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Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 08:15 am

The cacaphonic charm of ‘Unsilent Night’


Due to the lack of one totally encompassing subject this week in the music scene, we will focus on a few upcoming events that you may find worthy of participation.

First on the block we have a first for Springfield. Kurt Gottschalk, a former capital city resident, plans to present an “Unsilent Night” performance in lovely downtown Springfield on Monday, Dec. 22, around lunchtime. Gottschalk, now living in New York City, took part in the music event several times in the Big Apple and wants to introduce the public participation piece to his hometown.

The basic idea involves getting as many people as possible to carry portable music players with speakers all simultaneously playing a 40-minute recording of chimes, bells, and choral music written and produced by Phil Kline, the composer and instigator of “Unsilent Night.” The music is not quite synchronized as each player goes at its own speed and the resulting slight discordance adds to the cacophonic charm of the composition. Kline began the annual event in 1991 in New York City and now many other cities across the USA, and a few in Europe and Australia, host performances. From what I can tell from information gathered at www.unsilentnight.com, Springfield is one of the smaller urban areas listed as a host city. Hooray for us.

Gottschalk asks that anyone interested in either participating or seeking more information to contact him at kcgottschalk@gmail.com. Performers are only required to bring a battery-powered music player with speakers and he’ll supply the music on whatever format you need, be it cassette, CD or mp3. So if you’re looking for something definitely different from the basic holiday routine, give Kurt a shout and hook up with Springfield’s very first “Unsilent Night” performance.

Next! Step right up here you little WUIS Bedrock 66 Live! concert. Every time you turn around these guys are throwing another great show. What’s up with that? This time on Friday, Dec. 5, Samuel Adams sponsors The Wilders, a traditional hillbilly music band with an attitude, and Randy Erwin, Springfield’s own Yodeling Cowboy at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

A few years back I saw the Wilders at Merlefest, the North Carolina music festival held by Doc Watson as a memorial for his late son Merle. The band was up on the big stage and really rocked the place. They play hillbilly music with the traditional instrumentation of guitar, fiddle, banjo, Dobro and bass, but they do it with a fervor not always associated with the laid-back stereotype of a backwoods picker. As guitarist and lead singer Ike Shelton unapologetically says, “This ain’t sitting on the front porch rocking chair music. We play hillbilly music and we play the shit out of it.” The group hails from Kansas City, Mo., and carries stellar credentials with performances at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the aforementioned Merlefest, South by Southwest and appearances on NPR’s Weekend Edition and A Prairie Home Companion.

If you don’t know of Randy Erwin you’re missing a treasure in our own back yard. Erwin is known professionally as one of the finest yodelers in the world. He lives here in Springfield, but doesn’t perform very often in town. No matter your opinion on the merits of yodeling, you must admit, a good yodeler is hard to find. Along with his world-class singing, Erwin does a superb stage show of cowboy songs accompanied by his very sweet guitar playing. He generally tosses in a few fancy rope tricks with his trusty lariat to complete the onstage cowboy persona.

Last but absolutely not the least, if for no other reason than it involves the word “free,” the Illinois Central Blues Club (with a little help from our friends at the Illinois Arts Council) hosts a free Blues Christmas Party at Robbies (4 Old State Capitol Plaza) on Sunday, Dec. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. The Blues Expressions perform on the house, compliments of the ICBC as a way of thanking the community for supporting the many ways the club spreads the blues around town. And you’re quite welcome.

As always this is just a small sampling of the many great and glorious opportunities awaiting your attendance in our entertainment community.

Contact Tom Itwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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