When one thinks of Appalachia one tends to think of hillbillies hunting for opossums, coal miners struggling to survive and a general lack of contact with the outside world. One does not normally associate the region with finely dressed people in an urban concert hall. However, an upcoming concert in Portland might just change that stereotype.
On Tuesday, December 22 All Classical Portland will present Grammy-winning violinist Mark O’Connor at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall as part of his, An Appalachian Christmas tour. Mr. O’Connor will play selections from his album of the same name. He will be joined on stage by several prominent musicians including, banjoist and vocalist Cia Cherryholmes, fiddler and vocalist Carrie Rodriguez; guitarist Joe Smart; bassist Michael Rinne; O’Connor’s son Forrest on mandolin and vocals; and O’Connor’s wife Maggie on fiddle. This is the third consecutive year for the popular concert.
Ms. Cherryholmes was part of the American Bluegrass band, Cherryholmes which was comprised of a Los Angeles family of six. The band toured the country together in a travel trailer and recorded seven albums, before breaking up in 2011.
The album, An Appalachian Christmas has reached number 20 on three Billboard charts. It is comprised of many Christmas standards including Vince Guaraldi’s classic, Linus and Lucy as well as, Greensleeves. Mr. O’Connor even plays the Appalachian standard, Ol’ Blue as a duet with James Taylor. The album includes both live and studio performances.
Mr. O’Connor is a violinist who was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and was considered a child prodigy. He won The Grand Masters Fiddle Championships when he was only thirteen. He went on to compose and arrange many different musical pieces. In 1992 he composed his “Fiddle Concerto,” which has been performed over two hundred times. His album, Fanfare for the Volunteer was recoded with the London Philharmonic for Sony Classical.
Mr. O’Connor has been nominated for eight Grammy awards and won two of them. One was for his New Nashville Cats album in 1992 and the other was for his Appalachian Journey album in 2001. He has received Seven Country Music Association Awards and won numerous competitions.
He has performed duets with some of the most famous names in music including Wynton Learson Marsalis and Che” Atkins. Famed Cellist Yo-Yo Ma joined him on the album Appalachian Journey.
Reviews of Mr. O’Connor’s work have been very favorable. American Songwriter called the Christmas album, “an absolute delight.” And the Oregonian said that last year’s concert was, “an infectious mix of roots music.”
Mr. O’Connor is also a teacher. He developed, “The O’Connor Method – A New American School of String Playing” which centers on American music and rhythmic development, ear training, and improvisation.
All Classical Portland is the sponsor of the concert. They have been on the air in Portland since 1983 and they run four radio stations in the Portland area. According to the organizations website their mission is,“to advance knowledge of and appreciation for classical music; to build and sustain culturally vibrant local and global communities around this art form; to reflect the spirit of the Pacific Northwest; and to foster integrity, quality, and innovation in all that we do.”
The organization sponsors several different cultural events in Portland and even offer cultural tours, where listeners can travel the world with their favorite All Classical Portland radio host. Every one of their tours includes a classical concert.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.