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Opus 2: Episode 1 – Got Folk?!

In Episode 1 of Opus 2, Got Folk?!, we take a look at the intersection of folk music and Western classical music – especially in chamber music. Brandon leads us through an overview of the definitions of folk and classical music, and some of the movements in classical music that were heavily involved in folk music like nationalism and ethnomusicology and field recordings. In the technique portion, Sarah outlines a guide to researching a piece and how to prepare for a performance lecture. We interview Contemporary Northwest Celtic band The Gothard Sisters, and answer a question from a listener about how to appear joyful on stage while performing.
History Segment
In the history segment, Brandon discusses some of the hallmarks of folk music, what makes it unique, and how it has influenced Western art music in general, and specifically chamber music. Through the rise of 19th-century Nationalism and the discipline of Ethnomusicology, folk music from non-Western traditions has and continues to play an important role in enriching the vast tapestry that makes up chamber music!

Here is Bartók’s field recording of the Algerian melody that inspired the 2nd movement of his 2nd Quartet. You can find it on an album called: “Voices from the Past: Béla Bartók’s 44 Duos & Original Field Recordings.”

Listen to this next YouTube recording of the Takács String Quartet performing the Bartók’s Quartet No. 2, 2nd movement, and try to pick out the similarities (and differences) between the original folk tune and Bartók’s music. Take note of how Bartok’s music captures the spirit and raw passion of the original field recording.

Here’s a recording of American Blues legend, Robert Johnson, playing Crossroads Blues.

Robert Burns set the lyrics of his song called Scots Wha Hae to this traditional melody called Hey, Tuttie Tatie, which he collected, together with Neil Gow, in The Scots Musical Museum.

Technique Lesson
In the technique lesson, Sarah offers a guide to researching a piece of music and preparing for a concert lecture. The four steps she outlines are:

TCC WorksheetStep 1 Analyze the Score
Step 2 Research the Composer and the Musical Work
Step 3 Find Primary Source Material
Step 4 Prepare a Concert Lecture

You can download a worksheet of this Step-by-Step Guide with example here.

In the lesson, Sarah discusses musical appropriation (part of the greater umbrella of cultural appropriation) versus respectful cultural exchange and influence. Here is a thought provoking article from New Music USA about this topic.

There is a really well thought out video on YouTube by teaching artist Eric Booth that helpfully illustrates the concept of how to engage in a work of art on a deeper level::

While Sarah can’t (can’t yet! It’s now in her “want to read” list!) personally recommend the novel she mentions about Jelly d’Arányi (Hungarian concert violinist for whom Tzigane by Maurice Ravel was written and dedicated) and the discovery of the Robert Schumann violin concerto, here is an article from Strings Magazine about Jessica Duchen’s novel Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story in Music: The Rediscovery of Schumanns Only Violin Concerto

Here is a recording of Ravel’s Tzigane, originally written for violin and piano with luthéal attachment. The violinist is Anne Akiko Meyers. The luthéal was a short-lived invention that gave the piano a cimbalom-like quality and was realized here by Jakub Ciupiński, computer whiz, and Elizabeth Pridgen, keyboard.

And here is a fantastic introduction to the piano luthéal, the original instrument that would have created the duet with violin in Tzigane:

Guest Interview
We were so excited to interview The Gothard Sisters for Episode 1 of Opus 2! Not only are they personal friends of the Skyros Quartet, but they are also alumni of the original Chamber Music Madness program along with host Sarah Pizzichemi! We talk about how they evolved from violinists into a multi-instrumental band, their biggest musical influences, how studying chamber music made them the musicians they are today, their new Patreon, and more. Thank you to Solana, Greta, and Willow for joining us on The Counterpoint Club and sharing their music with us!

Gothard SistersThe Gothard Sisters are a dynamic musical group of three sisters who play contemporary Celtic music. Through 10 years performing, touring and writing music together, the optimistic style of their music and performances continue to resonate with their fans, building a loyal international following.

Their latest all-original album release, Midnight Sun, reached #6 on the Billboard World Music charts as the highest ranking debut on the chart. The Gothard Sisters have performed in venues large and small, including a concert at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium stage in Washington DC, performances with Disney Cruise line in Europe, a 20-city concert tour of Japan in 2019 and appearances at music festivals and performing arts venues nationwide.

Blending Celtic, folk, classical, world and northwest musical influences, the Gothard Sisters bring songs to life with violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bodhrán, djembe, octave violin, whistle and vocal harmonies, creating music that is “vivid, inspirational and captivating.” (Tim Carroll, Folk Words Review 2018)

Writing and recording near their home in the Pacific Northwest between touring nationally, the band has released 7 albums and has performed over 1,000 live shows over the course of their career. Here is The Gothard Sisters brand new music video, Chasing The Sun.

The Gothard Sisters now have a Patreon account! Patreon is a platform where artists can interact with their fans by creating a space where fans become active participants in the work they love by contributing a monthly membership fee. Artists give their Patreon subscribers access to exclusive content, community, and insight into the creative process. In exchange, artists have the freedom to do their best work free from advertisement-based social media, and stability needed to build an independent creative career. If you would like to learn more, visit The Gothard Sisters’ Patreon.
During the episode Q&A, Justin mentions a book recommendation (originally a recommendation to Justin from Opus 1 guest, John Largess!) Here is a link to the publisher for The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.

We want your feedback! Comment below, or write a review on the podcast. We encourage you to share The Counterpoint Club with your friends!

Gothard Sister Gnomes


  1. Genevieve Winkler
    Genevieve Winkler October 22, 2020

    Thank you!

    • Willie Braun
      Willie Braun October 23, 2020

      Our pleasure! Thanks for the fantastic question!

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