Classical music meets Americana with Nashville’s Harpeth Rising.
The band will perform Saturday, Nov. 2 at Charles & Myrtle’s Coffeehouse inside Christ Unity Church.
The concert begins at 8 p.m. and costs a suggested donation of $10 for the band.
A four-piece, Harpeth Rising consists of a banjo, fiddle, cello and percussion. Their unique sound blends virtuosic musicianship with intimate ballads.
Harpeth Rising’s latest album, "Tales from Jackson Bridge," was released Oct. 3.
The group met at Indiana University School of Music, where they learned their differences made their sound eclectic. Jordana Greenberg plays fiddle and was originally joined by Rebecca Reed-Lunn on clawhammer banjo. Maria Di Meglio adds a soothing cello sound underneath; and Chris Burgess, the only male in the group, rounds out the quartet.
We asked banjo player Reed-Lunn a few questions about her instrument, the band and how an education in classical music helps out with the bluegrass stuff.
Tell me about your favorite banjo.
I have a Gold Tone White Lady that I love. I play a mix of clawhammer banjo (two-finger style without picks) with a few other things, so I've always played open-back banjos. Bluegrass banjos (with resonators) sound a little brighter, while open-back banjos have a darker sound that really appeals to me. The White Lady has both a dark and a beautifully clear sound, which is a pretty special combination.
How has the study of classical music helped foster your appreciation for folk music? Are both genres not "music for the people"?
For all of us, our classical education definitely forms the spine of our musical understanding and vocabulary. We talk about chord progressions and form in a very classical way. But classical music only goes back a few hundred years, and many classical composers either quoted or emulated folk melodies. So for me, playing folk music feels so natural because it takes me back to much of the roots of classical music. Most of my favorite classical composers borrow from other genres, which to me is part of what makes them so exciting and universal. We write collaboratively as a band, and we let each song dictate its genre(s). Our new album, 'Tales from Jackson Bridge," has elements of folk, classical, bluegrass, old-time, Latin, gypsy jazz, rock and blues, depending on the song. I think as long as we don't get too insular or think that any one genre is the end all and be all of music, then anything can be "music for the people."
I want to give you the opportunity to brag on your other bandmates ... brag away.
It's pretty easy for me to brag about my bandmates! They're all so innovative, both with their instruments and in the way they think about music. I've never met anyone with more charisma than our violinist and lead singer, Jordana Greenberg. Her dynamic personality gels perfectly with the many facets of her playing and singing. She's a powerhouse of a singer, and her technical mastery and expressivity with the violin is both jaw-dropping and fun at the same time. Maria Di Meglio is the most innovative cellist I know. She can slap pizzicato like the best bass players, shuffle or chop like the best of fiddlers; and she tops it off with a lovely soprano voice. And we can always count on our percussionist, Chris Burgess, to add extra drive and variety of color that brings so much to every song. An impressive and creative multitasker, his setup combines drums from all over the world (doumbek, bendir and a modified drum set, to name a few) and often requires him to play with all four limbs simultaneously. Additionally, Jordana can beat anyone at Words with Friends, Maria has an excellent baking blog, and Chris can drive until all hours of the night without caffeine and still have a sense of humor at the end of it.
Your performance is at Charles & Myrtle’s Coffeehouse—possibly Chattanooga’s most intimate venue—I would think this intimacy would work well with Harpeth Rising’s sound.
Yes, we play for all sorts of venues, from festivals and concert halls to listening rooms and pubs (we tour in England a lot). I particularly enjoy playing in intimate listening rooms because the interplay with the audience can be so engaging.
What’s been your favorite song from "Tales from Jackson Bridge" thus far?
I have different favorites on different days, but right now, I think "Ghost Factory" is my favorite song on the album. The lyrics, by Jordana's father, David Greenberg, carry relevance that's really haunting; and I love the way the song grows musically. It starts off very sparse and builds so gradually that the four-part harmonies at the end almost feel transcendent.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.