BEMIDJI - Singer, songwriter and poet Chuck Suchy sat down for an interview Friday morning on the shore of Lake Bemidji and spoke with a wisdom that only a man of the land can know - whatever is in us cannot be denied.
Suchy will play his guitar and sing original songs during the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra's Summer Pops Concert "Music and Message" at 7:30 tonight in the Bemidji High School Auditorium.
Bemidji is lucky to have this performer who has appeared at the Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Ordway in St. Paul. He has also played on National Public Radio.
"Chuck is a storyteller," said Beverly Everett, Music Director of the BSO. "He has a very strong connection to the audience and reaches people of all ages and walks of life."
We will understand those words when Suchy takes the stage tonight and starts to sing his stories about family, love, and the joys and sadness of a life well-lived.
Suchy is from Mandan, N.D., and still farms a 1,000-acre farm with his wife and youngest daughter Eve. He speaks about the complexity of the community he grew up in that had its feet in two different worlds: old world Czech and rural America. He remembers Saturday night gatherings of community: musicians, singers and dancers and a young boy who sat on the edge of the stage marveling at the accordion player who played so hard that his shirt became drenched in sweat.
"I went to a one-room schoolhouse and learned the accordion but soon learned that being a farm kid who played the accordion was not the same when I went to the junior high school in town. It was tough to be a farm kid at that time.
"My family came here in the 1880's and I am a third generation farmer," Suchy said. "It was lonely out on the farm and I was the youngest child of elderly parents so I spent a lot of time by myself."
But, it was Miss Hinkemeyer, his English teacher in junior high school, who encouraged him to write. A pivotal person in a young teen's life, this teacher encouraged the fledgling writer/poet by saying how much she enjoyed reading his work.
"I started playing with words in my mid-30's," Suchy said. "I grew up listening to singing cowboys like Roy Rogers. I grew up in a family where music was a part of the mix, my mother played the piano and I started with the accordion in the second grade."
Suchy turned his talent to the guitar shortly after entering junior high and left the "old world" instrument behind until just recently when he picked it up again.
"I am not yet where I was in playing it," said Suchy. "But it will come. I have many stories started and many unfinished right now."
Suchy understands that his work is important in its simplicity yet clear commentary on the world around us; how it is changing so quickly
His lyrics are simple, yet profound. The kind of music that makes a wife want to "drop the dishtowel" and dance in the kitchen with the farmer who has come in from the barn on a winter day, "Dancin' in the Kitchen." Suchy sees the softness of the rolling hills and feels the sensuality of prairie living. He smells the liquid air that surrounds his dog in "Molly's Field."
Suchy speaks of longing, the need to write and admits that he "longs for the longing." It is obvious that his work shows a strong emergence of soul; the soul that a man of the soil instinctively understands, takes to his heart and wishes to share with others.
His three CD's (Different Line of Time, Evening in Paris and Unraveling Heart) will be on sale at the Sunday concert.
The concert will begin with a rendering of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," as interpreted by this year's Mystery Maestro. The program will include several "Americana" songs: "American the Beautiful" and "Old Man River."
Tickets are $10 each and students in grades K-12 are free and may be purchased at the door.