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

Mackenzie Shivers: Welcome to Neverland

Record Jacket from Mackenzie Shivers' NeverlandThis was an interview that almost didn’t happen.

Last week, I was looking for music to play while subbing for Steve Klinge on WVUD‘s All Tomorrow’s Parties, when I discovered Neverland, an album by Mackenzie Shivers.

The first track, “Hey Marie,” was a fun invitation to follow the singer, a modern version of a calling on song, if you will. I found I was rocking along with the second track, “Nothing to fear,” while noticing how the lyrics painted the relationship between the singer and her guy. By the time I got to the third track, “Eire,” I was hooked. Three songs. Three different moods!

All the lyrics on Neverland are interesting and well-crafted. Mackenzie’s voice can soar above the music or fit in as part of an ensemble sound, expressing a variety of emotions and feelings as she varies her voice’s tone and volume. The songs have different orchestrations and vibes. Sometimes lush and hopping, sometimes spare and introspective. Sometimes building up, sometimes with different instruments coming and going to emphasize the emotions in the song or to comment on the lyrics, if you will. Sometimes the songs are celebratory, sometimes wistful–almost intimate, like someone taking you into her confidence. And I realized that the piano work was some of the best I’ve heard in pop or alternative music in a long time.

By now I was convinced I had to try to get this artist on The Music Room. So I went out to Mackenzie Shivers website to find her contact info…. Poking around, I learned that she was the pianist. And no wonder the piano and the arrangements were so good–she’d studied piano and composition at Vanderbilt University. And no wonder her voice is so expressive–she’s an actress, too.

We got things all set on the 28th to go live that night. Cool.

6:10pm, I tested the phone line. All loud and clear. Got on the air at 6:30, started playing “4th of July,” and the phone line into the board didn’t work. I started scrambling around, trying to make things work, and then Mackenzie Shivers, trouper that she is, called the station. I put her on speaker phone, moved a mic over the speaker, and the show went on!

She talked about how her songs are often a way that she works through a sense of loss, for example, if someone close to her passed away, or her sister moved to the left coast. But we also had a blast talking about a rock opera she just appeared in, her songwriting, her appearance in a Phil Collins video when she was a teenager, incidental music she’s written and writing for live theater plays, the differences between singing your own songs on stage, performing in a play, or being part of a musical cast.

Check out our conversation at the link below. This was an interview that almost didn’t happen. But I’m very glad it did….

The Interview

Mackenzie Shivers
(Recorded live 10/28/14; host: Mandorichard), 26:54, 25.8 MB.
Note: Full version of all the tracks were played in the radio broadcast, but, due to copyright considerations, two of the tracks are excerpted in the podcast version.

The Music

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

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Label (or source) / Date / Notes
  • Mackenzie Shivers / 4th of July / Neverland / self-produced / 2014
  • Mackenzie Shivers / Orphan Song / Neverland / self-produced / 2014 (Excerpt in podcast)
  • Mackenzie Shivers / Nothing to Fear / Neverland / self-produced / 2014
  • Mackenzie Shivers / Below the Meadow / Neverland / self-produced / 2014 / (Excerpt in podcast)

Concertos, sonatas, and wolves

Helene Grimaud (photo by Mat Hennek)Tonight’s episode of The Music Room features French pianist Helene Grimaud. She is currently playing both Brahms piano concertos, along with other works, during her 2013-2014 world tour. Specifically, Helene will be appearing with the Philadelphia Orchestra Dec. 5 – 8, playing Brahms Second Piano Concerto.

We had a great conversation about her interest in the music of the German Romantic movement, in particular that of Johannes Brahms; some of her other recordings; her approach to music; and the Wolf Conservation Center she founded in New York state to help with both education about conservation and wolves’ role in the environment and with breed and release programs.

The podcast edition includes more conversation than we were able to fit into the radio version of the interview.

The Interview

Interview with Helene Grimaud (Recorded 10/25/13; original broadcast date: 11/26/13; host: Mandorichard). 31:09, 29.9 MB. Note: the version uploaded here contains excerpts from the music tracks used in the broadcast. We have included more of our conversation in this podcast than originally aired on WVUD.

The Music

The following music appeared on this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Label (or source) / Date
  • Helene Grimaud / Bela Bartok: Romanian Folk Dance number 6: Maruntel / Resonances / Deutsche Grammophon / 2011
  • Helene Grimaud, piano, with Andris Nelsons and the Vienna Philharmonic / Johnannes Brahms: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra Number 2 in B flat major, op. 83: second movement, Allegro appassionatto / Deutsche Grammophon / 2013
  • Helene Grimaud, piano, and Sol Gabetta, cello / Dmitri Shostakovich: Sonata for Violincello and Piano in D minor, op. 40: fourth movement, Allegro / Duo / Deutsche Grammophon / 2012