and John will conduct the guitar workshop.Image

Eric Mohring is a nationally recognized Cajun fiddler who plays with the New Riverside Ramblers.  He will lead the intermediate fiddle classes and a beginning fiddle workshop.  Gene Losey will guide very beginning accordion players in basic scales, fingering, and techniques that “make it sound Cajun.”

If you like to kick up your heels or do a little Louisiana jitterbug, Maurine McCort joins the 2013 staff as Cajun Dance Instructor.  Maurine has been an inspiring force in the Cajun and Zydeco music and dance scene in the Twin Cities since 1990 and has taught both Cajun and Zydeco at home (every Saturday for 18 years) and festivals around the country. Although she lives upriver, her passion for the dance and music of southwestern Louisiana is from the people who she learned this dance style from.

ImageAnd if all this thought about music and dance makes you hungry that’s perfect because there will be Cajun food galore.  Jackie Miller will teach cooking classes in the Folklore Village Farmhouse for those who would like to bring this lively culture back home.  Jackie learned cooking from all the grandmas she could adopt and has authored two Cajun cookbooks.  She is a regular instructor at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.

The kitchen in Farwell Hall will feature hearty authentic Cajun meals prepared by Folklore Village’s own Foodways staff, led by Bonnie Isaacson-Miller and J Miller. If eating is more important to you than preparation the weekend will feature hearty authentic Cajun meals prepared by Folklore Village’s own Foodways staff, led by Bonnie Isaacson-Miller and J Miller. Saturday’s lunch will feature traditional style Sausage Jambalaya with Lucky Pennies – a marinated Carrot Salad, and refreshing Peach-Pineapple Crisp for dessert topped with heavy cream.  Supper is a Cajun Mardi-Gras Feast of Chicken Gumbo, Sweet Potato Pone, Tasty Homemade Potato Salad, Cajun Corn Salad and Cayenne Toast, plus Pecan Bars with Chantilly Cream for Dessert.

Cajuns have a reputation for a joie de vivre (“joy of living”), in which hard work is appreciated as much as “passing a good time.”  On his web site Joel Savoy says it straight: “Next time we come to town, come on out and say hi and listen and dance if you feel like it. Be a part of our music instead of a background for it.”  At Cajun weekend, Wisconsin people can join in this rare treat.Image

You can still register for the Folklore Village Cajun Music and Dance weekend by calling 608-924-4000. Sign-up for the whole shebang, part of the shebang or for individual workshops and meals.  For more information visit the Folklore Village website or give them a holler.

Just so you know, Folklore Village provides a broad range of cultural and recreational programs. The year-round schedule of over 100 events and activities includes Saturday night potlucks and social dances, concerts featuring master folk artists, folk culture learning retreats and folklife education programs for schools.

Folklore Village overlooks gently contoured fields, dairy farms, nearby woods and a prairie restoration project. The 94 acre site includes Farwell Hall, a 5,500 square foot facility with two beautiful hardwood dance floors, exhibit and classroom spaces and a restaurant-quality kitchen, Wakefield School, an 1893 one-room school house, and the Tall Grass Prairie Restoration Project, which includes over 30 relic species of remnant prairie and many grassland bird species.

Rick Rolfsmeyer, Hollandale WI  Pop. 288  (if you’ve been checking, we’ve gained 5 people!)

Warren Nelson is Back

August 3, 2012

I think that is it. That’s all that needs to be written for this entire blog…..Warren Nelson is back and back in a big way!!!

Okay, perhaps I should explain myself a little more. Last night I ventured again to the Big Top in Bayfield for my volunteer duties. I had my fingers crossed that this was going to be a good show despite the fact that Dairy Queen would not be open in Washburn and my game would therefore be “off”. Oh, I was far from disappointed.

For those of you who do not know of Warren Nelson, you have missed an icon over the years. He is a musician but so much more. He is the man under the big top. He reminds me of the barker at the circus. I’m not exactly sure why – the mustache, the exuberance for all he does, the knowledge he imparts as the weaves a tale and draws you in. No, I’m not sure what it is but that doesn’t really much matter. What matters is how he makes you feel. I know Warren from watching his shows over the past decade or more that I have been in the area – Riding the Wind, Keepers of the Light, Wild River, Take it to the Lake. The list goes on and on. But Warren has been gone the past two years and so has the Lost Nation String Band and Don Pavel. At the same time Warren left, so did the stage manager, Lisa Sandholm, and Chris her sidekick. I don’t know how many shows I watched from back stage with these two as I guarded the back stage door, but the Big Top hasn’t been quite the same without them.

