Mennofolk - part of the Mennonite landscape

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A dynamic, free Mennofolk concert will kick off Sound in the Lands 2009, a festival and academic conference celebrating Mennonite music from around the world. The concert, using two stages, will start on Thursday June 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm in the Conrad Grebel University College Great Hall and the Chapel.

Mennofolk concert guitar

The concert will feature a variety of acclaimed and cutting edge performers from across the Mennonite spectrum – from the popular local band Moglee whose debut CD Recess was ranked in the top 5 best local albums of 2008 by the Kitchener-Waterloo Record to veteran singer-songwriter Dale Nikkel who has played with some of the world’s best songwriters and whose work has been played on radio stations from coast Wick (Bush) Wiebeto coast. Musical styles vary from the experimental songwriting of The Anabaptist Bestiary Project, fronted by Trevor Bechtel, to the blend of roots, folk, appalachian, old-time gospel and string band music of Spencer Cunningham.

Wick (Bush) Wiebe of Steinbach, MB, who will be performing at the Mennofolk concert describes his motivation for involvement in music,

I am very proud of my Mennonite heritage. I want to celebrate our culture and make it more accessible to those who don't know its strength. I also hope to help give modern day Mennonites a voice and a place in the greater culture.

Giving modern day Mennonites a voice and place was the inspiration for Mennofolk nearly 20 years ago. Fred Martin, then a young Mennonite conference pastor and now Director of Development at Grebel, believed that the ideal outreach to young adults would be through music. He created a festival featuring local Mennonite musicians and artists which he christened "Mennofolk." While not all those who attended were church members, they found a strong sense of community within the annual gatherings which helped many of them find a place in the church. Wendy Chappell-Dick from Bluffton OH has taken this vision which has grown and spread to include the independently-run Mennofolk Manitoba, Mennofolk Michiana, Mennofolk on the Prairie (Kansas), and Mennofolk Harrisonburg (Virginia).

Chappell-Dick has been using the Mennofolk network to coordinate Mennofolk at Sound in the Lands. He notes:

Mennofolk serves as an outreach to those on the margins of the church and outside the church. The music of Mennofolk expresses commitment to peace, justice and compassion, and creates a place to widen our circle and share Mennonite musical and spiritual traditions.

Anabaptist Bestiary ProjectPerformers at the Mennofolk at Grebel include Moglee, Spencer Cunningham, Those Rowdy Corinthians, Andru Bemis, Annie James Project, The Land, Dale Nikkel, Anabaptist Bestiary Project, Frances Miller, Blank Blue Sky, Todd Schiedel, Carol Ann Weaver, Rebecca Campbell, Mageshen Naidoo, Thandeka Mabuza, Prince Bulo, Lyle Friesen and Bob Janzen, Chuckee and the Crawdaddies, and Jeff and Marlyce Gundy.

Fred Martin says:

I’m happy to see Mennofolk living on. We hope that many people will be able to come out to hear a great variety of performers that are part of the Mennonite landscape.

Sound in the Lands logoSounds in the Lands 2009, a sequel to the acclaimed music festival and academic conference held at Grebel in 2004, celebrates and explores Mennonite-related music across borders and boundaries. Concerts, performances, workshops and academic presentations will feature music from every corner of the world, across musical genres from Afrobeat to choral singing, gospel to alternative, improvisational to classical and jazz.

There is no charge for the Mennofolk concert and all are welcome at the door. Registration is also still open for those interested in participating in the festival/academic conference. For more information, visit the Sound in the Lands 2009 website. All biographies, photos and links to Mennofolk Sound in the Land performers are available on the Mennofolk website, along with a directory of Mennofolk performers across North America.


Selected Bios from Mennofolk at Sound in the Lands 2009.

The Anabaptist Bestiary Project is a rock and roll band that functions as a contemporary bestiary. Bestiaries, which reached the height of their popularity in medieval England, are illuminated books that collect natural accounts of animals (as well as some plants and minerals) and then offer moral and allegorical reflections on these animals. The beautiful thing about these reflections is the way they confidently go about seeking God in the natural world. Bestiary has affinities with Anabaptist reflection in that both seek a scriptural God. This project is headed by Trevor Bechtel, a religion professor at Bluffton University. Bechtel's main research interests include both biblical interpretation and the place of animals in human communities. He writes the songs that the band performs and plays keyboards and guitars. The band is composed of students at Bluffton University.

