Then Mark OConnor came along, and things have never been quite the same.
Not that the nonpareil fiddler would ever claim complete credit for this musical turnaround, but the evidence is compelling: There are his albums with Edgar Meyer and Yo Yo Ma. Theres his status within the musical community, where he performs with symphony orchestras. His Hot Swing trio revives the spirit of the legendary jazz music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli. And now his latest release, the Double Violin Concerto with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, takes things a step further, with his compositions and his playing taking center stage alongside one of the countrys top young violinists.
Nothing has changed that much except Ive been able to build my repertoire, said OConnor rather modestly, who says his ability to concentrate on composing and collaborating with other players is a great treat.
Ive been composing since I was a kid, he added.
That he has. He composed nearly every tune on his many albums. On earlier albums, such as Meanings Of or Stone From Which The Arch Was Made, OConnor played, well, pretty much everything: fiddle, of course, as well as guitar, banjo, bass, keyboards, pretty much everything except drums. These new agey albums were somewhat in contrast to his solo bluegrass work, his jazzgrass albums as part of David Grismans group, and his short stint with fusion favorites the Dixie Dregs.
Still just in his early 40s, OConnor feels he is just coming into his own. Even after exploring so many different genres, he continues to seek new means of musical expression. Yet he continues to champion the traditional style he grew up with as a National Junior Fiddle Champion, even as it grows into something different.
I did okay with class this past weekend at Julliard, he says, noting slyly how he held his own with the likes of his predecessor, the renowned Itzhak Perlman. He looks at his current playlist as some of the best music hes ever written and is effusive in his praise of his fellow musicians.
This is music Ive redone from the original versions. Ive adapted violin, cello and bass for violin, viola and cello, and Im very, very happy with the result, OConnor said. Natalie and Carla (cellist Natalie Haas and violist Carla Cook, the members of his Appalachia String Trio) are two of the finest string players Ive ever played with. Its the kind of sound and tone and beauty you just dream about.
During his residency at Interlochen, OConnor will perform with his Appalachia Waltz trio (June 30) as well as the World Youth Symphony Orchestra (July 3). Tickets for both shows are available by calling the Interlochen box office at 276-8800.