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American Memories

From New York folk to Eugene’s Vocal Arts Ensemble
Laura Wayte
Laura Wayte

Last year’s film Inside Llewyn Davis helped revive memories of one of the great voices of American folk music. The fictionalized Cohen Brothers movie was based on the memoir of New York singer Dave Van Ronk, who mentored a whole generation of young folkies. 

“He was passionate and stinging, sang like a soldier of fortune and sounded like he’d paid the price,” wrote one of them, Bob Dylan, who fell under his spell shortly after moving to New York from his Minnesota homeland. “Van Ronk would howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues. I loved his style.”

Despite his pivotal role in the early 1960s American folk revival, Van Ronk’s own offbeat music is rarely heard these days, so veteran Eugene singer-songwriter Chico Schwall has enlisted Mood Area 52’s Michael Roderick and a host of other local luminaries to remind us just why “the mayor of MacDougal Street” inspired songwriters from Dylan to Joni Mitchell. Chico Schwall presents “Beyond Llewyn Davis: The music of Dave Van Ronk” 7:30 pm Thursday, June 5, at The Shedd.

Next Wednesday, June 11, The Shedd marks a return to the classical music it used to host more often. Chamber Music Amici will venture from the Wildish Theater for a concert of American-inspired music and images revolving around one of the most beautiful and beloved string quartets, Dvorak’s “American” quartet, inspired by the great 19th-century Czech composer’s sojourn on this side of the pond. What makes this multimedia show really special, which also includes music by Mozart and George Gershwin, is that it includes projected historic photos of Eugene, Springfield and other Willamette Valley communities, all precisely synchronized to complement the music. It’s a great chance to hear one of the state’s top chamber ensembles and explore our own history.

A couple of other free classical events happen before the Bach Festival cranks up. From 2 to 3:30 pm Saturday, June 7, the UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art hosts “A Spirited Bourrée.” UO voice instructor Laura Wayte and her students will sing Catalan and Spanish songs (by Falla, Granados, Mompou and more) to complement the museum’s exhibition of work by Catalan-American artist Pierre Daura. And on Sunday, June 8, some members of the Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble gather at Emmaus Lutheran Church, 18th and Polk, to sing arias and songs by Mozart, Handel, Mahler, Puccini and more.