The Ark’s “annual celebration of romance,” My Folky Valentine, had a different look this year due to the ongoing pandemic, but it did not dampen the spirit of the performance. Hosted by Annie and Rod Capps, the show also featured musical couples Catherine Miles & Jay Mafale and Robin & Jenny Bienemann.
The performance’s format was not what I expected but was nevertheless very effective, and in some ways catered to the virtual nature of the show. Rather than each duo performing an uninterrupted set, the show was completed in “rounds,” during which each couple played one song. This pattern was then repeated several times for the duration of the evening. In an environment where many are suffering from Zoom fatigue and a general attention deficit when it comes to looking at screens, this kept the show engaging and was a welcome departure from other virtual performances.
Most of the songs were written by the performers, except for the round in which it was designated that each duo would cover a song that was not original to them. Perhaps the most entertaining result of this round was a very unlikely mashup of “Rubber Ducky” (yes, the one from Sesame Street) and the jazz standard “All of Me,” performed by Robin and Jenny Bienemann. It was an understated rendition of the two songs that was unexpected, theatrical, and tongue-in-cheek, and as a result, extremely hilarious. During the same round, Catherine Miles and Jay Mafale performed “At Last,” and Annie and Rod Capps covered “My Funny Valentine,” the showtune-turned-jazz standard that the event’s title was a nod to. I found this round of covers particularly enjoyable because it included folk renditions of popular jazz tunes, and I appreciated the inventive ways in which the performers paid homage to the original songs while molding them into a new style.
Of course, the original songs were also a highlight of the evening, as the performers’ skills as singer-songwriters were on full display. Like my experience at the Ann Arbor Folk Fest, I was happy to find new music to listen to because of this online event, and I highly recommend anyone interested in folk music check out the work of all three of the duos featured at My Folky Valentine!
The show’s finale was a prerecorded and produced performance of “The Glory of True Love” by the late John Prine, featuring all three couples singing and playing together apart, courtesy of the magic of technology.
If you missed My Folky Valentine, it (as well as other past performances from The Ark Family Room Series) is available for viewing at https://theark.org/ark-family-room-series.