By Paul Yarbrough for the UCCA
The New World String Project will perform for the Ukiah Community Concerts Association on Feb. 18, at 2 p.m., in the Mendocino College Center Theatre.
As Aryeh Frankfurter was describing the initial meeting of the two pairs of musicians who, seven years ago, formed the New World String Project, I kept hearing overtones of a love at first sight romance. Frankfurter and his partner Lisa Lynne, of Windham Hill fame, invited the duo “Molly’s Revenge” (John Weed, fiddle and Stuart Mason, guitar, bouzouki and vocals) to perform at their very special barn concert series in the town of Alpine, Oregon. As is their custom, Aryeh and Lisa joined their guest duo for some collaborations to end the set and it was a thrilling experience for all, musicians and audience alike. The planning of future collaborations ensued immediately, as the euphoria of spontaneous music making resonated on.
Later, the foursome each held faculty positions at Lark Camp, Mendocino County’s folk and world music festival. There they were able to immerse themselves in their collaboration, meeting at every spare moment to hone their arrangements of old material and develop new work. The CD recording which was produced from their intense creative sessions is entitled “Cabin 22,” after (you guessed it) the cabin they worked in for so many hours.
This kind of retreat or “honeymoon” allows an ensemble to forge a group identity, exploring the subtle similarities and contrasts in their various musical styles and traditions. Each of the four members of the NWSP brings a unique set of talents and backgrounds to the group. Swedish, Celtic, Old Time music and original compositions are all a part of the fabric of their musical quilt. The artistry to combine all these influences, many similar but still distinct, demands taste and respect for all the ingredients. This is musical fusion of the best sort.
These days the NWSP begins each of their touring engagements with several days of intensive rehearsal, coming together from different home bases on the West Coast to get into peak form.
Frankfurter compares this arrangement to a long-distance romance; he and Lynne live in the Willamette Valley in Oregon while Weed and Mason live in different locations on California’s central coast. The time between in-person visits is filled with communication about songs and planning.
Of the variety of instruments on which the members of NWSP perform, the most strikingly unusual is the nyckelharpa, played by Frankfurter. This ancient keyed fiddle was developed in Sweden in the 12th century and is considered a quintessential instrument of Swedish folk music. Its sound is hauntingly rich and resonant. Lisa Lynne is famous for her Celtic harp playing, but also plays the cittern, a renaissance instrument resembling the lute, with a flat back and multiple string courses similar to a mandolin. Both Frankfurter and Lynne are known to take their Celtic harps to hospitals to perform for the patients, believing deeply in the healing power of music and especially with this instrument.
As a Windham Hill artist, Lisa Lynne has toured widely (even joining Ukiah’s own Alex de Grassi on tour) and has sold over a million recordings! She is also widely admired for her compositions of memorable and heart-warming melodies that transcend category and genre. She owns her own label, Lavender Sky Music, recording studio, and production company.
Stuart Mason is known for his authentic singing and nimble skills on guitar, mandola and banjo.
He has won prizes for traditional singing (Goleta Old-Time Music Convention), mandola (Topanga Fiddle and Banjo Contest) and songwriting (West Coast Songwriter’s Association).
Fiddler John Weed, a classically trained violinist, has spent the past 25 years immersed in traditional fiddle styles. John has lived in Ireland where he has taught fiddle workshops and studied with some of the finest exponents of Celtic fiddling. With a strong affinity for American fiddle styles, he explores the connections between Irish, Scottish and Swedish traditions. Together with Stuart Mason as the Celtic duo Molly’s Revenge, he has toured extensively, including festivals in China, Scotland and Ireland as well as many in the United States.
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear this extraordinary group in the acoustically excellent Mendocino College Center Theatre!
Tickets for non-season subscribers are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Advance tickets are available online at www.ukiahconcerts.org and at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah and Mazahar in Willits. As part of our on-going educational outreach program, free tickets are available to youth 17 and under when accompanied by an adult, and to full-time (12 units) college students. Free tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 707-463-2738 with name, phone number and email address. For more information, please contact the UCCA at 707-463-2738 or email us at email@example.com
Ukiah Community Concert Association has been presenting nationally acclaimed talent since 1947. This all-volunteer nonprofit’s mission is to build and maintain a permanent concert audience and cultivate an interest in fine music of all genres among the citizens of the community and surrounding area. It is also their goal to encourage music appreciation in the schools of the community.