Duo shares music and miles
Between them, Emilyn Stam and John Williams play several musical instruments and they have covered thousands of musical miles globetrotting all over Europe.
Stam is an accomplished fiddle, accordion and piano player. Williams excels on clarinet and harmonica. On Friday, Feb. 15 the duo plays Cafe Voltaire at Books and Company in Prince George.
Stam talked with the Free Press Wednesday from her family home in Smithers. Although she now lives in Toronto, Stam is happy that she grew up in a small northern town because that’s how she got her start in folk music.
“I was part of a community [Smithers], one that has big opportunities in a small town. I first studied classical piano and then, at age 12, I began playing with the Valley Youth Fiddlers in Smithers.
They taught me traditional folk music. I bought a fiddle and studied with [folk musician] Daniel Lapp.
“He had a huge influence on me as well as [the late Canadian fiddler, composer] Oliver Schroer. I spent a lot of time with Oliver writing, playing and improvising music in Smithers.”
Williams grew up in Guelph, Ontario and now lives in Toronto. He studied classical clarinet at U of T then he went on his own exploration of klezmer, old jazz, blues and North American folk music. It is a good musical collaboration, says Stam.
“Between us we have a very wide range of folk music. We’ve done lots of travelling together and learned new things. When we do shows, we play a lot of instrumental numbers as well as our other music.
“It’s been good because John and I teach each other songs. He taught me a lot of jazz tunes and I’ve taught him French songs.”
What can people expect from the duo’s show in Prince George?
“It will be a fun show. What kind of music? I’d say that we play strange ...but really nice music. It definitely is different.”
Her own musical repertoire expanded considerably, she says, during her tour of Europe last year.
“When I was travelling over there, I discovered other kinds of folk music, especially French folk music. And I also lived in Holland for one year studying classical piano and I joined a French folk band while I was there.”
Stam and Williams first met while they were playing in the Jaron Freeman-Fox band and the Opposite of Everything.
According to their website, their musical relationship began when they would find a quiet place after rehearsal or between sets and improvise strange and beautiful music togetgher.
Later they discovered a mutual love for danceable traditional tunes and songs. Their duo show is always alive and evolving and spans a wide range of musical interests.
“The band we play in currently is The Lemon Bucket Orkestra – Toronto’s only 14-piece Balkan-gypsy,lezmer-party-punk-super-band,” says Stam.
Emilyn Stam and John Williams perform Friday, Feb. 15 at Cafe Voltaire in Books and Company. Admission is by donation.
For more information about the dynamic duo, visit www.emilynandjohn.wordpress.com.