If you wish to study a "granfalloon" Just remove the skin of a toy balloon.
THE SITUATION of trying to be a professional musician while being fettered with the academic work of a student requires a lot more than just hot air. Keeping a musical group playing together for three years is a feat in itself. Yet the folk group called Granfalloon, made up of four Harvard undergraduates, has continued to perform despite being encumbered by thesis writing, intellectual commitments, and a general lack of recognition. Their music still possesses a quality and musicianship which, in many areas, is as refined as that of other groups who devote their full time to their musical development.
The Harvard Cabaret took time out of its regular scheduling of dramatic performances last weekend to present Granfalloon in concert at Currier House. The group smoothly opened the show with Chicago, one of their better efforts, marked by changing rhythms and the country comfort tone of Chris Hunt's mandolin. As in this case, most of the Falloon's material is original. Only three of the eighteen songs performed during the two sets were borrowed from other professional artists. Their musical range can produce the lyrical intensity of a dramatic poetry reading or the funky folk sound of a group like The Band. Though it's very difficult to find any roots to their music, they remind one of the Incredible String Band.
On Friday night, it took almost half of the first set before the group overcame their initial nervousness and engaged the audience in their music. The Falloon's stage presence between songs is not one of their strong points, hindered by a lot of self-conscious joking and the technical problems of shifting from instrument to instrument. Any unity in a set is broken up by this letdown between songs.
The versality of the group members, especially Chris Hunt (who plays mandolin, bass, electric lead, acoustic, and piano) reveals some of the latent talent of the group. Wayne Lipton's cello is a distinguishing factor in the group's overall sound and is employed with stunning effectiveness to counterpoint the guitar work. Particularly in Hunt's Desert Bones are both instruments combined in a tight-woven harmony with Lipton's cello providing an eerie backdrop for the song's haunting lyrics:
The Half-blind man can't walk on sand to save his life
But he hobbles in the sun and hopes that he will run--
He's sure that he wants to
Desert bones lie all around.
If he'd just turn back a way there's fertile ground.
THE VOCAL WORK of the group is an area that leaves something more desired. Though at times inspired, as in Davis's performance on the Stones' You Can't Always Get that roused the Friday night audience out of its passivity, the singing falters and lacks proper range and development. Bill Connet and Davis harmonize nicely periodically but there's no real strength exhibited in this department.
Perhaps the best songs presented during the show were Hunt's Fly on the Wall and Davis's Grandfather's Gifts. The former is a long piece with an extended instrumental portion in which all four members perform solos, the most memorable being Lipton's cello which musically colors the image of the fly on the wall. The first chorus captures concisely the crippled feelings of a stunned lover:
Late it comes and I'm letting go
Laughing too low
Running the dead down--