Banjos at Cap House: Patricia Bernardo and Anne Johnson

Lucy Bennett, Contributing Writer

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Patricia Bernardo and Anne Johnson have been performing folk-inspired music together since sophomore year, and will perform at Cap House on Nov. 10. Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

On Nov. 10, Cap House will host two musically skilled seniors: Patricia Bernardo and Anne Johnson. The two have cultivated their talents through folk-inspired music, playing delicate harmonies with sophistication.

Bernardo and Johnson have been playing folk-inspired music together since sophomore year and it is clear that each of them value the other’s musical capabilities.

“When I got to [the Universiy of Dallas], I met students such as the members of The Stillwater Hobos, St. Greg’s alumni and people who went to Friday Nights, who opened my eyes and ears to Irish music, folk music, older country and rock and roll,” Johnson said. “That’s also how I originally met Tricia, although it wasn’t until we randomly became roommates through an unexpected need for consolidation in West Hall sophomore year that we started playing music together.”

“We had similar tastes and complementary voices, and both saw it as a good time,” Bernardo said. “She’s very talented with things like harmonizing and would give me little lessons here and there.”

Bernardo explained that this sharing of talent is crucial to performing.

“We wouldn’t be playing at all if it weren’t for more skilled and talented friends who’ve taught us so much,” Bernardo said. “I think of [senior] Madeline Steigerwald, whom I consider a true musician, someone with undeniable, God-given abilities with just about any instrument. It’s her banjo I’m playing today, and I only picked up the mandolin because of her and [senior] Rachael Johnson, who sold me one out of her Augustine dorm room our freshman year.”

Their musical style of folk stems from the desire to tell a story and unite with the audience. Johnson stated that their music is less emotional and more poetic.

“Tricia and I are more attracted to lyrics that tell a story, or are in and of themselves poetry, that demand beautiful melodies and instrumentals to mirror their lyrical value,” Johnson said. “Lyrics have a powerful effect on the audience and on the singer, and we want that effect to be positive and enriching.”

Johnson noted that our UD education values truth and beauty, something lyrics should reflect.

“Looking at songs critically for their objective lyrical and music value is in line with the education we’re receiving at UD,” Johnson said. “UD has had a substantial ‘counter-cultural’ music tradition for years, and there seems to be a real reason for that.”

Bernardo agreed wholeheartedly.

“Anne and I are drawn to folk music partly because it is conducive to this musical culture of sharing: it values story-telling and utilizes chord progressions simple enough for instrumentalists to jump in at will,” Bernardo said. “This simplicity, though, also allows for artistic variation.”

Their friendship inspires learning more about music and improving their techniques.

“I think the most fun part of playing music together is that we’re both still growing as musicians, and we can encourage each other to improve in our harmonies or on our instruments, playing some songs where we’re trying to imitate what the original artist did, and some where our own creativity ignites, and we make it our own,” Johnson said.

Folk music has always been a popular genre for UD students, possibly due to its ability to gather listeners and encourage contribution from the audience, both of which UD students enjoy. Bernardo and Johnson emphasized the importance of the communal aspect of music, and the intelligence and goodness that comes from poetic lyrics.

“The folk tradition allows us to adapt beloved songs according to our strengths and tastes, so long as we maintain the human ethos at their core,” Bernardo said.

Bernardo and Johnson will be performing at Cap House on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Cap Bar.

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