12/29/07

Charlie Ipcar “Charley Noble”

I was born in mid-coast Maine back in 1942, growing up on a working dairy farm. My parents, former New York City residents, always loved folksongs, and there was many a song party at the house with our neighbors and the folks from across the cove. My brother and I used to sneak out of bed late at night and listen to what they were singing from the stairwell. What we heard were old ballads, music hall songs, sea shanties, lumberjack songs, cowboy songs, and drinking songs. Quite an earful!

When I hit college in 1960 I formed my first folk singing group, learned to play the 5-string banjo, and after four years barely managed to get good enough grades to be accepted to graduate school. I then dropped out of that graduate school and spent three years in the Peace Corps, teaching science and geography to secondary school students in Ethiopia. After the Peace Corps, I was accepted at Michigan State University for graduate work in geography, eventually completing my Ph.D. in 1974. Meanwhile I was continuing to sing folksongs and protest songs with new friends there, and learning how to chase fiddle tunes with the banjo. The Elderly Instruments store extended family and the Ten-Pound Fiddle coffeehouse were major support structures.

In 1982 I returned to Maine, resettling in Portland, and helped reorganize the Portland Folk Club. We had a glorious run for about 12 years putting on concerts, hosting music swaps and organizing special musical events. Alas, by 1995 the Club could no longer sustain itself economically and folded, but I had met some wonderful people in the process.

In the early 1990's some of us Folk Club members got together for a songs of the sea concert, calling ourselves Roll & Go (in honor of sea music collector Joanna Colcord). We are now a seasoned group of singers who specialize in traditional and contemporary songs of the sea with a strong emphasis on group harmonies and strong leads; some songs are backed up with guitar, banjo, concertina, washtub bass or penny whistle. Our first CD, Roll & Go: Outward Bound, was released in 2002, and our second CD, Roll & Go: Rolling Down to Sailortown, was released in 2005. More information about Roll & Go can be accessed from our website: www.rollandgoseasongs.com

"Charley Noble," my nickname on the Mudcat Forum, is the name sailors traditionally call the chimney fitted where the galley fires were lit to take the smoke above decks aboard ships. Of course, any greenhorn sailor as part of his initiation rite was soon instructed to carry an important message to "Charley," and if he were not immediately found on deck, to ask politely for help from the more experienced sailors. The search then generally led up to the main top, back down and up forward to the chain locker, down the main hatch and into the depths of the hold, a rare and wonderful exercise.

My wife and I now live in Richmond, Maine, a quiet river town some twenty miles up the Kennebec River from the coast. We share our household with three cats.


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