Folk Club Bonn #138 – ‘Tree’mendous

Old Trees. Has Folk Club had that theme before? If not, it certainly should have. Many is the time now that John Harrison has been found standing under an old oak or a beleaguered birch extolling the virtues of the Green Man. No trees allowed inside Dotty’s of course but Bonn Tree Guardian (Baumwächter) Andreas Thieves was on hand to remind us what these tall and patient guardians of Nature do for us.

John Harrison got things underway as usual with the help of Christoph Thiebes on blues harps. They reminded us that the Green Man oversees everything in Nature with two numbers by that name including one from past FC Visitor Martin Donnelly. John also reminded us what Nature sees and endures with his moving self-written song ‘Flan’. The link to old trees here being the tragic fact that John’s friend was found hanging from one. Food for thought indeed. Nature sees and endures both good and bad. One hopes that Flan could associate with the final verse of John Clare’s poem ‘The wind and the trees’ which John Harrison closed his set with:

I love the roaring of the wind
The calm that follows cheers the mind
‘Tis like the good man’s end of peace
When joys begin and troubles cease

I was wondering if John had secretly booked Tom Waites for the evening. In the rehearsal room corner was a curious set up of cymbal, bells and Glockenspiel. Tom would have been a nice surprise, but then so were El Gato Con Botas. The trio of Mika (vocal), Arno (guitar) and Patrick (stand-up bass) describe their music as “stories moving between poetic dramas from Mexico, political despair and hope in Turkey, French lightness or stoic-relaxed fatalism from Brazil. Stories that deal with obsession, a longing for death, the love of life, fate and dignity, or simply about the insurmountable aversion to regular gainful employment, pomp and opportunism”. I’m not well versed enough in Portuguese or French to have understood the details, but I do appreciate a beautifully relaxing voice and Mika certainly has one.

El Gatos Con Botas (Puss in Boots in translation) really are a pearl of an unpretentious trio. There were a couple of familiar (via Zaz) numbers to be enjoyed including a favourite of mine ‘Dans ma Rue’and the fun ‘Je Veux’ whereby Mika kept everyone on their toes and joining in the chorus with a placard declaring ‘Papalapa Papalapapapa’ Even I could join in with that one – my French must be improving!

It’s always a pleasure to hear what the varied members of Fomiander bring to Folk Club. Mario was joined this time by Sonja Daniels and a new face, Karin Thomas, making her live Fomiander debut, on the transverse flute. Their set this evening was an interesting blend with songs from the Middle Ages written by Mario (who seems remarkably fit for one so old!) ‘Bauernleid’ and ‘Ruckenwind’ and Dylan’s ‘One More Cup of coffee’. As I said, an interesting musical blend indeed.

John and Christoph’s second set was a lively affair especially right off the blocks with ‘Honky Tonk Women’. Leadbelly’s ‘Heavy Hipped Mama’ had a good moral too: as John pointed out, music is not only a liberator, it’s also a liberator. Huddie Leadbetter was sitting in a jail cell for murder when he was recorded and subsequently released from prison. After such incarceration, he may well have had ‘Rambling on my Mind’. Anyways, John finished off the musical set with that classic.

I’m not sure where the trees were in that collection but Wolfgang Schiefer followed with a poem about a particular favourite local tree of mine. The ‘Alter Zeder’ that sits next to the Kleines Theater stage each night. I will now begin to wonder if that wonderful old tree really does get annoyed when no one comments on its presence, or when it has to ‘sit’ through a concert not to its liking.

Not to forget a wonderful duel ukelele set by Jörg and Anke who had me delving into the music of the Gebrüder Wolf, Variety Stars from Hamburg at the turn of the last century. The three Jewish brothers made a name for themselves in German theatres before having to flee. Even so, the youngest brother, James, and his wife died in Theresianstadt. Thanks to archive audio footage though the brothers have a cult following so check them out on YouTube Thanks Jörg and Anke who rounded off their sing-along set with ‘Side by Side’ or ‘I ain’t got a barrel of money’ as you might also know it.

A mention is also in order for Bonn’s own Baumwächter (Tree Guardian) Andreas Theves. With a theme of old trees it was the perfect opportunity for some statistics defining why trees are so important to our, and our climates, well-being. We all know from school that trees kindly ‘eat up’ unhealthy carbon dioxide and give us back pure oxygen. That a single tree might have some 600,000 leaves? Something to contemplate during a break in next year’s ‘Unter der Zedar’ season for sure. Maybe I will give that old Cedar tree a hug in thanks. Certainly a hug of thanks is due to Bonn Folk Club for another entertaining and informative evening at Dottys.

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