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APPALACHIAN FOLK MUSIC is still heard in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Western North Carolina, Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky; it’s a tradition influenced by English, Irish, and Scottish ballads of the 18th and 19th centuries, one constantly reinterpreted through improvisation. The lyrics tell stories of love found and fortunes lost, and the songs have greatly influenced country, bluegrass and other American folk traditions in decades since. The “fiddle,” the violin, often accompanies these pieces with some percussion, a dulcimer, or banjo, and the singing is hearty! Today we add to that rich heritage.
David Chase, who grew up in West Virginia knowing these songs, was commissioned by Judith Clurman to arrange some of this treasury of song for mixed chorus and violin. He combined the Appalachian folk traditions together with rich stylistic elements of Sacred Harp singing. Chorus + violin is a vibrant combination, as can be seen on the session video and also the YouTube full album preview.
The cycle, Appalachian Stories, has four movements: I This Old Hammer (5’33”), II Pretty Saro (4’45”), III Down In A Coalmine (7’47”), IV Who Will Come and Go With Me (4’29”)
Award-winning violinist Tessa Lark joined Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA for the premiere performance and recording of the work in the Spring of 2019, at the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City. Tessa Lark, grew up in Kentucky, steeped in the traditions of this musical genre. On the album, she pays homage to the old Appalachian fiddlers and improvises between the songs.
Conductor Judith Clurman says, “What a great collaboration! I loved working on this project with David and Tessa. My Essential Voices USA sang, clapped, and stomped and enjoyed making music with Tessa Lark.”