Arts and Entertainment

Corbin Beach to close out Vashon's world music, folk dance party series

Balkan Cabaret’s music is all acoustic and features, left to right, Michael Lawson, accordion and vocals; Rich Thomas, double bass and vocals; Steve Ramsey, guitar, tambura, bugarija and vocals; Joe Finn, violin; and Mary Sherhart, vocals. - Courtesy photo
Balkan Cabaret’s music is all acoustic and features, left to right, Michael Lawson, accordion and vocals; Rich Thomas, double bass and vocals; Steve Ramsey, guitar, tambura, bugarija and vocals; Joe Finn, violin; and Mary Sherhart, vocals.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18, Corbin Beach will host the last of this summer’s World Music concert and folk dance parties sponsored by Vashon Park District and Vashon Folkdancers.

Come to the beach to celebrate the end of summer with music by Mary Sherhart, Dragi Spasovski and the Seattle-based Balkan Cabaret, an all-acoustic folk band. The event is a bring-your-own-picnic, no trash-bash. Attendees are asked to bring their own non-disposable dishes and utensils.

Balkan Cabaret formed in May of 2001 when Mary Sherhart, a Balkan vocalist, started working with the Balkan dance orchestra Nishava. They had a common desire to revisit and perform those wonderful Balkan standards heard in cafés, many from more than 50 years ago. Balkan Cabaret is a group of dedicated artists who have spent many years both in the Balkans and here in the United States learning the music, songs and dances from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia.

Sherhart has recently worked in Bosnia, studying and recording with legendary “sevdah” artist and teacher Omer Pobric. Sevdah is a traditional genre of folk music originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sherhart has also worked with women’s vocal music in Bulgaria. For the past few years she has been touring to Bosnian communities throughout the United States.

Balkan Cabaret has also just returned from a tour of the Midwest. A few years ago, members of the group were flown to New York City to play for Mark Morris’ opening night celebration at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They have once again been nominated by The Seattle Weekly as one of Seattle’s top bands in the world music category performing the emotionally intense songs and upbeat dance tunes of the Balkans.

Balkan Cabaret’s music is all acoustic and features Joe Finn on violin; Michael Lawson on accordion and vocals; Steve Ramsey on guitar, tambura, bugarija and vocals; Mary Sherhart on vocals and Rich Thomas on double bass and vocals. This year the group will be joined by Dragi Spasovski on vocals.

“Mary sings with throaty ease and appears fluent in a variety of languages,” wrote Roots Magazine of Sherhart.

Paul de Baros wrote in the Seattle Times, “Few folk revivalists sing with such authentic heart and soul.”

Spasovski, who was born in a small village in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, started singing and dancing in performance settings in 1966, encouraged by his mother, already an established recording artist for Macedonian National Radio.

On one tour with the Orce Nikolov Ensemble, Spasovski met some singers and dancers from the Koleda group from Seattle, a group of Americans who studied and performed the dances, songs and instrumental music of the Balkans. In 1970, he joined them in Seattle and lived there for six years before returning to Macedonia. Over the last 30 years Spasovski has recorded more than 100 songs for the National Radio.

Most of the songs Spasovski has recorded he learned from his mother, “songs which were inside of me since I was a child, songs which I shared with myself and others when I was happy and when I was sad,” he said. “The song was, is, and will be a description of me, a picture of my soul.”

The general editor of the Folk Department of Radio Skopje said, “Dragi Spasovski did not find singing a main source of his existence, rather for him it was a cultural exchange.” To which Spasovski adds, “Singing is the voice of my soul.”

Corbin Beach is a special spot on Vashon. On the west side, under the setting sun at the water’s edge, dancing is at the home of a Corbin Beach family, the Dolstads, on the family’s clay tennis court (excellent for dancing). The music will begin at 6:30 p.m. while people are eating. Dances will be taught, and dancing will start at 7:30 p.m.

Those who like traditional music will enjoy this six-piece band and the setting where the music will take place. Organizers urge attendees to carpool, park cars on Burma Road, bring a flashlight and walk down to Corbin Beach. Parking is extremely limited.

Families are welcome. However, parents are advised to keep an eye on their children and bring an extra set of dry clothing and a towel for them — the kids often get soaked playing in the water.

No partners or experience are necessary to participate in the dancing.

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