Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Acoustic Royalty at Dennos

When it comes to authentic American music, Ken Burns, National Public Radio, and Hollywood have all turned to folk duo Jay and Molly.

Kristi Kates - March 31st, 2014  

Since a chance meeting 30 years ago, Emmy nominees Molly Mason and Jay Ungar have played together on a number of NPR shows, several movie soundtracks (including “Legends of the Fall” and “Brother’s Keeper”) and saw their track “Ashokan Farewell” selected as the main theme music for Ken Burns’ acclaimed PBS documentary “The Civil War.”

MUSICAL CHEMISTRY

It was a slow burn for Jay and Molly at the beginning, though. After their first encounter in a New York state club, Ungar became busy with his band, and Mason headed to Minnesota to work in the house band of Garrison Keillor’s new show, “A Prairie Home Companion.”

After working together on various projects, the two eventually married, formally fusing their musical and romantic chemistry. While they both love a lot of different kinds of music, the differences they do have only serve to make their duo a stronger act, Mason said.

“My focus has always been in chords and rhythms, and his in melody. Both of us are strong in harmonies,” Mason said. “I’m a real backup player, and he is a real melody player, but we both enjoy trading those roles now and then, supporting the other in the ‘less familiar’ zone, sometimes even teaching or giving tips and encouragement.”

Jay and Molly’s waltzes are some of their most popular tracks, as they’ve taken the traditional form and given it a a sleeker, more modern confidence via their playing styles.

“There is something personal and beautiful about a good waltz, and Jay has such beautiful tone and expression for slower things,” Mason said. “Not all fiddlers have that as a strong point.”

NORTHERN SOUNDS

Jay and Molly’s interests extend beyond the duo. Their band, Swingology, blends American dance music with swing and country blues. Their new book, “Catskill Mountain Waltzes and Airs,” brings together more than 60 original tunes with chord symbols for equally ambitious fellow musicians. They run a week-long Fiddle and Dance camp in the Catskill Mountains.

They also have a new album, called “Fiddler’s Holiday.”

“It’s a kind of winter-season bunch of songs and tunes, most of which are newly composed or traditional songs that are not so well known,” Mason said. “We recorded it live with an orchestra and with Mike and Ruthy [Jay’s daughter Ruth Ungar her husband Mike Merenda] on Rounder Records.”

Mike and Ruthy will be appearing with Jay and Molly at their upcoming show, but don’t ask for an early setlist, because these musicians prefer to play it by ear.

“We don’t know what we’ll be playing for sure,” Mason said, “but we’ll probably include ‘Backyard Symphony,’ ‘Ashokan Farewell,’ ‘The Wizard’s Walk,’ and no doubt something to celebrate spring.”

Mason said the group is looking forward to returning to Traverse City and performing at the Dennos Museum Center.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Mason said, “and we look forward to being there in early spring and playing for those hardy north country folks!”

Jay and Molly will be in performance at The Dennos Museum’s Milliken Auditorium on Sat., April 5 at 8pm. For tickets, visit dennosmuseum.org or jayandmolly.com

 
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