Madison Folk Music Society concert. $21 ($18 adv.).
press release: “Sterling guitar-banjo-dulcimer work…Better yet, [Sally] Rogers’ achingly sweet voice imbues her ballads with classic poignance even as it lifts the spirit.” -- Washington Post
"Those who keep trying to categorize Claudia Schmidt's music should just give it up and file her under the general category 'TALENT' Big talent." -- Rochester MN Post-Bulletin
Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers are each capable of giving your goosebumps goosebumps. An evening listening to either of their performances is enough to bring you out of your deepest slumps and back into the world of healthy passions and love of life in general. To have these two women together on the same bill is almost overwhelming in so many deeply delightful ways.
A Sally Rogers concert consists of a combination of contemporary, traditional, and original songs, interspersed with stories taken from her life as a music educator, performing songwriter, world traveler, wife, and mother. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous, and her phrasing is natural and convincingly heartfelt. As one critic put it, "It's really next to impossible to do justice to a voice of that quality." She accompanies herself on guitar and Appalachian dulcimer, or occasionally sings a cappella, which gives the listener a golden opportunity to appreciate the natural and unadorned beauty of Sally's voice.
Her songwriting is heavily influenced by the traditional music she seems so at home singing. Lovely Agnes, written years ago and a jewel in the Rise Up Singing songbook, is one of the most beautiful and simple traditional-style love songs you might ever hear. As with many of her other wonderful songs, this one will be sung for years and years to come. On Sally's website, this tale is told: "Once during a live radio interview in Michigan, a woman called in to say that her child came home singing all the words to “Lovely Agnes”, a song she had never exposed the girl to. When she asked where the child had learned it, the answer came: “On the playground”. No higher praise could have been awarded to this songwriter."
Sally's breathtaking song Love Will Guide Us is featured in both the Unitarian and Quaker hymnals, as well as in the Silver Burdett music textbook series. She has been commissioned to write music for several folk operas based on oral histories from a Mennonite Community in Virginia. Sally's simple and powerful lyrics are carried by impossibly beautiful melodies. Go to YouTube and search for her "I See The Moon" for a wonderful example of her grasp of
melody writing. Her songwriting credits seem to go on forever, but she treats traditional songs and songs by other writers with just as much empathetic feeling and appropriate styling as she treats her own.
Claudia Schmidt is the perfect match for Sally Rogers in that her voice is a treasure of strength and passion, her self-accompaniment is flawless on 12-string guitar and, as with Sally Rogers, her mountain dulcimer playing. The qualities of the voices of Sally and Claudia are perfectly matched, similar enough to sound like the singing of sisters, but unique enough to provide delicate contrast. They have been singing and recording together off and on for thirty five years, and you can hear this in their uncanny synchronization of delivery and interplay of musical emotion.
Claudia's songwriting is legendary, and, due to her having lived in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and various points in Michigan, many of her songs, to the delight of Madison audiences, carry a Midwestern flavor and perspective. Her song "Wisconsin Country" is a haunting and evocative wonder, traveling internally and externally through the state in the Autumn. Here are the lyrics of the last verse:
Traveling through Wisconsin country
Roused from the magic that sought the soul
And the shivers come gladly in the late day cold
As the body is lifted from the strange land's hold
In the Lansing State Journal, Chris Rietz, in his article about her 2006 CD "Spinning," writes: "Claudia Schmidt belongs to the genre of hyperliterate songwriters, a word-monger of the first order, sometimes bursting at the boundaries of song form. In addition, she's a firecracker of a singer, irrepressibly emotional, and a radiant, almost overwhelming performer. It's the folksinger's trifecta, and in this Schmidt is nearly in a class by herself.
Together Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers on stage create an almost overpowering presence, sweeping the audience up and down the full range of emotion, with exquisite musicianship, beautiful vocalization, inspired story telling, spine tingling harmonies, and the crowning touch of humor sprinkled throughout to make the experience reassuringly human. This is a show four decades in the making, and should not be missed.