Last night, however the stars aligned. Last night Warren Nelson was back with a new musical called Play Ball. It was Warren at his best. He brought back Lisa and Chris. He filled the band with musical friends and the mixture was magical. The audience was blessed with two hours of story telling, rousing musical numbers, audience participation, and incredible visuals (photographs and news clips). At the end of the night, a standing ovation was palpable before it occurred. It wasn’t a standing ovation out of habit or because “isn’t that what you’re suppose to do” it was a heartfelt showing of appreciation for a job more than well-done.

Bottom line: Warren Nelson is back and at the top of his game. Play Ball is fabulous and well worth traveling to see. Unfortunately it is only at Big Top Chautauqua one more night….tonight. However if you have a PAC (performing arts center) and Warren is willing to bring the show to you….snap it up fast. Don’t miss the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.

Oh, and Warren, congratulations!!!!!!

-Dayle Quigley

A Night Under the Stars – Big Top Chautauqua

July 29, 2012

I have volunteered for the Big Top in Bayfield, Wisconsin for more than a decade and this summer has been no exception. For those of you who are unaware, Wisconsin has an amazing outdoor venue (or more precisely a tent venue) on the shores of Lake Superior. I volunteer for the joy of listening to good music, meeting up with my “summer music” friends and spending a night under the stars.

Last night I went to see a new musical house show, The Mountains Call My Name : A musical portrait of environmentalist John Muir. Like all creatures of habit, I have my own ritual when I go to the Big Top. I leave my house early, meander up the highway, stop in Washburn for a mini blizzard at the Dairy Queen, slip into place at the Big Top, grab a bite to eat at the concessions, and then settle down to watch a magnificent show that has me singing along by the end.

I should have known that things were going to be slightly out of kilter this time when I got off to a late start from my house. The late start from my house was worsened by the amount of traffic heading north up Hwy 63. Totally ridiculous as far as I was concerned. Then there was  the construction at the intersection of Hwys 2 and 13 which appears to be the placement of a traffic roundabout. I am not a big fan of roundabouts and even less a fan of road construction, but I knew I was in for it when I reached Washburn and noticed that the Dairy Queen had been closed. Not closed for the day but permanently shuttered with the For Sale sign professionally placed on the grass in front. This was not a good omen. I got a cold chill as I reached the Big Top, fearful that the rest of the night was doomed. I started to breathe a bit easier when I found my typical parking spot just at the base of the hill behind the concession stand. I was feeling relaxed as I spoke with the other regulars and when the show started I was ready to sing.

Now this is where I am supposed to say that the show was amazing. That I enjoyed it so much that I went in search of the CD. But I can’t. I have seen every house show that the Big Top has produced over the years. I love the photos and the vignettes and the music. There is always at least one song that runs through my head all the way home. Although The Mountain Calls My Name has wonderful photography associated with it and I learned a ton of information, musically I was disappointed. There were wonderful moments. My favorite songs being those written or arranged by Severin Behnin – wonderful four part harmonies, reminding me of shape note singing. And I  loved the playing of the spoons during one of the songs. However on the flip side there were songs that just didn’t click, tones that seemed off  and most importantly there was a big hole, something missing … the song that grabs you, the one that makes your insides swell, the one that makes the 65 miles home seem like 10. It never happened. The show ended and I wanted to scream “wait a minute there has to be one more, haven’t you forgotten something.” But no, the show was over and the lights came up. I was bummed. I felt jipped. I had no song to sing on the long ride home. The evening had ended the way it had started, sadly.

Bottomline: I love the Big Top. I will miss the Dairy Queen in Washburn. I don’t think I will be back to see The Mountain Calls My Name. I’ll select a different house show instead when given the option. We’ll see what happens next week with Play Ball.

Fox Lake’s Big Band Legacy

May 1, 2012

Since 1973, jazz lovers in Fox Lake, Wis., have organized the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, a community-wide tribute to a local jazz legend.

Berigan—born Roland Bernard Berigan in Hilbert, but raised in Fox Lake—built his reputation as a trumpet playing phenom during the 1930s swing era. At that time Berigan was not only playing with Benny Goodman and other big band greats, but he also recorded a number of albums with his own band. Berigan’s 1937 recording of the Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin-penned “I Can’t Get Started” won him a posthumous spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.

