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Park Place hosts Dynamic Duo

Clayton & Ernie take stage June 24, with The Neighbors, Grodie Bros.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: JACKIE LEMIEUX - From left: Ernie Tong and Clayton Morgareidge will share their passion for live performance with fans at Park Place Cafe June 24.Simon & Garfunkel, Seals & Crofts, Hall & Oates — if you want people to remember your duo’s name, keep it simple.

Portland residents Clayton Morgareidge and Ernie Tong have performed as Clayton & Ernie in these parts for about a decade. To keep the confusion to a minimum, let’s stick to their first names and tell you a bit about them.

The most pressing thing you need to know is you can see them for free, along with The Neighbors and The Grodie Bros., from 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, June 24, at an all-ages show at Park Place Café, 1288 S.E. 182nd Ave.

“We perform both contemporary folk and older jazz standards, as well as popular songs with a Latin flavor,” Clayton says, noting he sings and plays harmonica while Ernie sings and strums guitar.

Different paths

Ernie is originally from Binghamton, N.Y., and has lived in Portland since 1979. He sings baritone and writes the duo’s original material. Also a photographer, he maintains music and picture taking are related.

“Songs are like photographs in many respects,” Ernie says. “They need to be inspired, properly composed, framed and cropped, so to speak.

Real life inspires him to compose.

“Since I also perform as a solo singer-songwriter, my songs come from my experience. It’s important to me that my songs be authentic, that they ring true of human experience,” he says, “otherwise I won’t enjoy performing them and the audience won’t enjoy the experience.”

He and his musical partner “figure out the harmony together and where the harmonica should play.”

Acoustic ambience

Clayton & Ernie have performed regularly at Portland’s Artichoke Music since 2010 and more recently at the Ugly Mug Coffeehouse. The duo also has worked as featured performers at The Secret Garden, and have opened for Portland folk rock popsters Santiam as well.

Clayton says the duo’s stripped-down approach allows it to reach people directly.

“Acoustic music appeals to me because it lets a small number of voices and instruments speak to the heart in an intimate setting,” he says.

He grew up listening to classical and folk music, and has always loved singing.

“After singing in choir and other groups in high school, I did not sing in public again until joining Satori Men’s Chorus in 2005,” he says, referring to the popular Portland choral group. “It was in Satori that I met Ernie, and we began singing duets at Satori concerts. We gradually developed a repertoire of folk, pop and jazz songs as well as Ernie’s originals.”

Like many folkies, his early inspirations were singers like Burl Ives and Richard Dyer Bennett. He later got into the Hi-Los, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, John Prine and Gordon Lightfoot. However, he admits he took a different path to developing his style than many harmonica players, who tend to be inspired by blues or rock musicians.

“I learned to play harp without much exposure to traditional or blues ways of playing,” he says. “Compared to most harmonica players, I’d say I play lyrically with a focus on the melody.”