"Songs for healing, songs for funFirst Fridays shows celebrate Women's History Month."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:39 PM
"First Fridays at Island Center celebrates Women's History Month with two contrasting musical acts featuring women performers.The Bainbridge Park and Recreation show opens with folk singer Emily Groff, who performs traditional tunes from such venues as Ireland, Norway and Spain. I like how down-to-earth folk musicians are, Groff said, They love to sing together; they aren't competitive. It's a simple perspective.Groff can afford to keep it simple; her pure, lilting soprano voice brings off a repertoire of songs that range from a haunting, Norwegian ballad accompanied by the unlikely - but apposite - Tibetan prayer bowl to an earthy Celtic ditty about Satan's encounter with a hospitable widow. Groff, who came to folk music through her mother's Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Pete Seeger albums, found a harp in the corner of The Homestead Pickin' Parlor music store and later gravitated to guitar. Performing has been a hard-won skill, however. I started working a renaissance festival, Groff said. I learned most of my repertoire there. It was an exposure to performing, but I didn't have to talk. I had to learn to be a friend to audiences and entertain. I'd actually rather sing in a circle than be on stage. If I can get around that, though, I really love it.Groff's rapport with audiences is apparent on her CD, Emily Groff: Live From Seabold Hall. Where Groff is reductive, the group Music Heals the Soul is ambitiously additive. In original and interpreted material, Music Heals sings harmony, the five voices supported by violin, piano, percussion, acoustic guitar, rain stick, two shadow dancers moving behind an illuminated curtain and explanatory material. Local graphic designer and publisher Suzanne Cheryl Gardner, lead vocalist and creator of Music Heals the Soul writes: What I have discovered through scientific research is that the voice tone is a vibration. My intuition has told me that my voice in particular is meant to be shared with others, and that the vibration of my voice touches people at deep levels, often bringing up buried emotions that need to be released. That's when the magic happens.Reba Ferguson has sung and played piano with Gardner for five years. Vocalist and guitarist Kay Watkins later joined and, most recently, violinist Shirley Moses. Music Heals the Soul is a whole new world for the classically-trained Moses, a retired Everett School District media specialist.She didn't even have Disney music before she met us, Gardner said.The ensemble is joined by vocalists Annie Klein and Roberta Dueno on percussion, and dancers Emily Johnson and Michelle Strickland. We empower each other, Watkins said, and Suzanne has stretched all of us. The group will record a CD from their Island Center concert. * * * * *The theme for National Women's History Month this year is Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision. Emily Groff and Music Heals the Soul perform 7:30 p.m. March 2 for First Fridays at Island Center. Refreshments will be provided by the Bainbridge Teen Center. Tickets $7/adults, $5/youth.Call the park district at 842-2306 for information. "