BEMIDJI -- In two concerts in the area this week, Lauren Pelon will blend her craft of storytelling and music from America's indigenous peoples coupled with the diverse wave of immigrants in the 1800s and their gifts of folk music and dancing.
"Music from the Backyard & Front Porch" will be hosted by the Kitchigami Regional Library System at 7 p.m. Friday at the Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. There are no tickets for this event and all seating is first-come, first serve.
After studying music in college, Pelon, who grew up in Michigan, moved to Alaska for 10 years and traveled extensively through the U.S., the provinces of Canada, the British Isles and Europe gathering knowledge and learning many primitive instruments along the way. The singer-songwriter and historian is now settled in Red Wing, Minn., and still travels with her programs conceived and produced through Lauren Pelon Musique Co.
Pelon weaves her musical journey using authentic Native American and Eagle Bone Flutes, along with the Celtic Penny Whistle and the one-stringed Nordic psalmodikon, an ubiquitous instrument that crosses borders and centuries. In short, Pelon will enlighten anyone interested in the background of what we today call bluegrass and country, and she challenges those who have studied the history of instruments as thoroughly as she continues to do.
"Each instrument has its own qualities and tones," Pelon said during a recent phone interview, "and 'no' I don't have a favorite among them. I want to give an idea of local music and stories; the range of what we find in the U.S. today."
If you miss Friday's concert in Bemidji, Pelon will also be appearing at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Fosston Art Center in Fosston. The Kitchigami Regional Library System, Northern Exposure to Lifelong Learning and the art center are co-sponsoring the events, which are underwritten by a 2014 Arts Tour Minnesota Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Pelon has also received the 2010 Artist Initiative Award for her work in developing programs dedicated to local communities. There are five different programs in the series and she chose 22 sites from the 40 that applied for the tour.
Pelon's Fosston event is called "The Living Roots of Music," traces the story of music and is accompanied by instruments from around the world, including the ocarina, lyre, recorders bowed psaltery, the Kiowa courting flute, electric wind instruments and MIDI-pedalboard.
So, if you ever wondered what a Schreierpfeife (Germanic), rackett (popular during the Renaissance) and cornamuse (Medieval) are and are interested watching an expert play them, take a Sunday drive out to Fosston to enjoy Pelon's performance and educational program. Pelon is known not only for her lilting soprano voice but also for her compelling compositions and arrangements of music from many countries. Pelon, who has been a guest on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show, also has appeared around the world, including at the Russian Institute for the History of the Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has played with many symphony orchestras, including the Philadelphia String Quartet.