Allison Durno, Jodi Krangle, Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Photo by Gary Rush
The spotlight this month is on the filk group Urban Tapestry. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this versatile trio has guested as far away as Digeri-Douze in the UK, and Consonance in Santa Clara, California! Their music ranges from the serious to the sublime, with a bit of silliness thrown in for good measure. They won the 1997 Pegasus Award for best performer, and are currently in the planning stages for their third recording.
Peggi Warner-Lalonde: So what exactly is Urban Tapestry?
Allison Durno: Urban Tapestry is a filk trio consisting of Jodi Krangle, Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Allison Durno. Our music is acoustic-based and mainly performed at science fiction and fantasy conventions. We have also performed at weddings and at children's concerts at local libraries.
Jodi Krangle: I probably couldn't add much to that -- except to say that we're constantly expanding our music repertoire and challenging ourselves to come up with different ways of arranging our songs. Debbie, in particular, has amazed both Allison and I by not only starting to play the guitar, but also by adding third harmonies, lending a much-appreciated extra depth to our vocal arrangements.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi: I feel compelled to mention that we have two albums out (one available as an independently produced tape, another available in tape and CD format from Dodeka Records. Both can be ordered from Dodeka or other filk dealer, or our Web site.
Those who aren't familiar with the term "filk", by the way, might want to refer to some definitions.
PWL: How did you get together in the first place?
AD: Debbie and I met through music gatherings at local Toronto science fiction conventions. She played flute and piano and I played guitar and we began to collaborate casually together. We met Jodi through a mutual friend and the three of us started experimenting further with song-writing and vocal harmony. Shortly after that we recorded a tape together called "Castles and Skyscrapers" and began to perform together at science fiction conventions.
JK: . . . it was a gaming friend that introduced me to Allison and Debbie. (Prior to 1993, I'd never heard of conventions.) Participating in filk was a real eye-opener for me, but there was an almost instant musical connection between Debbie, Allison and myself. My own musical projects had never had so much creative songwriting and vocal harmonies and I'd never been in a group where a flute was one of the major influences. Previous to my getting together with Allison and Debbie, I'd been making music that was fairly techno, in a group called "Group of 77" where my partner used a synth to create the backing tracks. While I enjoyed that, it was definitely a true joy to discover and experiment with the more acoustic end of things. I think that's where my heart truly lies.
DRO: I met Allison through SF conventions. . . . I remember noticing a red-headed guitarist with a gorgeous alto voice, and would sit in filk circles hoping against hope that she would show up. I finally got tired of passively waiting and started nagging her to sing (she was a bit shy back then) more aggressively. Instead of running screaming from an avid fan, Allison was pretty friendly, and we hit it off pretty well. Same chemistry happened when we both met Jodi. Our weekly get-togethers are often more social than strictly music practice, I have to confess. Mainly because we're friends as well as music partners.
PWL: How would you describe your work?
AD: Urban Tapestry performs filk music, which is generally described as songs written on themes that appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy. Our songs cover the silly and the serious in styles from ballads to jazz to rock, and our arrangements include vocal harmonies, guitar, flute and percussion.
JK: Oh. And schtick. You can't forget the schtick. (On the funny songs, anyway.) Debbie is a fantastic cartoonist, which helps us a lot with the schtick end of things.
DRO: I agree . . . our music is a real grab-bag, a result of all of us having different musical tastes. Originally, Allison tended be the folkie in the group, Jodi more mainstream, while I leaned toward silly humour. Our songwriting and musical tastes have evolved over the years, however, so it's not as simple now.
PWL: What drew you to filk in the first place?
AD: I have always loved science fiction and fantasy literature and media, as well as contemporary folk music. I was setting Tolkien poetry to music before I knew what filk music was. It was a perfect match for me to discover folk music with science fiction and fantasy themes and I was immediately drawn to the filk community once I found it.
JK: Allison and Debbie? <chuckle> Seriously though, it wasn't much of a stretch. I'd also loved science fiction and fantasy from an early age, watched whatever science fiction/fantasy shows the networks decided to toss our way. . . . I'd also been gaming (D&D, etc.) for a while. Finding filk was like coming home -- melding my interests and my music together. It was (and still is) an amazing experience.
DRO: I love jamming with other musicians, so was immediately drawn to the collaborative, creative atmosphere of the filk community. Since then, however, many other aspects of filk appeal to me such as the friends we've made, and the accepting and supportive community in filking.
PWL: What are your goals for the group?
AD: Our goals are to continue to improve our talents as musicians and songwriters by experimenting and working on our music together. We will continue to sing and perform at conventions and other appropriate settings. We are honoured that we've been asked to guest at ConChord, the filk convention in LA on August 2-4 of next year. We are in the early planning stages of preparing a third recording together.
JK: Our goal is also to have a lot of fun. After over 8 years together, when you're still having fun, that's a not too shabby accomplishment.
DRO: Agreed! I think our goals are definitely a mixture of musical growth and experimentation as well as making sure we continue to have fun along the way.
Myths and Urban Legends
cover art © 1997 Beckett Gladney
- Days We Spent Together (RealAudio)
By AD/JK. About friendships and a bittersweet summer in 1993. Keyboard, guitar, flute.
- Puppies Cooked In Brine (RealAudio)
By DRO. A vain attempt to break out of our earlier "sweet ballads and lovesong" reputation. Guitar, flute.
- The Lady (RealAudio)
By JK. Dave Clement: lead guitar, Kylea Fulton: penny whistle, Tom Jeffers: bass. Also: flute.
- Web Surfin' (RealAudio)
By AD. Paul Kwinn & Kathleen Sloan: harmony vocals. W. Scott Snyder: electric guitar. Also: tambourine.
More sound clips (in mp3 format) are available at Urban Tapestry's mp3.com page.
Peggi Warner-Lalonde is Senior Music Editor for Strange Horizons.