Bunny Berigan Day in 1974 with (left to right) Henry Ballweg; Bunny’s brother Donald; daughter Joyce; grandson James; and nephew Kaye. Photo: Harriet O’Connell Historical Room at Fox Lake Public Library, Fox Lake, WI.

A volunteer-driven effort originally coordinated by Berigan’s daughter Joyce, this year’s Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee takes place May 18-20, 2012. Julie Flemming, who has coordinated the event in recent years, says the Jubilee attracts traditional and Dixieland jazz fans from all over the country. Five bands are slated to perform, including the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee Band, led by California-based Wonewoc native Bob Schulz; and the Kaye Berigan 5 TET, led by Bunny’s nephew Kaye, who now plays trumpet with Milwaukee’s SUPERband.

Bunny Berigan, 1937. Photo: Harriet O’Connell Historical Room, Fox Lake Public Library, Fox Lake, WI.

A graveside jazz tribute will honor both Berigan and Joyce Berigan-Hansen, who died in 2011.  Also, on hand throughout the weekend is Berigan biographer Mike Zirpolo, author of the 2011 book Mr. Trumpet.

Zirpolo’s 550-paged work of jazz scholarship “is the most definitive biography of Bunny ever—a fabulous book,” says Julie Flemming. And she should know. Flemming curated the online image archive, Bunny Berigan: Fox Lake’s Own, part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. While she may not have heard of Berigan when she moved to Fox Lake decades ago, “I  can now identify Bunny’s relatives better than I can my own,” Flemming confesses with a laugh.

“For 33 1/2 years, I ran the Fox Lake Public Library, and ten years into my job as a librarian, the historical society ladies allowed me the key to historical room,” Flemming says. “That’s when I started wondering, ‘Well, who is this Bunny Berigan?'”

Her edification began when she would overhear performances while volunteering in the kitchen at the Jubilee. Soon she would start watching jazz documentaries, reading books on jazz, driving to Madison for monthly Madison Jazz Society performances, and after Joyce Berigan-Hansen grew ill and Flemming retired, taking on more and more of the Jubilee planning. This year, she tells me near the end of our conversation, she accomplished most of the work while recovering from a car accident, which left her with a broken neck.

If the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee is a labor of love, staffed by Fox Lake volunteers and sponsored by local organizations, Julie Flemming seems to embody her community’s collective devotion to preserving its jazz heritage.

By the way, I loved this bit on Bunny Berigan that aired late last year on Wisconsin Public Radio. Over Berigan’s expressive trumpet solo on “I Can’t Get Started,” we hear Wisconsin Life contributor Dean Robbins describe his teen-aged infatuation with the recording: Berigan’s trumpet playing “conveys a melancholy that approaches the sublime,” he says.

You’ll find details about the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, coming May 18-20 to Fox Lake, at the festival website.

Find information about other Wisconsin jazz events at the links below:

Birch Creek Summer Jazz Series, Egg Harbor

Eau Claire Jazz Festival

Great River Jazz Fest, La Crosse (no link available)

Isthmus Jazz Festival, Madison

Kettle Moraine Jazz Festival, West Bend

Riverfront Jazz Festival, Stevens Point

–Tammy Kempfert


Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks: From “Our Town” to “Citizen Kane”

March 6, 2012

Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks

By Brian D’Ambrosio

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn, WI

As hard as it may seem at times to give reasons for, there is more to learn about and excite the sentiment in the Badger State above and beyond milk and cheese (regardless of how deliciously impressive) and the Green Bay Packers (notwithstanding stunning Super Bowl success). Wisconsin has produced many influential authors and dramatists and served as the source for many great fictional bodies of work. In this article you’ll take a winding journey, from Pepin to Kenosha, on the path to discover Wisconsin’s unique ancestry of literary landmarks, storybook attractions, and scholarly sites, and how the unstoppable spirit of a few of its residents came to heavily influence the tenor of mythical Americana.

Sterling North Boyhood Home, Edgerton

In Edgerton, Wisconsin, tourists with the most bookish of bents will enjoy  visiting the landmark boyhood home and museum of Sterling North (1906-1974), world-famous author of Rascal, So Dear to my Heart, The Wolfling, and 28 other works.  In 1963 North completed the book Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era. Set in 1917 when he was 11-years-old, the best-selling book chronicles a boy’s fondness for and friendship with a pet raccoon in the fictitious “Brailsford Junction.” The home, which is open from April 5 through December 20, Sunday afternoons 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., may be toured by appointment. Refurbished to its 1917 setting, furnished with period antiques, the museum showcases North’s desk, typewriter, photos, books and many family artifacts and memorabilia.

Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson Poet

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) was a poet of eminent endowment whose life and work were long cloaked in anonymity. The introverted daughter of a carp fisherman, she spent most of her life on a flood-riven plain in southern Wisconsin. She was born and died on a marshy spit of land known as Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson. The Friends of Lorine Niedecker sponsors a monthly poetry reading in Fort Atkinson, which is rich with Niedecker-related sites, including W7309 Blackhawk Island Road, the location of Niedecker’s writer’s cottage and modest home. Both of which are private property, but access is allowed through an appointment with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker. Other notable markers include: Union Cemetery, County Road J north of Hwy 106, Cemetery Road, the burial place of Lorine Niedecker and her parents Henry and Daisy; 506 Riverside Drive, the home where Lorine stayed during the school year 1917-1918 with family friends; 1000 Riverside Drive , the home where the Niedeckers lived from 1910-1916; 209 Merchants Avenue, the Dwight Foster Library, home to Lorine’s personal library archive; 401 Whitewater Avenue, the Hoard Historical Museum, which operates a room with myriad artifacts related to the poet’s life.

Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, North of Baraboo

Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac will be read and revered ad infinitum. This classic, featuring philosophical essays and natural observations established Leopold (1887-1948) as America’s preeminent environmental thinker. Published in 1949, shortly after Leopold’s death, A Sand County Almanac is a masterpiece of nature writing, widely referenced as one of the most seminal nature books ever penned. Writing from the vantage of his retreat shack along the shore of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixed conservation and wildlife essays, polemics, and memoirs, in what has become a catalyst for the country – and world’s – evolving ecological awareness. “Outdoor prose writing at is best……A trenchant book, full of beauty and vigor and bite…All through it is (Leopold’s) deep love for a healthy land.” So raved the New York Times. The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm is located near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Purchased by Leopold in the early 1930s, he converted a chicken coop, which he dubbed ‘the Shack’, for his family to spend weekends. Tours of the Shack are offered Saturdays, from Memorial Day through the end of October. Guided tours originating at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center are the only way to access and view the inside of the Leopold Shack.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthplace, Pepin 

It appears that every state wants to claim a piece of author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). Anyone who watched the Little House on the Prairie TV series knows that Walnut Grove is in Minnesota and there’s a bust of Laura on display in Missouri where she settled in her later years. Laura also lived in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, New York and South Dakota. Near the tiny village of Pepin, Wisconsin, Wilder’s birthplace is commemorated. The Ingalls family lived in a small cottage when Laura was born, in 1867. You’ll find a replica of her log cabin at the Little House Wayside and an historical marker in Pepin Park. Plan on visiting in mid-September to participate in Laura Ingalls Wilder Days.

Zona Gale Home, Portage 

Zona Gale Home, Portage, WI

Novelist and playwright Zona Gale (1874-1938) achieved nationwide popularity as a writer and won the first ever Pulitzer Prize awarded to a female for Drama. Once she gained a niche in the literary world, she returned to her place of origin – Portage, Wisconsin – where she lived and worked the rest of her life. Zona Gale was born in Portage on August 26, 1874, and, barring a brief time in Minnesota, lived there until she entered the University of Wisconsin. At the time of her birth, her father was a Milwaukee Road railroad engineer, working at the time out of Minneapolis. Zona’s mother chose to be prepared for the birth of their first and only child at the Portage home of her mother. Gale first garnered attention for her short stories set in the fictional town of Friendship Village. Published in 1908, Friendship Village proved very well-liked and she went on to write a similar series of stories. Miss Lulu Bett shared best seller honors in 1920 with Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, and the adaptation of the novel brought her the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1921.

Hamlin Garland Homestead, West Salem 

Hamlin Garland was born in a West Salem log cabin on September 14, 1860. After spending his teenage years in rural Iowa, Garland (1860-1940) became a teacher in the Boston School of Oratory. Between the years of 1885 and 1889 he taught private classes in both English and American literature. Some time was also spent lecturing on land reform in and around Boston, where he made the acquaintance of Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Bernard Show, William Dean Howells, Edwin Booth and other worthies. It was in 1917 that A Son of the Middle Border was published. The next year, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. For the novel A Daughter of the Middle Border he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for best biography of 1921. In 1893, Hamlin Garland bought his parents their first home, called the Hays house, in West Salem, Wisconsin. The homestead, open weekends May through October, came to be known as “Maple Shade.”

