Joellen Lapidus is one of the pioneers of contemporary mountain dulcimer playing, songwriting, and instrument construction and is the author of the dulcimer instruction book “Lapidus on Dulcimer”. Joellen blends the Appalachian, Indian, Arabic, jazz, classical, and pop musical styles to give the dulcimer a new range of rhythmic, melodic, and tuning possibilities.
As a dulcimer maker, her work influenced many of the dulcimer builders of the 70’s and 80’s. Her instruments were known for their innovative shapes and exquisite soundhole and peghead inlay work. She introduced the dulcimer to Joni Mitchell and made three instruments for her between 1968 and 1976. She has also made instruments for David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Wendy Waldman and Garth Hudson. The March 2004 concert, recorded on her album, Joellen Lapidus In Concert, marked her first performance in over 10 years.
Joellen teaches dulcimer in West Los Angeles. She has also returned to her original musical loves – the clarinet and the accordion. She performs with the band “Extreme Klezmer Makeover” and with violinist Yvette Devereaux. Joellen’s newest album is called Dulcimer Music for the Pelican Ballet.
Recently, KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste talked with Joellen, about her unique dulcimer influences, her musical upbringing living in New York, and how her musical horizons broadened as she traveled across the United States. They also talk at length about her unique dulcimer instrument creations, and the inspiration behind Pelican Ballet.
The 2016 Folk Alliance International Conference and Music Fair was held for the third year in a row in Kansas City, Missouri February 17-21. KC Cafe Radio was there once again, providing live coverage of the conference from our booth at the exhibit hall.
This year turned out to be a significantly rewarding year for us. Not only did we have the opportunity to catch up with several old friends, we made several new ones as well. Stay tuned to KC Cafe Radio, over the next several weeks and months you will begin hearing new music and voices, a direct result of these new friendships.
Since the conference, we were saddened to learn of the passing of a very good friend to KC Cafe Radio and Folk Alliance International, Louis Meyers. Louis had served as Executive Director of Folk Alliance International for several years, and had co-founded the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival. Louis died on Friday, March 11, the first day of the 2016 SXSW festival.
Louis is also responsible for connecting us at KC Cafe radio with Folk Alliance International. He had personally invited us to one of the regional conferences. The following year we returned to the Folk Alliance Region Midwest conference with our live microphones. Since then, we have attended and covered two regional and two international conferences. Our involvement with this outstanding organization may not have happened without his invitation.
Here are archived recordings of the conversations we had during the conference:
Hali Hammer has lived a life that is as eclectic as her music. She grew up in New York surrounded by music. “My mother and father were always singing,” she recollected. “My mother always had the record player on, and she would sing me to sleep at night.” In college, Hali was wowed by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Peter Paul and Mary. This was during the Vietnam war, and the words and songs she heard during that time would go on to play a significant role, not only in her music, but in her “public voice” as well.
Hali joined her first band in 1968 while she attended Queens College, and went on to play both with other musicians and as a solo act. She was a member of Citizens to Save Minnewaska in upstate New York, and had the inspiration for and helped produce the compilation album Save the Mountain in 1981 which aided in funding the legal fight. The property is now Minnewaska Lake State Park.
Hali later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and joined Freedom Song Network in 1985. She was a member of the chorus that sang onstage behind Nelson Mandela at the Oakland Coliseum. Her song Bottom of the Ninth was aired on KNBR-San Francisco preceding the first game of the 1989 Bay Bridge World Series. She became active in the San Francisco Folk Music Club (she is currently the Vice President) and was the coordinator of the 2003 Berkeley Free Folk Festival. Hali created and produced Sing Out for Earth Day, a video montage of 33 groups across the nation singing This Land Is Your Land on April 22, 2012, in the same key (D) and at the same time (noon Pacific, 1 pm Mountain, 2 pm Central, 3 pm Eastern). It debuted at a screening in San Francisco that July 14th, the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birthday. She has been listed in Who’s Who of American Women.
Hali’s latest album, Eclectic Circus is preceded by three other albums, I Refuse To Believe, Gypsy-O, and The Best of Hali Hammer. Recently, KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste visited with Hali via Skype. They talk about her various political and musical causes, her upbringing, and the significance of the “voice” behind the music.