Bold, Fresh String Band Music from Darol Anger & the Republic of Strings

For the past 35 years fiddler Darol Anger has been a pioneering force on the acoustic music scene. He won Frets Magazine’s Readers’ Poll for Best Jazz Violinist for four straight years and has played in such groundbreaking groups as The Turtle Island Quartet and the David Grisman Quintet. Anger is equally at home in a number of musical genres, including folk, jazz and pop.

With his latest configuration, The Republic of Strings, he takes a brave, fresh look at string band music. “I wanted to stick to the ethos that there is a nation of string players all over the world,” he said during an interview from his home in Portland, Maine “This is a nation where there are no musical boundaries and no artificial distinctions between different kinds of music.” The Republic of Strings draws from a variety of sources ranging from bluegrass, Celtic, and Appalachian to improvisational jazz, soul and blues. They play roots music, covers of musicians such as Ornette Coleman and Aretha Franklin and selections they have penned themselves.

Anger’s innovative fiddling is the constant in the group. He is joined by an ever evolving group of young musicians and jokingly calls himself the resident “geezer”. “We have a very creative group right now” he says “people that sing very well and write very well.” He sees music one of the few professions left where there is still a master/apprenticeship relationship. “In string band music there is an ongoing progression of musicians standing on each other’s shoulders” says Anger “this helps the younger musicians to get further and further into the music.”

Beyond Anger, The Republic of Strings includes cellist Mike Block, five-string violinist Lauren Rioux, and guitarist Scott Law. Each of these musicians lead busy professional lives and tour with other bands. Cellist Mike Block plays with Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio and often performs with Yo-Yo Ma in The Silk Road Ensemble. Lauren Rioux is recognized as a rising star in the national fiddle scene and maintains a busy violin studio and Scott Law is a sideman for a variety of prominent folk musicians.

The group has recorded two CDs on the Compass Record label and is working on a third. Compelling musical textures, elegant solos, and vocals all emanate from this talented group of musicians. “There’s a lot of respect and love going on among the players,” Anger said. “I think it comes out in the music.”

Darol Anger and the Republic of Strings will perform at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church located at 417 S. 22nd Street in Camp Hill on Sunday, October 31st at 7:30 pm. The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society.Tickets are $22 and $10 for students. For more information visit www.susquehannafolk.org.

By Jess Hayden, published in The Sentinel on October 28, 2010

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Exciting, Edgy Music with Darol Anger & the Republic of Strings

Veteran violinist, fiddler, composer, producer, and educator Darol Anger pays a return visit to the Harrisburg area, this time accompanied by the Republic of Strings. The Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert will be on Sunday, October 31, at 7:30 p.m., at Camp Hill United Methodist Church, 417 S. 22nd Street, Camp Hill. The concert will be preceded by a 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Special guests will be members of the Wednesday Club who will accompany Anger on one of his original compositions.

 Anger is known to be at home in a number of musical genres, including several that he helped to invent. With the jazz-oriented Turtle Island String Quartet he developed and popularized new techniques for playing contemporary music styles on string instruments. Also, the virtuostic “Chambergrass” groups Psychograss and Newgrange and the plugged-in Anger-Marshall Band feature his compositions and arrangements.

 One of his current projects is the Republic of Strings in which Anger joins with cellist Mike Block, five-string violinist Lauren Rioux, and guitarist Scott Law to create a visionary musical landscape of the Republic as shown in their two recordings—“Republic of Strings” and “Generation Nation,” both on Compass Records.

Drawing from an array of sources including bluegrass, Celtic and Appalachian music, Ornette Coleman, Scandinavian string bands, Aretha Franklin, and the quartet’s members, “Generation Nation” documents a unique intergenerational exchange. Compelling musical textures, elegant solos, and vocals all emanate from a diverse group of guests. “There’s a lot of respect and love going on among the players,” Anger has said. “I think it comes out in the music.”

Anger holds the String Chair of the International Association of Jazz Educators. Recipient of a 1995 California Arts Council Composer Fellowship, he also is a MacDowell Fellow and held a composing residency at the Virginia Center for the Arts. He has been a featured soloist on a number of motion picture soundtracks and wrote and performed the score for the Sundance Award-winning film “Best Offer.” He won Frets Magazine’s Readers’ Poll for Best Jazz Violinist for four straight years.

Cellist Mike Block plays in many genres and groups, including his own band, for which he sings and writes. He is the cellist with Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio and often performs with Yo-Yo Ma in The Silk Road Ensemble. A graduate of the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, he teaches at several summer string programs. Lauren Rioux is recognized as a rising star in the national fiddle scene. She discovered traditional music at the 2001 National American String Teachers Association convention. She is an excellent role model and source of useful information for classical players who want to cross-over into vernacular styles. Her powerful sound, vibrant rhythmic sense, fluency in old-time, Celtic, and Scandinavian fiddle styles, and her tremendous personal charm add depth and interest to any ensemble. Scott Law began as a brilliant and versatile electric guitarist and has perfected an acoustic style that bears his unique stamp and freely ranges over the entire history of rock, jazz, and bluegrass guitar. He has performed with many masters of American music. Law also is a dedicated music educator.

