the Folk Opera
An original folk-musical suite of remembering, forgetting, loving & losing with operatic hyperbole.
About the piece
The Folk Opera is a musical suite composed on the ukulele that carries the listener through a day in the life of a few small town folks as the forces of love and loss (of memory, people and places) rewrite their plans. Haunting folk melodies and harmonies meet operatic hyperbole, creating an indelible, visceral, musical experience.
The piece was composed in 2008, and the "as yet incomplete" recording you'll find below captures its earliest incarnation. The recording was made with the generosity of 145 Kickstarter backers, and released December 2, 2010. In 2013 the piece was adapted as a verse puppet play by for the Puppets and Poets Festival at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn.
The Original Cast Recording:
Elizabeth Greenblatt (Elizabeth)
Savannah Jo Lack (violin, Aunt Sara)
Joel Dean (Old Man / Mechanic)
Annie Bacon (ukulele, Rita)
Joe Lewis (upright bass)
Dave Scott (trumpets)
Karl-Mauks Koepke (Jocko/Townsfolk #1)
Megan Keeley (Garrison/Townsfolk #2)
Geoff Bouvier (Richard/ Townsfolk #3)
Lady Sunrise (Alicia Grace/Townsfolk #4)
Engineered, Mixed, Mastered by David Luke
Engineering assistance from Cristian Hernandez
Produced by Annie Bacon
Recorded live at The Tower Studios,
San Francisco July 12-13, 2010
Mixed and Mastered at Ninth Street Opus Studios, Berkeley
Explosion crafted by Joseph Van Geffen
Album design & additional artwork by Christopher Ross
FEATURED: A full-length performance of The Folk Opera
Recorded aboard the musical yacht Barkissimo in Emeryville, California on July 2, 2011. This piece features Elizabeth Greenblatt as "Elizabeth," Savannah Jo Lack as "Aunt Sara" and on fiddle, Joe Lewis on upright bass, Joel Dean as "The Old Man," Annie Bacon as "Rita" and on the ukulele, Matthew Souther & Anthony Ant on trumpets, and as the Townsfolk Choir: Geoff Bouvier, Caitlin Bobe, Kate Cockrill, Margot Geever, and Matthew Souther.
A full review
by American poet Geoff Bouvier:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA  - Written and composed on the ukulele during a 6-week trip on two distant continents, recorded live at The Tower Studios in SF’s Mission District, and self-released digitally and on vinyl in December 2010, Annie Bacon’s The Folk Opera is a haunting and triumphant extended musical suite written for ukulele, upright bass, fiddle, trumpet, and multiple voices.
Described by various delighted listeners as a diverse and eclectic cross between A Prairie Home Companion, Neko Case, John Darnielle, Patty Griffin, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” traditional American folk musicals such as “Oklahoma,” and Bob Dylan’s “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” soundtrack, The Folk Opera is, in fact, a musical world unto itself, with few, if any, antecedents in musical history.
In just over a year and fewer than 20 performances, The Folk Opera has achieved a grassroots following so dedicated that the live recording sessions were fully funded by donations from avid fans, including among them myself. Mixed and mastered by ex-Fantasy Records staff engineer David Luke (who worked with Jefferson Starship, Mike Marshall, and The Grateful Dead, among others) The Folk Opera translates equally well to recorded media as it has to the live stage.
Featuring some of the Bay Area music scene’s most up-and-coming stars, the recording and live show highlight Joe Lewis (Os Beaches, Honeycomb) on the upright bass, Elizabeth Greenblatt (the OSHEN) singing the lead character, Joel Dean vocalizing the Old Man and the Mechanic, Savannah Jo Lack (Ruth Gerson), giving voice to Aunt Sara and playing fiddle, and Annie Bacon herself, playing the ukulele and singing Rita, the waitress. A chorus of 10 voices fills out the Townsfolk Choir, including among them myself.
The haunting and simple melodies, beautiful soaring harmonies and captivating folk and bluegrass rhythms are memorable after only one hearing, the characters are so indelibly drawn, you’ll feel like you know them, and the story – tracing the events of a single afternoon that expand into life-changing moments for a few different people in a small town – is as timeless as classic literature. Described by reviewers as “transfixing” and “almost indescribably poignant and beautiful,” The Folk Opera is a comedy, a tragedy, and a love story. It will make you smile, and it will likely make you cry. And in the meantime, you’ll want to sing along and maybe get up and dance.
“The audience watching (the) Folk Opera, seems to agree. What may have been a “stop in a line” of events for their evening has held them all in a state of awe . . . (the) Folk Opera . . . soars with the talent and energy of all of its performers.” - TheRumpus.net
(in reverse chronological order)
Awaken Cafe - Oakland, CA
Camp Michigania - Boyne City, MI
Garden Party - Cleveland
Lincoln Street Art Park - Detroit
Dogwood Bar - Beacon, NY
The Living Room - Brooklyn
MaMA - Stone Ridge NY
Liberation Institute Urban Retreat Center - SF
Room 5 - Los Angeles
The Bushwick Star / Puppet & Poets Festival - Brooklyn
Conservatory of Flowers tunnel, Golden Gate Park - SF
142 Throckmorton Theatre - Mill Valley, CA
Marin Country Mart - Larkspur, CA
The Lost Church - SF
Eller-Isaacs House Concert - Brooklyn
Brick & Mortar Music Hall - SF
Bazar Cafe - SF
Barkissimo - Emeryville, CA
Walk Like An Egyptian Festival - SF
Viracocha - SF
*1st performance w/ choir* The Swedish American Hall - SF
Revival Bar & Kitchen - Berkeley
Barkissimo - Emeryville, CA
Amnesia - SF
Yoshi’s Lounge, Songwriter Sundays Series - SF
House Concert - Santa Barbara
Room 5 - Los Angeles
Sengthong’s Blue Sky Room - Dunsmuir, CA
The Jalopy Theatre - Brooklyn
Kaleidoscope - SF
The Tower Concert Series - SF
Brother’s Lounge - Cleveland
Nuyorican Poets Cafe - NYC
Camp Louise - Highland Mills, NY
The Red Door (Hush, Hush, Sweet Harlot Series) - Portsmouth, NH
Noe Valley Ministry Music Series - SF
*1st performance w/ cast* Pirate Cat Radio - SF
*2nd Workshop performance* Nomad Cafe - Berkeley
*1st Workshop performance* Socha Cafe - SF