Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest – May 21, 2023

By Louise Dobbs

Hello Songmakers!  

A wonderful time was had by all at our great corner of the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival !

We had some great leaders and participants.

First I want to give a shout out to the “Saints of Topanga:” I am referring to the amazing set up crew who went to the Festival the day (Saturday) before the event (Sunday, May 21).  Thanks to Andy Gelencser who painted the walls of our pop-ups a lovely tan color the week prior to the Festival), who provided two popups and supervised the set up of our corner.  Linnea Richards provided two pop-ups and was on the set up crew as well!  Also, Steve Berman, our Prez, (who was dealing with vertigo!) and Sandy Lessner:  both were there setting up the four (4) 10×10 popups.  Mary Zangerle also was there, provided a rug for our singers to stand on, and brought chairs and was part of the set up crew.  OMG!   Thank you all !  My Saturday Saints!  Everyone on that crew brought chairs, and set them up to make our site inclusive, inviting, and cozy.

Tear down crew consisted of Andy and Janice Gelencser who are two amazing set-up gurus, myself, Linnea Richards, and Eric Leach—another couple of Saints !

Now, for the musical portion of this report!

Our Hoot leaders that contributed an hour are listed here, with highlights of their hour time slots.
Steve Berman, was backing up with his groovy harmonica playing most of the day!   Doug Kerr was backing up with his stylish bass playing, most of the day.   Thank you both for adding color and depth to a lot of the music of the day!

I always enjoy singing and leading songs at Topanga:   Sally and Dana Charette were on hand to join with me in song on all my numbers: They roused us with “Teenager in Love;”  Doug Kerr and Linda Szitkar were on hand to belt out “She’s Not There” by the Zombies and provided back up on all the songs I sang.. Multi-musician Doug Kerr contributed his great Bass stylings throughout the whole day and he and Linda gave us “It’s All About The Bass.”   We got to sing that twice during the day!

Bill did a great job of singing wonderful folk songs which included railroad and sea songs.  He started it all out with “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir,” a Bill Staines favorite.  Bill did an excellent job of queueing the lyrics so people were encourage to sing with him.   Very nicely done Bill !  Bill is a pro who performs at diverse venues.   I appreciate you!

In her clear, pure lovely voice, and banjo, Linnea led off with a song by Bob Nolan (of the Sons of the Pioneers) and continued with great Folk favorite sing-alongs like “The Erie Canal” which to me is one of the most fun old folk songs to sing!  Linnea and Bill Dempsey both had fathers that were “hobos.”  It was great to hear some about that !!   On hand to back up was Linda Szitkar and Doug Kerr on vocals, and Doug also on Bass.  Mary Zangerle did great back-up on mandolin and Pat Cronin added fiddle!  Sally and I also sang back up .we LOVE doing that.  Mike Zangerle provided back up and solo licks!  Ben Griffes and Steve Berman were jamming along on harmonica!  Mike was there much of the morning with his great back up guitar work. We could not stop ourselves from joining in and creating the Linnea Richards Band !

12-1     The Songmaker who was slated for this slot was Robert Fisher, an able and experienced musician, and sound engineer, but he could not come due to serious last minute health issues.   Janice Gelencser swept in to grace our audience with her lively, vivacious presence.  We sang “I’ve Been Cheated,” “The Letter” “I’m Into Something Good,” Can’t Buy Me Love, and of course “Midnight Special.”  The “we” refers to at least Sally and Dana Charette, Linda Szitkar and Doug Kerr!   Janice is a wonderful songleader !   Sally wowed us all with “Big Bad Handsome Man”   We all love singing along with her !  She also busted out her super cool resonator Ukelele that could be thought of as a tiny dobro, to sing “Stand By Me.”  Great performance values too: very expressive!

We had a unique and special treat:  Bernie Pearl stopped by and joined us on stage and sang and played for us three great Blues numbers.  Bernie is one of the Southland’s most famous Blues player, Blues scholar, and promoter of other great blues artists.   A family with three or four young children stopped by and our newest board member Louis Richter reminded us to get children involved!   A boy of about 6 or 7 sang “Octopus’ Garden.”   We accompanied him the best we could!   Ben Griffes was rockin’ it with harmonica for a couple of hours and on that song!  It was great to hear him.   At some point someone yelled “harmonica magic” and he and Steve Berman blew wild and great on those harps.  Thanks Ben and Steve!
Last, but never least, we had a special guest:   “Boris” Charetteski singing for us “Those Were The Days!”

Cool, calm  and well prepared was David with some great singalongs.  He played “Wagon Wheel,” which I think everyone there sang—it is a big hit!  He played a Motown favorite “My Girl” and invited dancing on the stage with “Sway With Me.”   OMG!   I love that! David also gave us the theme from Rawhide, that show from the 50’s with Clint Eastwood!  (And, BTW everyone:  I want to see more dancing in Songmakers:  just my humble opinion!)   😊Thanks David.

2-3   GEMINI (Bruce and Renata Farwell)
Always a crowd pleaser, Gemini did not disappoint.  You are so good you two!.   Bruce always the consummate  guitarist was rockin’ it, and Renata was especially exuberant reaching out to the crowd getting us to sing along, and shake shakers-along !  They kicked it off with “Margaritaville,” and also gave us “Under the Boardwalk.”  So much fun.  I love harmonizing with you two !!
Don Truby was in fine form as usual to sing “Indiana Moon” and that great Trinidadian song “Shame and Scandal in the Family.”  Another guest, named Britt, stopped by with his autoharp and flashy fashions to play “Navajo Rug” by (Ian Tyson and Tom Russell).

Oh My Goodness!   What charisma these two have!  They kicked it off with the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land.”   Pat and Bob, you rocked it with exuberant vocals and Bob’s hilarious song about not being a “monkey in your circus anymore.”  I really like adding harmonies to your songs!   Late in the day Doug Kerr and Linda Szitkar played Jim Croce’s “Roller Derby Queen” a song by Jim Croce —round and round, go round and round!   Great lyrics!  Great delivery you two !

Thanks everyone for being there, participating and spreading Songmaker magic !