Moglee consists of Mark Willms, Dan Kruger, Matt Burkhart, and Eli Winterfeld. Moglee is a character that was created by four friends when they were in high school. He loves making music more than he loves doing anything else. He hopes that people get excited when they hear his music. He wants people to smile, laugh, yell, dance, and maybe sometimes get a little angry when people hear his music. He looks forward to sharing his music with as many people as he can. Moglee has shared the stage with the likes of The Flatliners, The Planet Smashers, Shad, Down With Webster, Crash Parallel, The Junction, and Lifestory: Monologue. Moglee is at home when performing and strives to distribute as many dance moves and goosebumps around the audience as possible. Moglee's full length CD is called Recess! (named after his favourite period in school) and is available at Moglee's concerts, on CD Baby, on iTunes, at certain Beat Goes On locations, Encore Records, Pandora Press, Orange Monkey Records and other random digital distributors on the net. Google can help with that.

Spencer Cunningham has been playing and singing a mixture of roots, folk, appalachian, old-time gospel, and string band music, since discovering the Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary, The New Lost Ciy Ramblers, Bob Dylan, et. al, while in college. Spencer is working on a CD of his songs, and his band "Ten Mile Creek" is putting together a more current CD as well. Spencer teaches photography at the Toledo Museum of Art and Owen community College, and has been photographing traditional acoustic musicians for two decades.

Blank Blue Sky of Waterloo, Ontario, combines individual inspiration together and shoves the result into musical noise. Based in life and supported by life, BlankBlueSky lives to play live. They are constantly improving their music to provide a better live performance. With hearts that desire love, lyrics that challenge the love and music that can encourage love, BlankBlueSky shares what’s in their hearts and heads: Listen. Undefinable, the credited nature of all music...Straight-up rock, created by straight-up people for anyone who cares to listen.

Tod Schiedel has wandered hither and yon. He has written about said ramblings in word and song. Sometimes his songs reflect a portion of the complications surrounding the human condition. There is often a considerable amount of rhyming in his songs. The melodies, while not typically heard on the radio (apart from a community station in Waterloo and an obscure station in Italy) are somewhat hummable. Todd performs around Kitchener-Waterloo from time to time. He's currently working on his 3rd home-spun recording which incorporates a smattering of instruments, including voice, cello, guitar and percussion.

Thandeka Mabuza is a vibrant Zulu singer, teacher, band leader, dancer, and church musician in South Africa, with a university degree in traditional African music from University of KwaZulu Natal. As a singer she has performed with African bands in New Orleans, Hanover, Germany, Sweden, Scotland, and many places throughout South Africa.  She teaches at KwaMashu Secondary School in a Zulu Durban township, and attends a Seventh Day Adventist Church, also in a Durban township.

Mageshen Naidoo, leading South African guitarist, has performed in the USA, London, Scotland, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. His many performance credits include Angelique Kidjo (Africa), Darius Brubeck, Mike Rossi (USA), Michael Bolton, Yuri Honing (Holland), Ronald Snijders (Suriname), Marco Pignataro (Italy) and Oscar Stagnaro (Venezuela), Karin Bengjmark (Sweden), Feya Faku and Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa). He has recorded locally and internationally and has won numerous national and international awards for Composition and Performance.  Mageshen grew up playing in churches, and has become one of the most prominent guitarists in South Africa today.

Prince Bulo, bassist, arranger, composer, is a rising star on the South African bass scene, hailing from Xhosa background. His love for music was evident from a very early age. At the age of 15 he played keyboards in clubs and concerts with gospel groups. He later switched to bass guitar, studying at University of Iowa before graduating from University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has played with such celebrities as Branford Marsalis, Sibongile Khumalo, Jack de Johnette, Darius Brubeck, Ernie Smith, George Mari, Mageshen Naidoo, and for South African President Thabo Mbheki. He played in the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, toured Sweden, and regularly plays at Durban Christian Centre (a major church in Durban).

Discounts will be applied to those who register for Sounds in the Lands 2009 before May 4, 2009.   

<--break-> For registration and logistical information about Sound in the Lands, contact:

Meg Bauman
Conrad Grebel University College  
519-885-0220 ext. 24264


Carol Ann Weaver,
Associate Professor of Music and Conference Director
Conrad Grebel University College

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