Don’t let Curtis Driedger fool you. He comes across as modest, folksy and a little comical but the man is a musical genius.
He started the Mandolin Society of Peterborough in 2003 and this week it celebrates its 10th anniversary concert. In Driedger’s inimitable words it has grown from “a handful of tinkly soprano instruments, playing selections out of a public school songbook, [to] fully fledged, with twenty players representing all the voices of mandolins (right down to mandocello and mandobass) and able to boast of a repertoire extending to the symphonic. We are an acknowledged part of the great mandolin orchestra revival which is at present in full swing all over the world.”
Composer, arranger, performer and educator – he can do it all, in practically any genre. You might have heard Driedger playing a “slippery” fiddle for the Peterborough Country Dancers or as Hector LaFramboise with zydeco band BobCajun, arranging a young people’s choir for the annual fundraiser In From the Cold, composing and performing onstage with Kate Story for Public Energy, doing backup keyboards at the Spill for jazz guitarist Sam Gleason, performing old timey music in period costume with the Muscovy Ducks at Lang Pioneer Village, playing back up on Jarmo Jalava’s world-beat album or conducting the Peterborough Community Choir. In fact mandolin was his first instrument. You might guess how steeped he is in early Americana or that he is composer of mournful yet hilarious songs, like the one with a chorus that satirizes his day job as a landscaper and goes like this: ” You’ve got to have the dirt side down, you see the dirt belongs to the ground. Dirt side, dirt side down.” But you might not know him as lead singer/songwriter and guitarist for new wave rocker band the CeeDees that played the circuit of Toronto’s Queen West strip in the 80’s.
He’s got a penchant for wordsmithing too, and I’m a gleeful sucker for his droll hyperbole, run on sentences, lyrics worthy of a Maine farmer, and corny monikers.
Oh yeah, and he seems to have a thing for the colour yellow. But I guess I’ll have to dig a little deeper to get the back story on that.
You can see the Mandolin Society of Peterborough in full swing for their 10th anniversary concert with special guests Michael Ketemer and Jason Edmunds on April 13th, 2013 in the Guild Hall of St. John’s Anglican Church (99 Brock St., Peterborough) at 8p.m. I expect the repertoire will be eclectic and thoroughly Driedgerized.