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn 

At 9 East Rockwell Street in the small town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, stands the neat, modest, white Greek Revival style house where composer Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819-1875) lived. He lived here from 1857 until his death in 1875, at the age of 56. Most of Webster’s more than 1,000 songs were penned during this period. Some of his classics are still well-known today. “Lorena” was heard and immortalized in the classic movie Gone With the Wind. Webster’s compositions were eclectic, including music for ballads, religious hymns, nationalistic drama, and a cantata – a vocal composition intended for musical accompaniment and a choir. The house, which served as a stopping point and sanctuary as part of the Underground Railroad, is open year-round to the public.

Thornton Wilder Birthplace, Madison 

Thornton Niven Wilder (1897-1975) was born in Madison, Wisconsin (at that time a town of eighteen thousand inhabitants) at 140 Langdon Street on April 17, 1897, the son of Amos Parker Wilder, a Wisconsin State Journal editor, and Isabella Niven Wilder. His twin brother died at birth, and Wilder grew up with an older brother and three younger sisters. He took to writing as a youngster, eventually earning his undergraduate degree at Yale, and graduate degree at Princeton. By the time he died on December 7, 1975, at his home in Hamden, Connecticut, Wilder garnered international fame as a playwright and novelist. To this day, his works are translated, performed and prized by audiences worldwide. Wilder’s most famous work, Our Town, explores the lives of people living in the quintessentially American small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. It was first produced in 1938 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Madison was the first of three “our towns” in Wilder’s boyhood (he lived here until he was eight), and it is indicative of Wilder’s interests that each was academic – Madison, Berkeley, New Haven. Though primarily associated with Our Town, Wilder also earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. A small plaque commemorates the birth site.

John Muir Park and Boyhood Home

Father of our national park system, farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, writer, founder and first president of the Sierra Club, and conservationist John Muir (1838-1914) was perhaps America’s most rugged and prominent naturalist. Raised near a little lake outside Portage, Wisconsin, Muir’s family immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1849. They build a home (long since eroded) and started a farm called Fountain Lake Farm; Muir’s formative years in the Badger State instilled a love of nature and land. Muir published six volumes of writings, all describing discoveries of natural environs. Additional books and compilations were published after his death in 1914. Perhaps what is most important about his writings was not their number, but their sagacious content, which continues to hold an influential effect on American ideas and the policies that help to nurture and preserve nature’s elegant habitats. The park is open year-round.

Orson Welles Birthplace, Kenosha

The son of a gifted concert pianist and wealthy inventor, Kenosha’s Orson Welles (1915-1985) proved a precocious child, excelling in music, art, and even magic. By age 16, Welles had set out to make his mark in the dramatic arts. Within three years, he’d entered stage, film, and radio, and by 1941, he’d co-written, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. Born George Orson Welles to Richard Head Welles and Beatrice Ives Welles, May 15, 1915, Welles once said: “I never blamed my folks for Kenosha. Kenosha has always blamed my folks for me.” Built in the 1880s, Welles’ birthplace is a private residence, the front of which holds a bronze plaque commemorating the home town mastermind.

August Derleth, Walden West Festival 

August Derleth (1909-1971) was a prolific writer, publisher, and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft, he wrote in several genres, including biography, detective fiction, science fiction, poetry, and historical fiction. Sauk City’s August Derleth Society sponsors a yearly event the second weekend in October, The Walden West Festival. The festival includes satires, musical performances, speakers, a drive to Derleth-relevant sites, and an evening poetry gathering at the writer’s grave. Permanent exhibits linked to Derleth are located at Leystra’s Restaurant and the Cedarberry Inn in Sauk City, the Sauk City Library, and at the Sauk County Historical Society, in Baraboo.

–Brian D’Ambrosio



Age, Relevance, and the World of Music

February 23, 2012

Ten years ago I went to see two of my idols in concert, Billy Joel and Elton John. It was an amazing concert; live music for four hours straight. I grew up with these guys. Sang my heart out with them in my bedroom as a child and teenager and then forced my own children to endure my renditions in the car during their own childhood and teenage years. The joke in my family being that to join in you don’t have to sing well, just loud. I’m always the first to join in and I’m usually the loudest even when I don’t know all the words. My reason for going to see this duo was simply because I had never heard them in person. You can’t pass up on an opportunity when it crosses your doorstep.

