April 17, 2007

WVBR Bound Forever Glory

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Cornell’s campus has seen many eras come and go, but rarely do we get an authentic glimpse of this history. There is, however, a living landmark that remains which reawakens the sprit of the ’60s and ’70s every Sunday in Anabel Taylor Hall. This is, of course, Phil Shapiro’s folk music broadcast, Bound for Glory. Shapiro earned a Masters of Arts in the spring of 1967 at Cornell and has played folk music on WVBR since that time. Every Sunday, Bound for Glory broadcasts live acts out of Anabel Taylor. As Bound for Glory enters its 40th year on campus, Daze asked Mr. Shapiro a few questions about folk music, the origins of the show and where it is today:
Daze: This year marks Bound for Glory’s 40th year on the air. How did you get started?
Phil Shapiro: I started Bound for Glory as an undergraduate at Brandeis. I came to Cornell for graduate school and made a beeline for the radio station. The show was on the air almost immediately; folk music was very popular then. The show was originally recorded music, but, after a while, I started bringing live acts to Willard Straight. In the fall of ’69, I started doing special shows from Anabel Taylor. The show today is pretty much the same as any show after 1969.
Daze: What was your experience of starting a folk broadcast in the ’60s?
P.S.: Bound for Glory was the hottest thing going. Now the audience is much older, although, there has been a student revival.
Daze: Do you play music?
P.S.: I teach folk guitar lessons and play professionally with a fiddle player named Carrie Shore. We tour New York and Pennsylvania and have played 115 gigs.
Daze: What have been some of your favorite acts over the years?
P.S.: Well, we’ve had over 1200 shows. One of my favorites was U. Utah Phillips, the golden voice of the great southwest. He was a major influence on my life. This year we had Eric Bibb and Le Vent du Nord, a French-Canadian group. In January, we had Bill Staines, a nationally traveling musician who has visited many times. Also, there was the Canadian group, Tanglefoot; they were just a knockout.
Daze: What are some new acts that are rejuvenating folk music?
P.S.: Lissa Schneckenburger is one. She plays a lot of music for contra dancing, which is related to square dancing with folk music; a lot of the moves are the same. There’s a lot of contra dancing in Ithaca, almost 40 percent students at some of the events. The music for contra dancing comes from New England and Europe, originally. A whole musical subculture has taken these traditional folk songs, made new songs, and added blues flavors to these songs. Lissa is one of the best fiddlers today and she incorporates a lot of jazz and blues. All kinds of new flavors are being added to these ancient ballads, some of which are hundreds of years old. There’s a more edgy feel to the music than the original ballad singers might ever have dreamt of.
Daze: Why the folk revival?
P.S.: I have various hunches. Younger bands are coming along. For a while it seemed like musicians were getting old as fast as I was. Now, new bands are taking old traditional music to places it has never been before. The world we live in is pretty intense and confusing now. When that happens, as it did in the ’60s, people go back to the roots. And I’m part of the roots. They find what is really basic and important, like a sense of community. Bound for Glory is a community builder. People have even gotten married on Bound for Glory!
Daze: Plans for the future?
P.S.: I’m not quitting yet. Right now I’m booking six shows for the summer and touring in the fall. I’ve become quite a stop on the tour. People aren’t paid to be on Bound for Glory; they come for magic. They come because it puts a smile on their face. As long as we’ve got the community’s support, we’ll keep going. Bound for Glory is certainly a Cornell experience and a great venue for diverse music. Most of all, it is a testament to the impact that folk music has had and continues to have on the world. The show has changed so little over the years that one might even believe it was a little piece of 1969. Bound for Glory, as it has from its creation, serves as a bastion of music that honors the past while addressing the current issues faced by the world.