Balkan beats are this band's bag
Eclectic lineup of instruments, commitment to sounds of Eastern Europe set Mixed Bag apart
Members of Mixed Bag rehearse Thursday, Aug. 29, in Clintonville. The band, which specializes in Eastern European music, will perform Saturday, Sept. 7, during the Clintonville Arts and Music Festival. Band members are (clockwise from left) Tom Hixon, Tina Gehres, Heather Buchieri, Suzanne Rizer, Cathy O'Neil, Leslie Scott, Lea Anne Kangas, Tom Kangas and Kevin O'Neil. Not pictured is Stan Gehres. Buy This Photo
The members of Mixed Bag perform music and folk dances from places such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and Turkey.
Not a one of them is from any of those countries, nor can they trace their ancestry back to Eastern Europe or the Balkans.
"I do not think any of us have any Greek, Croatian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech roots -- the kind of roots that we're trying to preserve," said Suzanne Rizer, a Clintonville resident and original member of Mixed Bag. "We just love the music. It's very different."
"That's something that means a lot to all of us ... this is music that if you go to those countries, it's being played, but not nearly like it used to," Tina Gehres of Galloway added. "Especially older people remember it from their childhood and really appreciate the music and the dancing.
"We're much more a band for dancing than we are for just sitting and listening."
Dancing, therefore, will be encouraged when the performers take the stage Saturday, Sept. 7, during the Clintonville Arts and Music Festival at Whetstone Park. The 10-member troupe is scheduled to perform at 11 a.m.
Mixed Bag was formed 17 years ago.
"We didn't all start with the same exact bunch of people, but pretty much," Rizer said. "It's been really great. We're all friends."
"Several of us have been in from the beginning," said Leslie Scott, also a Clintonville resident. "We're a bunch of friends who play music together rather than a bunch of musicians."
The group formed after several local folk-dancing enthusiasts went to a "Balkan camp" in New York's Catskill Mountains in the late 1980s, Rizer recalled.
The band took its name from the "mixed bag" of authentic instruments used, including the kontra, dumbek, tambura, kaval and santouri.
"It is a mixed bag," said Gehres, a retired teacher who is a longtime member along with her husband, Stan Gehres.
"We play about every continent, except maybe Antarctica," Tina Gehres added.
Scott took up international folk dancing 40 years ago -- a physical-education requirement at the time for students at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
"Something about it hooked me and I don't know what, but I've been doing it ever since," Scott said. "There's something about the Balkan music that especially attracts me."
The rhythms of that region are quite different from what's used in most western music, Rizer and Scott said.
"It's something that appeals to all of us," Rizer said. "You either dig it and it says something to you or it doesn't."
The other members of Mixed Bag are Clintonville residents Lea Anne and Tom Kangas, Kevin and Cathy O'Neil and Tom Hixon, as well as Heather Buchieri, Rizer's daughter, who lives in Grove City.
The Clintonville Arts and Music Festival, formerly known as FestiVille, runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 7 in and around the Whetstone Recreation Center, 3923 N. High St.
The arts portion of the fest will feature artists who work with fabric, paper, glass, wood and clay, as well as a mix of photographers, jewelry-makers, sculptors and fine artists.
Mixed Bag will open the day's music at 11 a.m. The lineup also includes:
* The Digs, noon.
* Billy Two Shoes, 1 p.m.
* Erica Blinn, 2 p.m.
* The Song Birds, 3 p.m.
* Burn Alley, 4 p.m.
* Arnett Howard, 5 p.m. Mr. Daniel's Trail Walkers will open.