But since that concert in St. Paul a decade ago, I have not waited for my idols from years gone by toImage cross my path. Instead, I find myself actively seeking them out. I managed tickets to Eric Clapton in the cheap seats/nosebleed section. I spent all my birthday money on seeing Cher in Las Vegas. I traveled to Chicago to hear James Taylor and Carole King and would have traveled around the US for their entire tour if I was independently wealthy. This past November I really scored with tickets to Paul Simon at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Even though I called in one minute prior to the tickets going on sale all that was left was the next to last row in the balcony section. Didn’t matter, I was there. And then last night, I sat truly at the edge of the stage at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis and heard Doc Severinsen.

As I was driving down to the cities last night, I found myself wondering why. Why this obsession over the past several years with “older” musicians? Yes some of them were childhood idols. They got me Imagethrough difficult times. But not all of them were idols, some of them had just sprinkled my younger days. I am almost embarrassed to admit it but I was not a musical junkie in my youth. My sister had crates full of albums. The music played nonstop for what seemed like days on end. I on the other hand had just a few – Sony and Cher, Bobby Sherman, Barry Manilow, Supertramp, Bread and I think Jim Croce – oops I can’t forget Cat Stevens. I know, it’s a very sad list indeed. So I guess the question again is why? Why the time and effort? Easy, because it’s worth it. Because in addition to hearing great music I learn something new every time.

So here is the list of what I’ve learned.

1. From Cher: Cher might not be able to dance in 6 inch heels in her 60s but she can still strut. And she does it so well. Why then do so many of us stop? Stop strutting, stop being a little outrageous. Maturity should not have to equal boring.

2. From James Taylor and Carole King: Songs that brought us to tears three decades ago cause the same reaction now. Why? Because although the years have gone past and our bodies have matured, our souls are still the same. As a patient said to me one day in the ER, “My body is 70 years old but inside I’m 20 or 30. How come no one can see that?” Perhaps we need to spend more time looking at a person’s soul and less time looking at their body.

3. From Paul Simon:  My teacher, Randy Sabien, was right all those years ago when he tried to drum into my head that rhythm is where the magic lies. Paul Simon is the master, a genius when it comes to rhythm. He could have a melody that consisted of one note and the song would still rock. At 70 there isn’t anyone better, not the rappers, not the hip hop artists. If he continued to evolve and improve into his 70s, why do so many of us feel we have peaked in our 40s or 50s? There is so much more to do.


The view from my seat

4. From Doc Severinsen: I grew up hearing Doc Severinsen on Johnny Carson. What a great duo that was. The concert last night was wonderful, Doc and a 15 piece band (5 saxophones, 3 trombones, 4 trumpets, 1 double bass, 1 drummer, and 1 pianist.) As my friend said, “What happened to that music? Why did it ever go away?” I had no answer for it. I would have thought that a brass band that large in a small club would have ruined my hearing for weeks but no the volume was perfect and the jazz sweet. I should also mention that Doc had a vocalist with him, Vanessa Smith, from Kansas and the amazing Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone. Here however are the interesting parts. 1) The concert started a little late. 2) After they finished the number “King Porter”, Doc Severinsen wasn’t happy with it so they played it all again. As he said, “You got to get back on that horse right away boys.” 3) There was no encore after the last number. The audience was hoping for it and working the final applause to insure it. The band stayed on stage expecting it to happen. But, Doc Severinsen wasn’t coming back out. Truth is age does have its privilege and at 84 you get to call the shots, all of them.

I suppose the truth is I go to these concerts to remind myself that despite the fact that the magical age of 50 is coming down the pike, my age should not dictate who I am, what I am capable of doing, or the height of my  newest pair of shoes. I am way too young to limit myself at this point.

Oh, if you are wondering. I still have Glen Campbell at the Big Top Chautauqua in June,  Neil Diamond in St. Paul this July and if Tom Jones ever comes this way, I am so there. I’m definitely not averse to a road trip.

–Dayle Quigley


I Love This Town – Hartford, WI

January 10, 2012

It has started, my year of visiting small town Performing Art Centers to experience theater. If the remainder of the year is like this first trip, I’m going to have a wonderful time.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Sharing the Spotlight’ at Campanile Center for the Arts

November 10, 2011

By Woody Woodruff, Executive Director, Campanile Center for the Arts

Woody Woodruff. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

The Sharing the Spotlight program at the Campanile Center for the Arts in Minocqua celebrated its first birthday in September with a sense of accomplishment. That feeling, however, was also tempered with a feeling of how much more there is to do in our community.

