Brenna Shippy Staff Writer
A blue hue envelopes the studio theatre stage as soft strums of a guitar are heard over a recording. A red spotlight illuminates three acoustic guitars displayed in the middle of the stage, accompanied with a microphone. Listeners from far and wide risk the severe snow storm to come to the Stocker Arts Center and attend Lee Murdock’s Lighthouse Legends and Songs of the Great Lakes. The ballads were based off of sailor’s songs and tales of the Great Lakes region in folk.
Murdock brings more than his voice to the music he performs. He brings history. Keeping his audience members engaged with history lessons of the songs in between performances, Murdock talks about the traditions of scraggy sailors and ragged lumberjacks which both intrigue and inform the gatherers. “I like to provide my listeners with a historic background of the song,” said Murdock. “It gives them more joy and understanding with what they’re about to hear.”
One of the highlighted moments of the evening was “The Lumberman’s Alphabet” which was not sung, but clapped and spoken by Murdock as well as the audience. Everyone began to clap and laugh, and even the few people who seemed embarrassed to join in quickly found themselves thoroughly entertained.
While playing guitar and singing his poems, Murdock switches between six and twelve-string instruments in order to obtain a specific sound with his music. The different guitars bear either a deep tone or a more ethereal sound.
“I like coming to the Stocker Arts shows,” said Krista Mcintyre. “The way Lee Murdock puts songs together is pleasant. I like the history he blends with the music.”
As pleasant as the blending of songs and history might be, I felt I got more history than music. Most of the songs were spoken and I couldn’t hear some of the lyrics clearly, but Murdock’s voice if he used it more can truly resonate. His raspy voice has a deeper yet peaceful Gordon Lightfoot quality.
Murdock has produced 18 albums which include background information as well as activity guides in order to follow along with the art and regional history of his compilation.
Joan Perch thought bringing Murdock to the Studio Theatre would give the Cabarets a different approach. “Our Cabaret scenes gives us a chance to highlight musicians in an intimate environment, which is what we felt Lee Murdock brought with him,” said Perch.
Murdock certainly brought the community together with songs such as, “The Housewife’s Lament,” “The Red Iron Ore,” and “Haul Away Joe.” It was a great chance for everyone to appreciate where they come from and how the Great Lakes came to be.