ECA special Thanksgiving weekend concert features Hands Five

Elation Center for the Arts presents Hands Five, an award-winning string band from New Mexico, in a special Thanksgiving weekend concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse.

From the lilt of sweet-sounding traditional fiddling to the graceful syncopation of the hammered dulcimer, Hands Five performs a spirited repertoire of old-time American mountain music, Celtic and French-Canadian dance tunes, new-time music (new tunes and songs in an old-time style), and Hispano-American tunes to enthusiastic audiences throughout the Southwest.

Folk music and dance are enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the village of Albuquerque, helped along by the musicians such as those who make up Hands Five string band: Peter Esherick, hammered dulcimer; Erika Gerety, bass; Gary Blank, percussion; John Brinduse, guitar; and Bruce Thomson, fiddle. Through their concerts and dance performances, Hands Five furthers the cultural tradition of the old-time American string band.

Hands Five band members take an active role in helping the Albuquerque Folk Festival and the New Mexico Folk Music and Dance Society, two organizations that promote the continuance of the cultural traditions of folk music, song, dance, and storytelling through educational workshops, demonstrations and performances.

Erika Gerety, Hands Five bassist, has worked with the Albuquerque Folk Festival as president, grant-writer and director. “Music is in my soul, in my blood,” says Gerety whose other job is graduate advisor for the University Of New Mexico Anthropology Department.

Gerety grew up around music and theatre. Her father, Peter Gerety — an actor by profession — started his acting career after his early associations with the Clancy Brothers and Odetta, who were involved in theatre at that time. “He sang around campfires with them before their records came out,” she recalls. “My father’s side of the family was all musical. We would sing and play folk music together at holidays and other get-togethers. My fondest memories are of my delightful Irish grandmother singing, ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling.’ My closest cousin, Tim Hill, could play every instrument in the house by the age of 12 and was writing and recording songs in basement recordings. Today he has several of his own CDs and is part of the David Hykes, harmonic singing choir. He taught me guitar as a young girl; I played for school and church functions. I never knew more than a few chords, but it was enough to accompany myself while I sang.

“When I was a teen, my father decided to take up banjo; our entire family got lessons from local old-time/Celtic musicians. I took guitar lessons and my stepmother took mandolin. We had music jams often. At the age of 20, through some local jams, my husband and I started playing with a group that won the band contest in Santa Fe and performed in the Taos area.

“Then life got busy. My guitar went in the closet for 18 years or so. But, I got a mandolin for Christmas one year, started learning and I was hooked. Within a year, I was going to jams and meeting great people. Because of these musicians, I found a new community in Albuquerque; and what a wonderful community it was. I started a biweekly jam and I fell in love with the bass (I’m still in love with it today). My musician friends got me contra dancing, too.”

The Albuquerque Folk Festival Web site states, “We see the teaching of folk activities as a process of encouraging creative expression and fostering a sense of community. Participation in folk activities can reconnect individuals with their neighbors, and participation in folk activities across cultures may encourage cultural tolerance. We aspire to remind people of the days when they could create their own entertainment by going to the community dance, telling stories to their families, or playing music on the front porch with friends.”

Join us Saturday, Nov. 29, for the string band music of Hands Five at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse.

Advance tickets are $12, available online at elationarts.org and at Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Tickets at the door are $15. Young people — 18 and under — accompanied by parents, will be admitted free of charge.

You’re welcome to help us continue our tradition of the wonderful concert intermission social, by bringing a dessert to share if you wish. Volunteers are always appreciated.

Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave. in the Vista subdivision of Pagosa Lakes. Take U.S. 160 to Vista Boulevard; turn north on Vista, then left on Port. The clubhouse is at the end of Port in the PLPOA complex.

Elation Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides cultural arts programs to the community of Pagosa Springs.

For more information, call 731-3117.