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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 04:17 pm

Twenty-first century bard

Daniel Marcotte performs his BardSong program this Saturday

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Daniel Marcotte performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, as part of the Prairie Grapevine Folklore Society monthly concert series.
Untitled Document It might seem like a long way from the life of an ancient Celtic bard to that of a modern-day performer, but to musician and storyteller Daniel Marcotte it was a natural progression. From his upbringing in Schaumburg, Ill., near Chicago, through his college work in ancient music and societies and continuing into his current profession as a contemporary performance artist, Marcotte has followed his muse, becoming the latest in a long, long line of performers.
 “I was raised in the suburbs, and there’s not much culture here,” says Marcotte, on the lack of a folk tradition in suburbia, “but we’re working on it. It’s getting better.”
From the looks of Marcotte’s schedule and the record of his accomplishments, if the cultural landscape is improving it’s because he’s working hard at making it so. Besides performing as a Renaissance-costumed musician, poet, and storyteller in his educational and entertaining program, BardSong, Marcotte teaches music at a local school, directs five choirs at his parish with wife Carrie, performs as a musician with storyteller Judith Heineman, gives lectures on history and music, and helps raise the couple’s two children, 10 months and 4 years old. Oh, we’re not done yet — he also plays several gigs a month with the Whiskey Brothers, a local Irish folk group that carries on in the pubs of the suburbs and Chicago proper, and has mastered an ever-growing list of instruments, including the lute, guitar, mandolin, tin whistle, recorder, oud, laouta, gittern, cittern, doumbek, bodhrán, shawm, cuatro, and trumpet, while writing songs and learning old tunes. He’s released a couple of CDs, too. Marcotte was introduced to the sound and style of the old-time music while hanging out at Renaissance fairs as a teenager. Studying voice and music at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington-Normal, he discovered the history of the ancient folk music, and it changed his life. “I went from wanting to be a band director to wanting to be a bard,” he says. “Now I do both. Part of the bardic tradition is being a part of the community you live in, and I like to keep that.”
He continued studying those golden oldies at Florida State University, receiving a master’s degree in historical musicology and a certificate in early music while honing his skills as a practitioner of the bardic arts. Now he performs 30 to 40 shows a year with his BardSong program and fills his remaining time with all the aforementioned enterprises. “There is lots of work that I don’t care for that goes along with it all — grant writing, promotion, and correspondence,” he explains, “but this is forever; this is what I want to do.”

Daniel Marcotte performs his BardSong program as a part of the Prairie Grapevine Folklore Society monthly concert series at 7: 30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 745 Woodside Rd.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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