Hanneke Cassel: Folk Music Gone Worldwide

Imagine having “scribbles” instead of “dots” for your sheet music. For today’s special guest, Hanneke Cassel, that’s

Hanneke Cassel

Hanneke Cassel

the chosen norm…for the 40-60% she chooses to write at all.

Winning 1st place in the Instrumental category of the 2008 USA Songwriting Contest, this worldwide acclaimed fiddle player hails from Oregon, and began touring after graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Beginning with a strong Texan influence, she discovered her true passion in the Scottish genre after winning a national contest and consequent scholarship to study with Alasdair Fraser and Buddy MacMaster, first for five summers at the Isle of Man, and later in California.

Her music is a refreshing blend of the traditional and the contemporary, with percussive uses of the cello and fiddle, and deliberately raspy tones for dramatic effect.

As she views the creative arts as a spiritual outlet, she also teaches on Fiddle Video, has taught and raised money for Many Hopes in Kenya, and has visited a children’s shelter in Beijing. A second visit to the latter in 2011 inspired the eponymous song of her 2013 album Dot the Dragon’s Eyes, a Chinese expression referring to a tale of how a painter’s dragon comes to life after adding that finishing touch.

We also discussed the heterogeneity of jigs and Scottish music, the importance of oral tradition and the influence of radio in defining folk music, fond memories of the late Buddy MacMaster, and her collaboration with a local pianist Dave Wiesler.

Speaking of local, Hanneke Cassel is coming to the NorthEast this April: next Wednesday, April 8th, at One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME; the following Friday, April 10th, the Me and Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, MA; and Friday, April 24th, the Institute of Musical Traditions, Rockville, MD.  Check out her Facebook for more information on these and other events!

The Interview

Hanneke Cassel
(Recorded live 03/31/15; host: Mandorichard), 44:56, 43.1 MB.

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Date / Notes
  • Hanneke Cassel / The Cypress, Le Jig a Tit-toine / Silver / 2006
  • Hanneke Cassel / Highlander’s Farewell, MacLaine of Loch Buie, Bedding of the Bride, Return to Milltown, Paddy Taylor’s / My Joy / 2001
  • Hanneke Cassel / Jungle Java / For Reasons Unseen / 2009
  • Hanneke Cassel / Dot the Dragon’s Eyes / Dot the Dragon’s Eyes / 2013

Photo provided by hannekecassel.com


The Rua: Essence of a group

Alanna, Roseanna, and Jonathan Brown

Alanna, Roseanna, and Jonathan Brown

Today at the Music Room, we did not talk to one artist. We talked to three.

Alanna, Roseanna, and Jonathan Brown, living in Windsor, London, are here in NY on their third visit to the US, after their performance at the NYC CMJ festival last October. Their group’s name The Rua, comes from the Hebrew word “ruah” meaning “essence of a group,” and the Irish word “rua” or “red.” Given the siblings’ Celtic roots and soaring melodies on the violin, this choice seems very appropriate.

That being said, The Rua is best known for their percussive guitar style, rock genre, and thematic lyrics.

Although the siblings have fairly distinct roles, with Alanna on piano, Roseanna providing vocals, and Jonathan playing the violin and fiddle, all three are familiar with various musical disciplines, and consequently are attentive to each others’ individual parts…a very useful advantage when co-writing songs.

They have also collaborated with Nigel Harrison, a bass player from London, and Portishead drummer Clive Dreamer, and this December at France’s RFM Studios, broadcasted an acoustic version of their song “Without You” from their Essence album of last fall, a version that has apparently never been replayed…until now.

The Browns also discussed learning curves during their career, their tour in Rome, the importance of music education, their role in the Harry Potter movies, and ginger stereotypes.

The Interview

The Rua
(Recorded live 03/03/15; host: Mandorichard), 31:35, 30.3 MB.

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Date / Notes
  • The Rua / Into the Crowd / Essence / 2014
  • The Rua / Without You / Live on RFM, Paris, France, 12.5.14 / 2014
  • The Rua / Fight for What’s Right / Essence / 2014

Spencer & Rains: Weird Tunes of Old Texas

Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer performing for the BFOTM in Newark, DE, 10/10/14 (photo by Todd Denton)

Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer performing for the Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music in Newark, DE, 10/10/14 (Photo by Todd Denton)

The day after they played a knock your socks off concert in Newark, DE, and just after they led a fiddle workshop in Oxford, PA, for seven enthusiastic fiddlers, one enthusiastic banjoist, and one totally outclassed mandolinist (me!), Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer were gracious enough to spend some time with the WVUD microphones. We had a lot of fun talking with each other–and Tricia’s laugh is infectious!

Howard and Tricia did a great job at the workshop–demonstrating tunes, talking about what they did in the tunes, how Tricia seconds, what’s “hard” about the tunes and so on. I was very impressed how they shared their craft with all of us. After a lunch break, Howard and Tricia very generously granted us an interview. (If you listen to our conversation carefully, in the background you’ll hear some of the workshop participants and a bunch of other musicians jamming away downstairs while we recorded the interview upstairs at Pete Peterson’s and Kellie Allen’s house.)

We talked about their being Texas (Howard) and Kansas (Tricia) fiddlers and about the tunes they like to play. Keeping old tunes alive and understanding how they’ve changed over time is very important to both of them. How did some of those Appalachian tunes make it out to Texas and Kansas? We talked about the “dance fiddle” tradition and the “contest fiddle” tradition which is now more common in places like Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. They had some really interesting things to say about how tunes and traditions move around and about how, if you play the old fiddle tunes, you’re keeping the memory of those old fiddlers alive. And you’ll love the story they tell about Tricia’s grandmother’s guitar.

During the interview, they played three twin fiddle tunes for us that may well end up on their next CD, Spencer and Rains: The Old Texas Fiddle Volume II–tentatively subtitled “Weird Tunes of Old Texas.” And the three tunes they played for us were just that–weird and wonderful!

We also played their version of “Say Darlin’ Say,” from their CD The Old Man and the Old Woman. As Howard says at their website, “I sez to Tricia, ‘Everybody does that song!’ So she sez to me, ‘Then let’s do it our own way.'” I’m glad they did. I love how Tricia introduces the vocal harmony.

That’s enough talk. Listen to the interview linked below, and get your hands on some of their music!

The Interview

Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer
(Recorded live 10/11/14; originally aired 11/11/14; host: Mandorichard), 31:36, 30.3 MB.

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Label (or source) / Date / Notes
  • Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer / Sally Johnson / WVUD’s The Music Room / from the playing of Duck Wooten / 2014
  • Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer / Chicken Reel / WVUD’s The Music Room / from the playing of Barry Ponder / 2014
  • Spencer and Rains / Say Darlin’ Say / The Old Man and the Old Woman / self / 2014
  • Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer / Wolves in the Wood / WVUD’s The Music Room / from the playing of Duck Wooten / 2014