A Chestnut House Concert Interview with Ian Foster


An interview with singer – songwriter Ian Foster.

Karen:  Ian, if I were to visit you in St. John’s, the city you call home, and had just one day, what would you want to show me during the visit?


Ian: St. John’s, Newfoundland has a few #1s, so the tour would involve those. It’s the oldest city in North America, and also the most easterly. So, I would show you the ocean, which is easy to do where I live – it can be seen just minutes from my home in the downtown core of St. John’s.



 I would take you to Cape Spear, which is about a 20 minute drive outside of the city, and show you the most easterly point in North America. 


I would show you Signal Hill, site of the first transatlantic wireless transmission.

Karen: On your most recent album “The Great Wave” there is a song titled If the Weather Holds. While this song is about more than weather, it is notable that Newfoundland is not a place for wimps. How has your island’s extreme weather impacted your song writing?

Ian: I’m from the urban centre in Newfoundland, so we don’t see the same extremes as some of the remote parts of the island. I do often think that places with harsher climates can yield especially good art – maybe it’s because we’re inside during the snowstorm strumming a guitar instead of lounging on a beach in the sun!

Karen: When you are songwriting do the lyrics or melody typically appear first?

Ian:  It depends on the song. Sometimes the music will come first and will hang around without words for a while. Sometimes someone will tell me a story so compelling that I’ll lyrically have a fully formed song without music almost immediately. On occasion, they both evolve together, informing the other. No matter what – there has to be a strong relationship – one has to fuel and push the other. 

Karen: You attended the 2014 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference and this is where you became acquainted with Lancaster-based musician Jake Lewis. How important are conferences like NERFA for musicians?

Ian: Conferences can be extremely important for musicians. This tour will see my first shows in PA, MA, MD, WV and NY. About half of the shows on this tour came out of NERFA somehow, whether that was directly from presenters or from meeting like-minded musicians like Jake. Of course, there is a risk for the musician – they can be expensive weekends, and there are no guarantees. In all of those cases, musicians are literally paying to play in the hopes that it will generate work down the road. Exposure is an important factor, as everyone says, but – as the saying goes – you can die from exposure! It’s all part of the ‘business’ side of music. 

Karen: You have a love of storytelling. Do you come from a long line of storytellers?

Ian: My father is definitely a man interested in stories. I did a history minor in university, and I remember there being a big difference between academic history and the history as my father told it. defaultAcademic history places such a strong emphasis on statistics, dates and facts. Obviously, those things are important, but sometimes, academic history can stop there. My father loves facts (he could tell you the .mm of a certain bullet used by the allies in a particular gun in WWII), but he also loves anecdotal tales. That one little story which tells the big story; the one that connects us to those before us. That’s something that made me love history, and then made me love telling the little histories I sometimes tell in song. 

Karen: Thanks Ian for taking the time to answer these questions.  We look forward to hearing your music and your stories on Sunday, May 24, 2015 at Chestnut House Concerts.

If you’d like to attend this house concert, contact Tim at tlehman9@gmail.com or by phone/text at 717-9409311. Potluck at 6 pm, Show at 7 pm.

Artist Updates

Diplomas and the Double Bass

Upright bass player Kirsten Lamb of Cold Chocolat97460012 (2)e, a Boston based four-piece band that played at Chestnut House Concerts last summer, graduated from the New England Conservatory with a Master’s in Contemporary Improvisation.  Congratulations Kirsten!


Another female bass player – Hasee Ciaccio with The Barefoot Movement graduated with her bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University.  We know how hard she worked to make this happen – way to go Hasee!

Tania Elizabeth and her husband10405674_10153098878905867_4331546039580514956_n Andy Stack (playing together as The Stacks) were at Chestnut House Concerts in June 2013.  Tania has been playing with The Avett Brothers and Andy’s band Buffalo Stack has been gaining popularity after great reviews of their album “Buffalo Stack”. The band is working on their second recording. Andy was featured in the May 2015 issue of Vintage Guitar.

No Depression, the leading voice in American roots music since 1995, premiered a video by Mandy Fer and Dave McGraw called “Tide Moon Ship Horn”. We’re hoping to have Dave and Mandy return to Chestnut House Concerts before the end of 2015. They were received well in 2013 and their most recent album Maritime is getting great reviews.  


Chestnut House Concerts presents Ian Foster on Sunday, May 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm. It’s not a school night since Monday is a holiday. No excuses. Call/text Tim at 717940-9311 or email at tlehman9@gmail.com to reserve a seat.  Opening songs by one of Lancaster’s favorite duos, Jake Lewis and Katie Seifarth.

I Was an Oak Tree


One of my favorite advertisements in the folk/bluegrass music industry is by Northfield Mandolins.  An instrument is being formed from a tree.  Yes, what an after life indeed. Trees have been made into objects for our use since the beginning of mankind from household items such as tables and chairs, to artistic items that enrich our lives like jewelry, ornate frames and musical instruments.

Jonathan Byrd writes about an oak tree and the various forms that the tree takes over its lifetime and into the next.  In the video below he’s joined by the Pickup Cowboys.  Johnny Waken is on the right playing mandolin and will be with Jonathan on Sunday, May 3 at Chestnut House Concerts.  They’re doing a co-bill with Sally Barris and the show starts at 7:00 pm; potluck at 6:00 pm.  RSVP at tlehman9@gmail.com or call/text 717940 9311.