The concert will be preceded by a 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided. Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. This event is made possible with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

 Written by John Hope and published in Central Pennsylvania Traditions, the newsletter of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society

THE DALTON BROTHERS perform at the October 23rd Susquehanna Folk Coffeehouse

Back in the 1960s there was a news article in the New York Times about a family who played and performed folk music. “Family Blossoms into a Folk Music Group” I believe was the title of the article. That family was mine, the DALTON FAMILY SINGERS. When I was a young girl, and well into my teens, my family would pack our station wagon with an assortment of instruments (bass, guitar, banjo, hammered and lap dulcimers, autoharp, and fiddle) and head off to gigs in New York or in New England where we summered. Spending so much time around folk music as I was growing up really instilled a love of the music in me. It’s this love of folk music that drew me to the Susquehanna Folk Music Society first as a volunteer, than as a paid staff. Through the efforts of so many people (including SFMS founders John and Fiona Patterson and many volunteers) we have established a wonderful folk music society that serves the Harrisburg/York region by bringing in exceptional musicians, providing local musicians opportunities to play, introducing local school children to folk culture, and organizing international dance events. For me, it all began with those early family experiences.

A Chance to Hear Members of the Dalton Family Singers And now our folk community will get a chance to hear those early Dalton family songs when three of my brothers Jeff (from Michigan), Jerry (from PA) and Jon (from NJ) will perform as part of the Susquehanna Folk Coffeehouse on October 23rd held from 7-10 pm. The coffeehouse will occur at the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N Front Street, Harrisburg, PA. Additional information can be found at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/events/coffee_fall.html

The Early Dalton Family Singers  My father Albert Dalton, now a retired music teacher, first got the idea of performing as a musical family from the Von Trapp Family Singers who were the inspiration for “The Sound of Music”. In fact, he even sent a letter to Maria Von Trapp telling her of his plan, and received an encouraging letter in return! “I always thought it would be nice if my family could do that” he recently said to me “but it never materialized until we heard some really good music at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in New York”. We traveled to this wonderful festival every year to hear other musicians and to learn new songs. At the time my family was spending our summers in Charlestown, R.I. and one of our first (and much loved) places to play was the Umbrella Factory; a somewhat bohemian group of shops that featured the work of local craftspeople. My parents did the “heavy lifting” in those early years, but my brothers and I played the guitar and my youngest brother played the tambourine. Of course, as everyone grew older our music improved. We had a lot of fun playing impromptu concerts in town. I remember one time that my dad, always the promoter, decorated our car with announcements and with his bullhorn in hand drove up and down the streets of Charlestown shouting about a concert we were to play that evening on the lawn of the town library! As the Executive Director of Susquehanna Folk, I spend hours doing promotional work for upcoming events. I think some of the methods I use are reminiscent of my dad’s tireless (an creative!) efforts from so many years ago. We both believe that if you want something to be successful, you have to work like the dickens to make it happen!

 The Group’s Repertoire Our family’s repertoire included songs from dad’s childhood, and songs we learned at festivals and from records. Dad chose the songs. He was partial to old-time music, gospels and the music of folk singers like Ed Tricket, Gordon Bok, Bruce Phillips, Joe Hickerson and Bill Staines. After awhile we moved from Rhode Island to Maine for the summer months and we did quite a bit of playing at places like the Belfast Broiler Festival and at an old 17th Century Meeting House in South Solon. We were once featured on a hour long studio-produces PBS special aired throughout Maine.

Al and Marcia Dalton on Their Own As my siblings and I got older, my parents found themselves performing alone more and more. One of the more interesting things they did as a duo was to give a series of concerts in the former Soviet Union as part of a peace mission. They played for a large crowd in Gorky Park and later in Odessa where they met a young man who played the banjo and has learned a huge collection of American songs including “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “Copper Kettle”. Mom and Dad also taught sessions on American Folk Music at Elder Hostels for nearly 20 years.

Recording and performing Old Dalton Family Favorites Several years ago my brother Jerry began collecting old Dalton Family songs. My three brothers made a recording of some of our favorites. (http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=876351 ) While they rarely play together, they will travel from three different states to play at the Susquehanna Folk Coffeehouse. Although it will just be a short set, it’s sure to be a lively group of folk music favorites popular in the 60s and 70s. For me, it will bring back fond memories of playing and sharing really special music. People have been asking me if I will be performing too. Probably not. These days, I’ve been concentrating on the presenting side of keeping folk music alive. Thank heavens there are musicians like my brothers who are keeping the performing side going!

By Jess Dalton Hayden, SFMS Executive Director