All posts tagged: Institute of Musical Traditions

Saturday Music: Robin Bullock

‘Tis the season to begin thinking about finding and supporting some excellent holiday music. When you tire of the endless, dreary Christmas muzak, I suggest you set up a winter solstice playlist or take in a concert by Robin Bullock to alleviate your pain. For years I’ve been a regular at Bullock’s Celtic Holiday Concert sponsored by the Institute of Musical Traditions, and I’ll be there again next week for the 2019 performance. Set for Monday, December 9th at St. Mark’s in Rockville, the concert also includes, besides Bullock, the world-class folk instrumentalist Ken Kolodner on fiddle and hammered dulcimer, along with U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion Elke Baker. Bullock is a master of the acoustic guitar, cittern, and mandolin, where he blends “…the ancient melodies of the Celtic lands, their vigorous American descendants, and the masterworks of the Baroque and Renaissance eras into one powerful musical vision. The 17th-century harp tunes of legendary Irish bard Turlough O’Carolan, the spirited jigs and reels of rural Ireland, the haunting ballads of the southern Appalachians and the …

Saturday Music: Al Petteway and Amy White

Acoustic duo Al Petteway and Amy White will celebrate 25 years of music together at a special Institute of Musical Traditions (IMT) concert on Saturday evening, November 23rd. Favorites of the IMT crowd (and former Washington, DC-area residents before a move to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina), these are musicians sure to fill the room at St. Marks in Rockville, the main IMT concert venue where I’ve heard them live through the years. Al and Amy’s music is eclectic yet uniformly lovely on the ears. Petteway is an award-winning fingerstyle guitarist (voted one of the Top 50 Guitarists of all time by the readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine) while Amy is a composer and singer who is no slouch on the instrumental chops as well. Their repertoire has been described as “original, traditional, contemporary Celtic- and Appalachian-influenced music with occasional nods to Blues, New Age, and Jazz.” That about sums it up. Al and Amy have provided music for the soundtrack for several Ken Burns documentaries, most notably The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. …

Saturday Music: Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas

Last Monday evening, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas brought their extraordinary musical partnership to Washington for a large and appreciative crowd at the Institute of Musical Traditions. This is the 20th year Fraser and Haas have played together, and the anniversary gave the duo the excuse to return to their back catalog. And it is a masterful body of work, beginning with the album where I first heard them—their inaugural CD Fire & Grace, a project that turned heads worldwide with its exquisite musicianship and clear sense of joy. Steeped in different backgrounds— Alasdair from the roots world of Scottish fiddle and Natalie from the classical halls of Julliard—these amazing musicians responded to each other and to each intricate twist and turn of the music for a delightful two hours. It was art as a life-giving force. And they clearly had fun, recognizing the unique nature of the evening’s setting when they played the “appropriate for Washington” reel Little Donald in the Pigpen. Haas’s percussive use of the cello underpinned the magnificent …

They Can Do This With Their Eyes Closed

Monday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions concert featured the Scottish folk music institution Battlefield Band playing to an enthusiastic full house.  From the first notes from Mike Katz’s Highland pipes to the last notes of the encore, this thoroughly entertaining and professional group took the crowd on a delightful tour of traditional and contemporary Scottish folk music. Battlefield Band has gone through a variety of personnel changes over the 40 years since the group was formed. Besides the bearded multi-instrumentalist Katz, the core of the current band features fiddler Alasdair White (who has been with the band since 2001, when he was 18 years old), and vocalist/guitarist Sean O’Donnell. The band ripped through a strong first half which concluded with a “big set” of tunes featuring the pipes and twin fiddles. Then Katz came out solo to begin the second half, mesmerizing the crowd with the haunting sound of the pipes before being joined by his band mates. Then, as O’Donnell began singing a song about bagpipes, everything went dark. As in, the power went …

Bare to the Bone

Folksinger Carrie Newcomer played to a packed house at a “rare Monday night Institute of Musical Traditions concert on Saturday night” last evening in Rockville.  As emcee David Eisner pointed out, it wasn’t your usual IMT crowd, but those in attendance kept up the high bar for IMT audiences as they were both knowledgeable and appreciative. This was my first time to see Newcomer live, and I encouraged Candice to join me, given the singer’s bent for writing from a Quaker and progressive spiritual perspective.  As Newcomer says on her website, Every day we are living moments of grace and wonder, shadow and light. These are the moments I write about. Saturday evening didn’t disappoint.  Playing her beautiful Taylor guitar (with an inventive use of capos); singing with that expressive, lyrical, and deep voice;  and accompanied only by keyboardist Gary Walters, Newcomer didn’t hit a false note the entire evening.  Beginning with I Believe, she sang songs from her soon-to-be-released CD A Permeable Life (such as A Light in the Window) as well as old …

For the Love of the Music

The last time I heard John Jorgenson play, it was this past summer under a beautiful Shenandoah Valley sky, where his quintet awed us all with a dazzling set of gypsy jazz. Tonight, Jorgenson was back – this time at the Institute of Musical Traditions – playing a dazzling set of bluegrass. And all this from one of the great Telecaster masters of his generation, who once spent six years on the road with Elton John.  It boggles the mind to think one man can switch so effortlessly between technically difficult genres and still make great music. Thank God Sir Elton paid him the big bucks so he can now play all the music he loves. Jorgenson was clearly having a good time tonight, singing and playing bluegrass with singer-songwriter-guitarist Jon Randall and bassist Mark Fain – both from Nashville – and his old California buddy – and west coast bluegrass/roots music legend –  Herb Pedersen.  The band definitely had the “west coast bluegrass” sound going – with smooth harmony singing (minus the twang) and …

A December Celtic Tradition

If it is early December, you can count on “Celtic Guitar God” Robin Bullock heading up a holiday concert for the Institute of Musical Traditions. So tonight, Candice and I joined about 150 other traditional music fans for the 2012 edition of the IMT Celtic holiday concert. Bullock was joined this year by Scottish champion fiddler Elke Baker and hammered dulcimer player Ken Kolodner. The evening was filled with traditional Christmas carols as well as Scottish and Irish old time music, all played with great enthusiasm and musiciaenship. Baker and Kolodner played several beautiful duets, including two of my favorite holiday tunes:  the haunting In the Bleak Midwinter and the French carol Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella.  All three joined together for extended sets of Cape Breton, French Canadian, and Celtic fiddle tunes. However, my favorite parts of this concert each year focus around Bullock’s solo guitar work. Tonight he had beautiful arrangements of The Wexford Carol and a great mash-up of classical carols as played in the style of Mississippi John Hurt. But one …