World music, period instruments with Four Shillings Short in Dillon
If you go
What: Four Shillings Short, part of the Summit Music & Arts concert series
When: 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5
Where: Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church, 56 U.S. Highway 6, Dillon
Cost: $15 advance or $20 at the door; students and children free
More information: Visit www.summitmusicandarts.org
International duo Four Shillings Short will present an evening of Celtic, folk and world music on an array of instruments Sunday, Oct. 5, at Lord of the Mountains Church in Dillon as part of the Summit Music & Arts 2014-15 concert season.
The husband-and-wife pair of Christy Martin and Aodh Og O’Tuama has been growing their collection of instruments since they met, and as they acquire new instruments, they acquire new styles of playing music, O’Tuama said. They now own more than 30 wind, string, percussion and even medieval pieces capable of producing music from the eighth century as well as contemporary works.
O’Tuama, who grew up in Ireland, is steeped in Irish culture and language. His father was a poet and playwright, an academic in Irish language and literature ranging from the 13th century to modern day and also was active in the theater. Both of O’Tuama’s parents loved classical music and opera, which had an influence on the young musician.
“I started going into classical music, then Baroque, then Renaissance, then medieval, then full circle back to Irish and Celtic music,” he said. “That was my training, my background. I took a fellowship to Stanford to do a doctorate in performance of medieval and Renaissance music and acquired a lot of instruments. Piano had been my first instrument, then winds, and I had always been a percussionist.”
Martin began her musical training with classical Indian music in her home state of California.
“When I was 10, I heard the sitar for the first time and became enamored of the sound of it,” she said. “I wanted to study and play Indian classical music, and when I was 15, I found a teacher, found a sitar and started my formal training.”
After studying sitar for 10 years, Marin moved on to Celtic music, began playing the hammer dulcimer in her 20s and eventually formed a band, which ended up performing in the same coffee shop as O’Tuama’s band, Four Shillings Short, in Palo Alto, California, in 1995. O’Tuama asked Martin out on a date, and they began making music together.
“We started to accumulate more and more instruments,” Martin said. “People would come to a show and give us instruments, friends would have instruments that we were interested in. … Because we’re multi-instrumentalists and we love world music, any opportunity to get a new instrument, study it and add it to our show, we do it.”
The couple’s collection includes medieval and Renaissance woodwinds, the sitar from North India, tin whistles and recorders ranging from bass to an octave above soprano, percussion and even a krummhorn.
“When I lived in Germany, I acquired a lot of medieval and renaissance wind instruments, like the krummhorn, a curved, double-reed instrument from the 1400s,” O’Tuama said.
In addition to the 20-string sitar, Martin strums the 10-string Andean charango, three different voices of the mandolin family, banjo and guitar. She also performs on the hammer dulcimer from Persia and the mountain dulcimer, an American instrument, and plays both bodhran, which is an Irish frame drum, and the medieval bowed psaltery.
“The psaltery is a triangular instrument with the strings laying on the sound board,” Martin said. “You play the bow for each string individually, and it has an eerie sound, very otherworldly.”
To tie it all together, Martin sings in four languages, English, Irish, Spanish and Sanskrit, and O’Tuama in three, English, Gaelic and French.
The couple gave up paying rent in Palo Alto in 1998 and went on the road full time, staying with friends all over the country and playing about 150 shows a year in the United States and Ireland. O’Tuama said the music they play is beautiful but largely forgotten, so introducing people to it is very important.
“For me, with Irish music, Irish language, people haven’t heard that song explained very well,” he said. “The style is very different from Western music in a lot of ways, and the concepts are very earth-based, and that, to me, is bringing us back to where we came from.”
Martin said most people’s exposure to music is very narrow, limited to one style of music or a couple of styles of music because radio and television don’t play much world music.
“People just have no idea of the breadth and the sounds and the diversity of music, so that’s something we really enjoy and feel is our calling because we play so many instruments and because we are amateur musicologists, as well. It gives people a chance to understand music in a much broader spectrum and hear it firsthand.”
It takes O’Tuama and Martin about five years to travel their tour circuit, teaching about their instruments and the styles of their craft, and they won’t return to Colorado until 2017, Martin said.
“We hope folks take advantage and come,” she said of the concert in Dillon. “Students and children are free, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for many ages. We really encourage people to bring the families especially.”
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