Beethoven and Banjos music festival
AMASA – The Beethoven and Banjos fifth annual music festival will take place during the first week of October. Since the first year, it has drawn together folk and classical music and musicians from around the country and world. Brother and sister Evan and Laurel Premo grew up in the Upper Peninsula making music together and are now professional musicians: Evan a classical bass player and composer and Laurel a folk fiddler, banjo player, and composer. Though they reside on different branches of the musical tree these days, their music grows from common roots and they renew their synergy during the annual Beethoven and Banjos festival. Each year, the siblings bring their musical colleagues to the UP and put together a program that combines folk and classical music in new and exciting ways. This year, Beethoven and Banjos will feature the music of Evan and Laurel themselves.
Laurel Premo will perform music from her new instrumental album, The Iron Trios. This work dives deeply into traditional and new fiddle music and reveals a bloom of underlying harmonic drones, minimalist repetition, and rich polyrhythms. Responding to Premo’s fiddling is the metrical yet wavelike sustain of electric and acoustic guitar and an extreme double fiddle – double bass. Laurel Premo is fully leaning in to the archaic fiddle melodies and in-between intonations that connect folk sounds to the mystic and unknown. For these pieces Laurel will be joined by Evan Premo on the bass and Joshua Davis on the guitar.
Evan Premo will present his song cycle “Songs from a Mountain Recluse” for piano, flute, double bass, and soprano. This cycle includes five musical settings of Vermont poet David Budbill that describe his life as an artist living in a rural place: making art, working in the woods, self sufficiency, natural beauty, financial struggle, and gratitude for a full life. Also on the program will be Evan’s recently completed “Rumi Songs” for soprano and double bass and a setting of Rudyard Kipling’s “When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted” for soprano and piano. Evan is joined by his wife and musical collaborator soprano Mary Bonhag as well as New York City’s Decoda members David Kaplan (piano) and Catherine Gregory (flutes).
Finally, both Evan and Laurel Premo will put their own spin on Sacred Harp shape-note hymns. This uniquely American style of Hymnody characterized by open chords and full-out singing has inspired both siblings. This year’s Beethoven and Banjos festival is an opportunity to hear their takes on this tradition.
Anyone can experience this amazing music. The three concerts for the community will be presented at Besse Center Theatre, Bay College, Escanaba on Thursday, Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m., Reynolds Recital Hall on Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette on Saturday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m., and Crystal Theatre in Crystal Falls on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2 p.m. (Central Time). These unique programs are created especially for the Beethoven & Banjos audiences. Admission is “Come as you are and pay what you can” at the Marquette and Crystal Falls venues. Besse Theatre in Escanaba will have tickets online and at the door.
Beethoven and Banjos musicians gather for an intensive week-long experience of preparation, writing, rehearsing, student programs, and performances. The freshness and intensity experienced during the residency is reflected in the performances and interactions with the audience.