Eighteenth Cousin and other music

Caption: It was long overdue, but local musician Wayne Hoff has released a recording of piano music. “Wayne Hoff Under Fire” is available in CD or cassette and includes many local musicians. Above, Hoff poses with his piano.

Hoff Releases CD

Local musician Wayne Hoff has released a recording of piano music titled “Wayne Hoff Under Fire”. Musical styles range from Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu” Opus 66 to Charleston, Flappers, Razz-A-Ma-Tazz, featuring 156 voices from the Bemidji Middle School choir.

One of three Chopin pieces with the word “fantasy” in its title, the theme of the posthumously published “Fantaisie-Impromptu” has been popularized as “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”.

The choice of Charleston, Flappers and Razz-A-Ma-Tazz, with its lyrics about gangsters and prohibition, was inspired by local folklore, including rumors that Al Capone himself once stayed in a house at the corner of Eighth and Irvine in Bemidji, and there was at least one blind pig (illegal liquor establishment) in an alley behind Third Street.

Other pieces on the recording include the modern ragtime “Pianogram”, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, “The Shadow of Your Smile” with a Latin flavor, and a Gershwinesque rendition of “Deep Purple”.

Joining Hoff on this album are local musicians Ted Thorson, Felix Spooner, Paul Loxtercamp, Mary Jo Vene-Overbeek, Karen Bradley and the Bemidji Middle School Eighth Grade Chorus. Production is by Mary Jo Vene-Overbeek of Pro-sound Studio. Photography is by Les Peterson.

The recording will be available at Overbeek Electronics and Music and Harmony Food Co-op.

Wayne Hoff releases CD of folk music

Wayne Hoff has announced the release of his second CD, a recording of folk music titled “Eighteenth Cousin to the King”.

Several of the 14 selections are performed in the traditional style; others have been influenced by the jazz, blues, Celtic, Slavic and rock ‘n roll traditions. The CD was intended to remove Scandinavian music from its “museum” status and broaden its appeal, and the music should appeal to all ages, according to a news release from Hoff.

The emigration to America from Scandinavia was a heartwrenching saga out of which came a now largely forgotten culture of music, dance, and lyrics, the release states. The immigrants’ descendants, who now make up a large segment of the Minnesota population, have not yet revived and expanded on these songs and dances as have the Celtic and Irish descendants.

The new CD aims to stir interest in Scandinavian and give it more of a global appeal - both retaining authentic dances such as the halling, polska (not to be confused with polka, a German and Polish dance style which has been given a bad rap by the media), and gammal reinlander - while setting other songs to more contemporary idioms.

For example, “Hälsa dem därhemma” is a song about an immigrant leaving family forever and only being able to tell a little swallow that lands on the ship’s deck to go back and greet everyone. Somehow, in America this song turned into a jolly old-time waltz. Wayne Hoff, along with local guitarist Mike Mohler, has set it back where it belongs, using blues techniques and chord restructuring guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of the listener.

“Oxen Dance” is a piece depicting two scandinavian men fighting over the same girl. Normally it is performed in traditional costume. The two men spar while the subject of their quarrel looks on. Fighting sounds on this recording are provided by Joe Vene, who also sings “Norge! Mitt Norge!” (Norway, My Norway).

This CD was intended to offend those who insist that Scandinavians are not emotional people, Hoff says.

The Scandinavian motifs have not been showcased as much as those of other cultures and therefore have not been popularized. “Eighteen Cousin to the King” is an attempt to show aht might have been had this tradition found its way into the mainstream American culture.

Also performing with Hoff on this CD are Mary Jo Vene-Overbeek, Mike Fiske, Pete Humphreys, Luella Hoff, Sue Nelson and Paul Loxtercamp. The cover design is by Drew Rauvola and sound production by Vene-Overbeek.

CDs and cassettes of “Eighteenth Cousin to the King” and “Wayne Hoff Under Fire are available at Overbeek Electronics, Harmony Foods and the Paul Bunyan Playhouse box office.

This project was made possible in part by a Region 2 Individual Artist Grant, funded by the McKnight Foundation.

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