Jonathan Byrd | Johnny Waken | Sally Barris


The first house concert at Chestnut House Concerts was October 3, 2012 featuring Jonathan Byrd and Chris Kokesh (The Barn Birds).  We’re now ready for our 34th show and happily invite Jonathan to return to Chestnut House with multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken.

We could not have asked for a better introduction to house concerts in the Lancaster community than a show by Jonathan Byrd.  He’s a musician that has the perfect concoction of performing, storytelling and humor.  Jonathan’s lyrics are like short stories; snippets of phrases that engage your brain from beginning to end.

He hugged the brush and ran the ridge, dropped down and headed for the bridge, quiet as the rising moon. I saw coyote.

~ Coyote, The Law and the Lonesome

Like a song in the night, you bring love to life
Take the burdens of my day; all my worries roll away
Every day you are my true companion, like the sun.

~ True Companion, The Sea and the Sky

It’s a simple bed; you could turn it to a temple just for one night. Sing to me. Hold your holy lips up to the candlelight.

~ Prairie Girl, The Law and the Lonesome


Jonathan Byrd is touring with Sally Barris.  Sally is a Nashville songwriter who has had songs covered by such top-level artists as Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, and Lee Ann Womack. Her song “Let The Wind Chase You”, recorded by Trisha Yearwood and Keith Urban, received a Grammy nomination for vocal collaboration in 2009.

These three top notch musicians will be performing at Chestnut House Concerts this Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 7:00 pm.  Prior to the show there will be a potluck starting at 6:00 pm.  If you’d like to attend please contact Tim at tlehman9@gmail.com or text/call 717940-9311.  Recommended donation is $15/20.

Below is one of my favorite songs by Jonathan and he’s accompanied by Johnny Waken on the mandolin.

Make it a Double

JandTThe Portland, Oregon based mandolin duet of Jack Dwyer & Tim Connell (Mando Planet) is returning to Chestnut House Concerts on Friday, April 10, 2015.  Like doubling the good stuff in a drink, the rich sound of two mandolins fills the room as these artists bring their creativity, energy and talents together.  It’s not a competition but rather a conversation between two instruments. You might hear Brazilian Choros, Irish Jigs, as well as African or traditional folk tunes.

To RSVP for this show, contact Tim Lehman at tlehman9@gmail.com or call/text 717940 9311.  The suggested donation is $15/20 per person; all of which goes to the artists. Potluck at 6 pm, show at 7pm.

The Corn Potato String Band – The Ears and Eyes of America


             Aaron Jonah Lewis                                                photo by Tim Lehman (7/2013)

I first heard Aaron Jonah Lewis at Grey Fox 2013. His fiddle solos were extraordinary and his stage presence and demeanor drew my attention.

Almost two years later we received a request for Aaron’s current band “The Corn Potato String Band” to play at Chestnut House Concerts.

I did not need to scope out their webpage, listen to audio tracks or watch them on YouTube before agreeing to have the Corn Potatoes for a house concert.  Any band with Aaron on fiddle is welcome here.

Not knowing much about the Corn Potatoes I held a brief conversation with Aaron by phone to ask a few questions so that you, potential audience members, could learn more about this band that plays traditional fiddle and banjo music.

Ben and Aaron met a long time ago when they played in a band together, and more recently, Aaron met Lindsay at Clifftop. He brought the two of them together as “the ears and eyes of America”.  The band plays mostly traditional music with 1 or 2 originals in the mix.  They have two albums- The Corn Potato String Band was released in 2014 and The Corn Potato String Band,Volume 2 in January 2015. Both albums were recorded live with no overdubs; Ben did the artwork for both covers.


Lindsay, Ben and Aaron each play multiple instruments which allows from some double fiddle and banjo tunes. Bringing new songs to the group and determining who plays which instrument seems to be an organic process and the gravitation towards a particular instrument just happens naturally.  Having 3 multi-instrumentalists in the group does lend itself to quite a variety of band configurations.

The enjoyment of life on the road for Aaron comes from visiting old friends and meeting new people.  He keeps focused on the music and the audience and keeps a positive mindset.  The Corn Potatoes are pretty easy going and one advantage of the house concert venue is that the band has an opportunity to meet the audience.

I asked Aaron which musician, (dead or alive), would he have liked to hear perform? His response was Nicolò Paganini, Italian violinist and composer – connicolo_paganini_769725sidered by many as the greatest of all time.  Paganini  would sometimes tune one of his strings a semitone high for a performance,  and once he played the majority of a piece on one string after breaking the other three. Paganini enjoyed using techniques that included harmonics, double stops, or near impossible fingerings. It is reported that Paganini’s performances would awe the audience and could move people to tears.

After speaking with Aaron and listening to The Corn Potato String Band’s music online, I believe that the Chestnut House Concert audience also will be in awe for this band is full of energy, talent, good stories and laughter. They play at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, 2015.  Potluck precedes the show at 6:00 p.m.  To RSVP contact Tim at tlehman9@gmail.com or call/text 717-940-9311.