The concept originated for us in December 2009 when musician George Winston performed at the Campanile and revealed that food pantries were his charity of choice. Mr. Winston generously agreed to donate the sales of his CDs to the local pantry. In addition, we incorporated a food and monetary drive in the Campanile lobby and held a post performance reception with all proceeds going to the pantry. For a small community we were thrilled to be able to generate approximately $3,000 right before the holidays, which meant a Christmas dinner for residents who otherwise might not have enjoyed one. It was incredible how the area pulled together for the cause while getting to see a great concert as well.

At that point we understood the power that a community has to help others. Every area has several worthy nonprofit organizations and charities that, like the arts centers, are all struggling for survival.  In this world it too often seems like it is “every man for themselves” to try to generate whatever funds they can, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As an arts center and community gathering place, we are fortunate to have the visibility and platform to be in the public’s eye, but this isn’t the case for many of the others. So many worthy organizations escape the public’s attention, even though their causes are vital to the communities in which they exist. Campanile set out to change that.

Our Sharing the Spotlight program has raised awareness, funds and volunteers for community non-profits. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

Over the past year, Sharing the Spotlight recipients have included the Tri County Council on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, the Lakeland Pantry, Firebird Foundation, North Lakeland Education Foundation and the AVW Foundation, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Lakeland Sharing Foundation, Community Food Pantry, the Blood Center, Habitat for Humanity, the Northern Wisconsin Literacy Task Force, the Senior Center, Northwoods Wildlife Center and the Minocqua Museum. During that year the program has helped to raise several thousands of dollars for the partnering organizations, but the benefits don’t end there. Partners also added members, volunteers, sponsors, workers, donors, mentors and public awareness and publicity.

We like to think the Sharing the Spotlight program will have long-range impact, one that will ultimately lead to a higher quality of life in the Minocqua area–not only for the recipients, but for those who give as well. The feeling of community camaraderie and the networking opportunities we’ve built are the frosting on the cake. The program has helped create a bond among local non-profits, while diminishing the sense of competition for donors’ dollars. Through Sharing the Spotlight, we’ve learned that we are all in this together and we all need each other; no one is more important than anyone else.

Art – Alive and Well in Wisconsin

October 20, 2011

When I moved to the Midwest 15 years ago, my family was surprised. How could one move from the East Coast to the Midwest? It seemed incomprehensible to them. When I informed them I was moving to the North Woods, to a small town in the “middle of no where”, they were alarmed. What about culture? What about music? What about opportunities for the children? My answer was always the same. “It’s not that far from the cities.I have a car.” In reality, we didn’t really need to go to the cities, we just had to be more pro-active, plan well in advance. We had to change our expectations, more local artists, more amateurs, less professionals. The truth is…. that was reality then but it isn’t reality any longer.

I have spent the last year traveling around Wisconsin visiting small town performing art centers and other musical venues. Let me tell you, small town Wisconsin is not only alive and well it is thriving. Yes I have seen my share of local musicians and various “amateurs” but I have also seen Bill Staines, Brandi Carlisle, John Prine, Mike Compton, Yonder Mountain Band, Corky Siegel, or best of all the ABBA Tribute band. Yes I have gone to the big city in years past and seen the likes of Carol King and James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John. They were great concerts but I will take a small performing arts center any day to the likes of the Xcel Center or the Target Center where you watch the big screen more than the stage. It is true that you don’t have multiple options on the same evening like you would have in Madison or Milwaukee. It’s true that in many towns the venues operate only once or twice a month. Seeing a performance every weekend might mean traveling at least to the next town. But, that is a small cost for living on 20 acres two miles from the center of town and being kept awake at night because of the deafening sound of peepers.

The Park Theater, Hayward

So on the average day, I would have to say that although we are close in small town Wisconsin, we still are not quite on par with “the big city.” That all changed this month. You see, on October 1st, small town Wisconsin was at least on par if not ahead of many big cities. On October 1st, Hayward Wisconsin was host to the Manhattan Short Film Festival. That put us on par with Milwaukee and Minneapolis and put us ahead of Madison and Chicago. The Manhattan Short Film Festival was shown in over 200 cities, across six continents for one week. It is a film festival of short films, nothing lasting more than about 18 minutes. From all of the submitted films, from all over the world, the top 10 go out around the world to be viewed and judged by the world at large. I was there at The Park Theater on October 1st with 179 friends, laughing and crying and reading sub-titles. Our votes counted just as much as those in New York,  San Francisco, and London. Hayward is now on the map for something other than sporting events and the National Fishing Hall of Fame. Culturally, we are coming into our own, as I found all over Wisconsin last year.

