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Downtown after Dark March March 27 to April 2

Honky polka music to fill former church

Bill Knowlton is synonymous with bluegrass.

But the host of WCNY-FM's "Bluegrass Ramble" enjoys a wide range of folk musics.

Polka, for instance.

Knowlton and his friend, Cultural Resources Council folklorist Daniel Franklin Ward, were instrumental in bring Stephanie & Her Honky Polka Band to the Center 4 The Arts, in Syracuse, for a post-Dyngus Day celebration at 8 p.m. Friday March 28.

Long fascinated by American polka music and its forms (Connecticut, Cleveland, Buffalo and Chicago styles), Knowlton said, "Every weekend I enjoy our Syracuse programs of the great Bob Pietrucha, Yash & Yash and Art Kott. I also log on to polkasonline.com for Polka Stony and Polka Happiness Mary Ann."

Last Labor Day weekend Knowlton and Ward went to Sylvan Beach to see Stephanie & Her Polka Band, a Buffalo-based band playing the Chicago-style.

"We were blown away by the showmanship, enthusiasm and musical ability of this incredible talent and felt that she must be shared with folks who are not necessarily of Polish descent. After all, area folk organizations frequently bring in Celtic, Cape Breton, Hispanic and blues groups so that 'the rest of us' can enjoy what they perform."

Stephanie Pietrzak will haul her big Chemnitz concertina into the Center 4 The Arts at 728 E. Genesee St., the old Christian Science church, just west of Syracuse Stage. Admission costs $15. For info, dial 436-5541.

'Honky' style explained

What exactly is "honky" polka?

The Polish American Journal explains:

"The concertina and 'honky' polka music is a true marriage of music in polkas. The Dixieland-like character of honky polka music, with its prominent drum beat, single trumpet, mating clarinet and grindy concertina, fosters a spirit that embodies the soul of this music.

"In the Buffalo area, the mother-daughter team of Wanda and Stephanie Pietrzak played the festival circuit and recorded several albums and a recent compact disc. Stephanie, now with her own band, is unquestionably a 'grinder' on the concertina, playing some of the best honky style around."

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