Well-regarded local medieval music ensemble The Goliards has spawned an offshoot of sorts: Everyman, a duo comprising Goliards' fiddler John Hillenbrand and harpist Anne Durant (you may also know the pair from their work with Christopher Kohut in the Irish ensemble A Murder of Crows) . They play a program of secular medieval and Renaissance music, Irish, Scots, Breton, and Norwegian folk songs, this Sunday afternoon at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. They will also grace the church's newly unveiled 6:30 p.m. Celtic Eucharist service with a totally religious program.
The two decided to form this side project because "we like playing together," says Hillenbrand simply. "Harp and fiddle produce a delightful, hedonistic sound - the music of the angels, I daresay, but then, I am somewhat prejudiced," he adds. "We just thought that it would be cool to attack a totally mixed-up repertoire, without too much concern for anything other than the way that we could make things sound. A really eclectic repertoire is fun."
Hillenbrand has become an expert in the various tunings of medieval bowed instruments. "My training is in medieval music, and since no two medieval fiddles are alike -- or even tuned the same way -- I have become used to adjusting to various string lengths and tunings according to the requirements of the music," he says.
So given the dearth of sheet music and notation, how does one know if one is performing a medieval tune anywhere close to correctly? "The quick answer is that it is simply impossible to know," says Hillenbrand. "We know the 8 Church Modes, and we know that medieval musicians were reluctant to leave the perimeters of the mode that they were in." Hillenbrand insists they never trust someone else's transcription. "It's always best to transcribe directly from a facsimile of the original source. This presumes, of course, that one can read medieval notation, but that is really not as scary as it might sound. I could go on at interminable length on the subject but I will spare you the agony."
But the listening is anything but agony. Check out Everyman on Sunday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 34 Abercorn St. in a free performance.
THE JOHN COWAN BAND
As lead vocalist for the New Grass Revival, John Cowan was one of the legendary “New Traditionalist” upstarts who injected acoustic music, and bluegrass, with youthful energy and a restlessly creative spirit, back in the 1970s and ‘80s. Need proof? His bandmates included Bela Fleck on banjo, Sam Bush on mandolin and the revered acoustic guitarist Pat Flynn. These guys were innovators, and although the members of New Grass went their separate ways in 1990, their boundary-defying approach is still the benchmark by which all “progressive” bluegrass groups are measured. The John Cowan Band includes flat-picker extraordinaire Jeff Autry, mandolinist John Frazier, fiddler Shad “Lighting” Cobb, percussion player Bryon Larrance, and Cowan himself on bass and vocals. Listen & Learn: www.johncowan.com. 8 p.m. Saturday, May 16 at Randy Wood Guitars, 1304 E. Highway 80, Bloomingdale. Tickets are $30 at (912) 748-1930.
Based in Greensboro, N.C., Freeport is a four-man jazz band first introduced to local enthusiasts at last year’s Savannah Jazz Festival. Bassist Scott Marvill – also an accomplished jazz guitarist - started the group in his native Philadelphia in the early ‘80s, and moved the enterprise south a few years later. The current Freeport lineup includes sax and fluteman Steve Thornton, keyboardist Malik Graham and drummer Herman Sanders. The band plays, according to Marvill, standards, fusion and “smooth” jazz. “Our performances,” he says, “are always fresh, not knowing what influence will creep into that particular song.” Listen & Learn: www.freeportjazz.com. 9 p.m. Saturday at Jazz’d Tapas Bar, 52 Barnard St. No cover. 5 p.m. Sunday at Four Points By Sheraton, 520 W. Bryan St. Admission $10 public; free for members of the Coastal Jazz Association.
THE LEFTY WILLIAMS BAND
You gotta hand it to Jason Williams (pun intended). He was born without the lower half of his right arm – they call him Lefty, you see, because that’s where all his fingers are – but he’s a more soulful electric guitarist than a lot of players who have full use of all their extremities. The Atlanta-based Williams and his kick-ass combo (bass and drums, plus a keyboard guy when he’s available) don’t just play the usual heavy blues-trio stuff (although that would certainly be cool). Their music is deeply rooted in rhythm ‘n’ blues and southern rock, and Williams – who plays with a specially-designed pick, attached to a sling on his right elbow – is a die-hard Zeppelin freak whose appreciation of Jimmy Page’s fiery fretwork is apparent on many of his wildcat solos. Listen & Learn: www.lefty-music.com. 9 p.m. Friday, May 15. Live Wire Music Hall. Admission: $5. 21+. Call 233-1192.