This year I’m continuing my pursuit of eventually attending every Performing Arts Center in small town Wisconsin. This year I’m targeting theatrical performances. I suppose that’s because I saw Of Mice and Men in Green Spring at the American Players Theater and was enthralled. If you have particular PACs (Performing Art Centers) that you think I ought to visit, drop me a line. Otherwise, I’ll just plan to see you out on the trail.

Dayle Quigley

Visiting Spirits

October 11, 2011

Michael Goc

Sandra Swisher-Pheiffer as "Yankee Mama" Jane Bonnell and Harriet Dehlinger as the "lonely" Sophronia Temple.

The ghost walk season is upon us and historical groups around Wisconsin are inviting the curious to visit local cemeteries and meet the spirits of the people who lie beneath the tombstones there. It’s a good idea, because history is story, and our graveyards are full of slumbering stories waiting to be roused.

Many cemetery tours focus on the famous and the infamous. Statesmen, captains of industry, theatrical performers and notorious criminals attract much of the attention. The Adams County Historical Society takes a more democratic approach. This is as it should be, for midst all the infinite varieties of human experience, the one we all share is death. So when we visit our country cemeteries, as we did on the sterling morning of October 1, we stop at the graves of just plain and ordinary folks.

There was Sophronia Temple, a Massachusetts native who moved with her husband Timothy to the sandy prairie about ten miles north of Wisconsin Dells in the 1850s. In a letter she wrote to friends back home, she expressed the loneliness of life on the frontier “We have but little to take our attention from our own fireside. No sewing circle, no prayer meeting, no social gatherings of any kind, but few neighbors…This is a fine country to get a living in but I never have been content. I should be if only I had society.”

Lonely Sophronia might have perked up had she visited her neighbor in life and death, Jane Bonnell. A New Jersey gal who also came west in the 1850s, Bonnell had a house full with nine sons and one daughter.  When the “rebellion” started in 1861,  Bonnell’s sons enlisted. It was not long before she had seven sons in the Union Army. We don’t know if that is a record for either side, but it is impressive. She saw six of her boys come home alive. The seventh, Aaron, who was shot dead at Atlanta, is buried at her side.

Bonnell’s other neighbor, Dana Billings, had a more pleasant war. He volunteered in the fall of 1864, collected a bounty of $315 and spent the final months of the war with an artillery unit defending Washington D.C. from an assault that never came. As he wrote home to his wife Annette, “the army is the best place to make a man lazy that I ever saw.”  Not all who served were heroes.

Take Daniel Ackerman. He was sixty-nine years old when he came west with his son Theron, also in the 1850s. They used a warrant good for forty acres of government land that Daniel earned for serving in the New York state militia in the War of 1812. Forty years later, the government’s promise to a veteran, even one who saw no combat, was still good.

Fritz the miller of White Creek as channelled by Don Hollman.

Fritz Witt, the jovial miller of White Creek, came to Adams County from Mecklenburg in northern Germany with his wife Katrina, a Holsteiner.  He could handle a steam-powered mill, but he preferred to work with water, and he ran mills at Mirror Lake, Delton, Arkdale and Easton before coming to White Creek. The thin soil in these parts had all but given out by the 1890s and farmers planted the crop of last resort, buckwheat. Witt then fine-tuned the stones on his mill to grind and sell “the finest buckwheat flour in Wisconsin.”  Lemons to lemonade for the farmers and himself. Flour was one thing, family was another.

Neither Fritz, nor Katrina, nor their son Chris could make life better for Chris’s wife Lucy. Orphaned as a child, Lucy married Chris in 1900. They had their first child, Harold, in November 1901, but he died the following January. Lucy never got over it, although she felt better after her second baby, Blanch, was born in the spring of 1903.

Rachel Kulack, the spirit of Lucy Witt.

Then her depression returned. In the summer she took Blanch to visit Fritz and Katrina who lived on the bank of the White Creek mill pond. Unable to sleep one night, she got out of bed, left the house and headed for the pond. Hearing the door of the house open and close, Katrina woke up. She found Blanch sleeping peacefully but Lucy’s bed was empty. She roused Fritz and the neighbors and they searched around and in the pond. No one knows if Lucy stepped into or slipped and fell into the water. But the pond was small, the current slow, and no one heard her cry out for help. Her body was found on the rocks at the foot of the dam. History is story and each stone in a cemetery marks a story waiting to be told.