Ayreheart to play from Renaissance to rock in Bethlehem
Original Article from The Morning Call, Posted January 22, 2015. By Steve Seigel.
Who would have thought that the humble lute, that kindest and most gentle of stringed instruments, would dare tread on the gnarly landscape of acoustic rock? Grammy-nominated lutenist Ronn McFarlane, that's who, and he's out to prove it with his recently formed group Ayreheart.
On Sunday, Ayreheart will appear in concert at Peter Hall at Moravian College in Bethlehem for a program that combines Renaissance music from the British Isles with acoustic rock originals. Performing with vocals, lutes, guitar, violin, bass and percussion, Ayreheart will feature music of John Dowland and William Byrd, as well as old ballad tunes from England, Scotland and Wales.
Ayreheart's original music reflects its members' eclectic tastes, melding traditional Renaissance material with folk, Celtic, bluegrass, classical and jazz. The band includes Brian Kay, vocals, lute, guitar and komuz (an ancient fretless string instrument used in Central Asian music); Willard Morris, bass, violin and colascione (a long-necked lute), and Mattias Rucht on percussion instruments.
McFarlane has toured throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, and has appeared frequently as a soloist with early music groups, most notably the famed Baltimore Consort. He has more than 30 recordings on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label, including solo albums, lute duets, flute and lute duets, lute songs, the complete lute music of Vivaldi and more.
McFarlane is committed to bring the lute — the most popular instrument of the Renaissance — into today's musical mainstream. For years he has composed new music for the instrument, building on the tradition of the lutenist/composers of past centuries. His original compositions are the focus of his solo CD, "Indigo Road," which received a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2009.
Ayreheart grew out of McFarlane's desire to keep the lute relevant in today's musical climate and make it more accessible to a wider audience. After all, here is a guy who first fell in love with music upon hearing "Wipeout" by the Surfaris at age 13. He played blues and rock music on electric guitar even while studying classical guitar at Shenandoah Conservatory and then the Peabody Conservatory, before turning his full attention to the lute in 1978.
McFarlane focused first on solo compositions, such as those on "Indigo Road." Soon he found that solo lute was not enough to express his expanding musical ideas, and teamed up with friends Morris and Rucht. In 2013, Kay joined the band, and Ayreheart was complete.
Ayreheart, 4 p.m. Sunday, Peter Hall, Moravian College campus, Main and Church streets, Bethlehem. Tickets: $15; $10, students and seniors. 610-861-1650, <a href="http://www.moravian.edu" target="_blank">http://www.moravian.edu</a>.