Charlotte’s Web presents four-treat weekend

Charlotte’s Web presents four-treat weekend


Quadruple your pleasure this weekend as Charlotte’s Web offers four special acts to entertain you.

Bill Miller at Mendelssohn

Hear Bill Miller at 8 p.m., Friday, March 28, at Mendelssohn Club, 415 N. Church St. in Rockford. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

One of America’s most notable native artists, Bill Miller’s music is equal parts modern urgency and timeless mysticism. A rogue rocker with a twist—singing of the love and hope that can be found in each of us. He even suggests that next time you’re caught in the rain, “let the rain fall down and cleanse you.” The healing power of the waters is a theme that runs throughout his exquisite new Paras Recordings album Spirit Rain. It’s the work of a man who knows first-hand life’s keenest joys and sorrows, a man who distills experience into a potent musical style. In the process, he blends the Native American and Western folk/blues traditions into something wholly new.

Perhaps the album’s most touching track is “Prayers for the Truth,” which restates all that the Native American community holds sacred, while offering forgiveness to those that nearly annihilated an entire people. “I don’t want anyone to carry around this guilt,” said Miller. “All we need is to be allowed to speak, to mourn, to express anger, then be allowed to forgive our oppressors. That could lead to a deeply powerful spiritual change in the U.S. and the world. It could be a statement about the peacemaking that comes with change.”

Miller grew up in poverty on the reservation, amid the streams and woodlands, the son of Mohican-German parents. The proper name of his tribe is Mahicanuk, meaning “People From Where the Waters Are Never Still.” “I’ve always been connected to water,” says Miller. “My reservation was in northern Wisconsin, so I grew up near lakes and rivers. There’s a mystical energy in water. Every Native creation story has water in it.”

At age 12, young Bill got his first guitar. Later, he began to play folk music and bluegrass, as well as taking up the Native American flute. For him, the turning point came when he attended a Pete Seeger concert shortly after leaving the reservation to study art at the Layton School of Art and Design in Milwaukee. He later attended the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse and eventually moved to Nashville.

In the early days, he often faced racism because of his Native American heritage, but he persevered. In time, he wrote songs with the likes of Nancy Griffith, Peter Rowan and Kim Carnes, and shared the bill with such diverse artists as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, the BoDeans, Richie Havens, and Arlo Guthrie. He got a big break when Tori Amos asked him to be her opening act on a U.S. and Canadian tour.

Despite some setbacks, including battles with alcoholism and family tragedies, Miller never stopped growing as a singer, songwriter and performer. His long recording career includes such landmark albums as Loon Mountain and Moon (1991), Red Road (1994), Reservation Road, Raven In The Snow (1995), Ghost Dance (1999) and The Art of Survival (2000). His song “Tumbleweed,” co-written with Peter Rowan, was included on the 1990 album Dustbowl Children.

With his new album, Miller hopes to inspire fans, both present and future. “My faith in my Creator leaves me content with the gifts I have,” he says, “and I use them to enrich the world through his blessings. I choose to bless people rather than curse them, to be a peacemaker rather than a warmaker.” As songs like “The Promise” make clear, Miller feels just as passionate about saving the environment of North America, the land of his forebears. “I think we should feel as if we’re living in the Garden of Eden, and we should take care of the land,” he says emphatically. “I’ll always use my music to urge people to preserve the land.”

Mark Dvorak at Rockford Public Library

In the spirit of Woody Guthrie, Mark Dvorak’s performances are a blend of the innocent and the determined, fashioned from the grass roots music of the past and the present. Dvorak is the keeper of great musical traditions. “Old Songs & New People” is his introduction to American folk music, presented for kids and families in educational and social settings alike. His natural, direct stage presence immediately captures the attention of his young audiences, and he draws them in with participation songs, sing-alongs and action songs. “Old Songs & New People” captures the innocence, determination and beauty of folk music. Bring the whole family to this joy-filled event at 11 a.m., Saturday, at the Rockford Public Library Auditorium, 215 N. Wyman St. Best of all, it’s free!

Reilly & Maloney return

After seven albums and 3,000 concerts, West Coast folksingers Ginny Reilly and David Maloney stopped performing as a duo in 1991. But old friends can’t forget, and now they’re together again. For more than 20 years, they were a staple in the pop and folk music scene. Joining their voices in seven albums for Freckle Records, they toured nationally and extensively up and down the West Coast. They shared the stage with such performers as Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, the Smothers Brothers, Mason Williams, Earl Scruggs, Greg Brown and Bill Staines. Together as a duo, they each established their own individual solo credentials as recording artists and performers.

Breaking up was truly hard to do, but touring was difficult since Ginny lived in Seattle and had young children to raise, while David lived in California’s Bay Area. After several 20th anniversary/farewell concerts, they went their separate ways, occasionally reuniting for special festivals, and always remaining best friends. Now they’re back after a 10-year hiatus, much to the delight of their fans. Catch their act at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 29 at Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Claudia Schmidt at Memorial Hall

Rockford Public Library is thrilled to bring Claudia Schmidt, “Tasmanian devil of song,” back to Rockford to perform her unique blend of folk, blues and jazz in celebration of Women’s History Month. As a touring professional for 26 years, Michigan native Schmidt has traversed North America and Europe, including stints on A Prairie Home Companion, and many Rockford fans will remember her performances at the original Charlotte’s Web. A singer who hates categories, Schmidt “leaves it to the imagination of her audiences to conjure the images of her storytelling and song.” The imagination of everyone present will be enriched through Schmidt’s music-making with her 12-string guitar, mountain dulcimer and incredible vocals.

See and hear her at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 31 at Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St. This performance is free, sponsored by Rockford Public Library and co-sponsored by Charlotte’s Web.

Tickets for any shows are available at Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., 963-6765; The Postal Shoppe, Edgebrook Center, 397-7301; and Tin Whistle, N. Main & Auburn, 963-0270; or by mail with check and SASE, 10928 N. Main, Rockton, IL 61072. For Web information, call 964-2238.

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