A unique combination of old and new musical stylings come to the stage of the Elgin Community College Arts Center’s Blizzard Theater this weekend in the form of Old Town School on the Road.
The program features three distinctive musical acts from the legendary Old Town School of Folk Music, including Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, which made its first appearance on the ECC Arts Center stage in 1994 and returns for the venue’s 20th anniversary.
Fronted by blues harmonica master Corky Siegel, the Chamber Blues band combines the elegance of classical music with the exuberance of the blues in a traditional chamber music setting. “Described by critics internationally as remarkable, astonishing, extraordinary, hot, mesmerizing, joyous and outrageous fun, their music and concerts have delighted diverse audiences globally, and their genre-defying presentations are drawing new and old concert-goers to places they have never been before,” according to the band’s website.
“Chamber Blues is two forms working together — blues and classical,” Siegel explained. “Each form’s personality is maintained. You can hear them working together. That’s Chamber Blues.”
According to Siegel, who has recorded 18 albums of his own music and has performed with blues legends including Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, the inspiration for Chamber Blues came about when his blues band was joined on stage by Chicago Symphony conductor Seiji Ozawa in 1966. They continued to work together over the years, performing with several orchestras and giving Siegel the inspiration to form Chamber Blues in 1988.
Joining the Chamber Blues on stage is banjoist, guitarist and acclaimed music educator Michael J. Miles. A veteran of world-famous venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center for the Arts and the Ravinia Festival, Miles is preparing to release his latest work later this year, entitled “American Folk Songs for Clawhammer Banjo.” The Chicago Sun-Times has described Miles’ performances on the banjo as “soul-stirring,” and Miles also is the author of the highly popular banjo instruction book, “Teach Yourself How to Play Clawhammer Banjo.”
Rounding out the performers for “Old Town School on the Road” is alternative-folk group Sons of the Never Wrong. Consisting of banjoist Sue Demel, vocalist Deborah Lader and guitarist Bruce Roper, Sons of the Never Wrong have been putting their own unique spin on three-part harmony and folk music for more than 20 years.
All three acts will come together for a two-hour folk music revue that will feature individual and collaborative performances “accented with good-natured humor and wit,” according to the ECC Arts Center.