Winter 2011 News
Mark O'Connor will unveil the third book in The O'Connor Method, his original and rapidly growing new approach to string instrument instruction, in February. Method Book III will teach students the traditional songs and O'Connor compositions found on the accompanying CD, "American Classics," a collection of new recordings arranged for violin and piano and performed by O'Connor and pianist Rieko Aizawa. "American Classics" will also be released February 14 as a stand-alone album on O'Connor's own label OMAC Records. This is O'Connor's first collection comprised solely of traditional American tunes and songs he has released since "Soppin' the Gravy," from his teenage years.
Listen to two songs from 'American Classics' here!
The O'Connor Method, which The New Yorker calls, "an American grown rival to the Suzuki method," includes great folk songs, fiddle tunes and classic themes culled from 400 years of traditional American violin playing. It pulls from all regions of North America and from diverse musical styles including classical, folk, Latin, jazz, rock and ragtime.
Since launching in 2009, the growth of The O'Connor Method has been astonishing. Some of the most prestigious music schools around the country have adopted it including the Third Street Music School in New York City, and the Berklee College of Music, which will host an O'Connor Method Camp in summer 2012. Over the past two years, 300+ violin teachers have been certified to teach the O'Connor Method, and teacher training continues to take place at a growing rate across the country.
Following O'Connor's hit holiday album, "An Appalachian Christmas," on which great musicians from varying genres came together around the centerpiece of the American violin, this new installment of The O'Connor Method reinforces the concept of American music as inclusive of diverse styles
O'Connor's Manifesto on American Classical Music can be read by clicking here
Inaugural O'Connor Method/Shar Music Contest a Fantastic Success
To support the release of the O'Connor Method's Orchestra Book I, a contest was sponsored by Shar Music and nearly 2,000 schools participated by signing up for the possibility of Mark O'Connor visiting their school to perform his Method materials with the school orchestra. Through a process of evaluation and essays submitted, four schools were selected and these school visits took place last month. The schools who won the contest were: Powell Elementary School, Raleigh, NC; Indialantic Elementary School, Melbourne, FL; Craig Middle School, Abilene, TX; Abbott Middle School West Bloomfield School District, Orchard Lake, MI.
Several of the elementary schools and middle schools who won, turned the performance into a district wide event, and that meant in some cases hundreds of students participated and performed with Mark. Abilene was such a case with a fantastic string program adopting Mark's Method materials. 600 string students took the stage in waves of hundreds at a time! A fantastic performance group called Revolution culled from the High School Orchestra played Mark's Olympic Reel with him (this video can be seen on Mark's YouTube Channel). Shar Music summed up the event like this:
· A capacity crowd of 2,300 packed the auditorium. Some people couldn’t get in. The police were called in for crowd control
· Over 600 string students were on stage, in three waves. All levels of playing were represented
· When Jennie and I arrived at the Abilene airport, the flat screen TV between the two baggage claim carousels listed the event (Chamber of Commerce)!
· There are NO full orchestras in Abilene . . . all are string orchestras only. This allows them to keep their focus on quality. The teachers are quite adamant about this.
· The district has a great fiddle band called “Revolution”, similar to Barrage. Revolution is led by high school orchestra director Darcy Radcliffe, who is a powerhouse. Mark joined them for a few numbers.
· Our video crew not only recorded the rehearsals and concert, they got crowd shots, shots of the kids coming backstage after their exciting performance and some shots of parts of Abilene itself. Better still, they conducted interviews with kids, teachers, parents and administrators.
· After the concert, the teachers took Jennie, Mark, Melissa (Mark accompanist) and me to dinner at the Olive Garden, which was the only restaurant open at 10:00PM. Around 11:00, Mark performed for us and the restaurant staff on the John Cheng violin that I brought along . . . he played for an hour!
The “creative and improvisational” elements of Mark’s method were evident all night, and Mark’s performance included him speaking between numbers about those elements. Along with American tunes, these are the unique qualities in the O’Connor Method that will continue to be the attraction for many schools. Our video will make these points and will undoubtedly prove to be a powerful selling tool.
Upcoming O'Connor Method Teacher Training Seminars
Boston, MA (Mark O'Connor/Berklee College Summer String Program)
Charleston, SC (O'Connor Method Camp)
New "Elevations" video posted to Mark's YouTube Channel
A fantastic new video hosted by the Mark O'Connor YouTube Channel has been posted this week. Mark's new string symphony "Elevations" has been made into an 11:00 minute film depicting the inspiration behind the music, revealing the story both through beautiful landscapes and the people who first approached America with historical pictures. It is a must see. The images fit the phrases of the music to Mark's specifications and description of his symphony's form.
“Since the original inspiration of Vistas (the symphony’s first movement) was to take natural habitats and use them as metaphoric bridges to human conditions, pressing the point that differences are not that different at all. The concept of simply being on a "different page" of the same journey and in the end saying essentially the same thing all along is the thrust of the Vistas concept and the result of the canonic writing. This was key to the construction of the form. It became evident that the 2nd and final movement of Elevations could develop beyond the inspiration of three habitats, to three groups of people whose dynamic presence for the most part created American culture; Native Americans, African Americans and European Americans.
When I think about music and art, I feel there are three important bridges all artists seek to cross: In the end, we seek to elevate the spirit, stimulate the intellect and strengthen the heart. In America, certainly the beautiful contrasting landscapes as well as the hundreds of years of human cultures cross-pollinating to formulate new musical styles, helped to achieve these ideals." -Mark O'Connor
An Appalachian Christmas Wrap Up And Plans for 2012
"It has been the best December with the release of my holiday CD, "An Appalachian Christmas." I am truly thankful for its success, and thankful for all of you. The thousands of responses to it that we have received are simply an amazing gift. The music is for you, and thank you for all the kindness in return. I hope you continue to enjoy the music this holiday season and for seasons to come.
On an artistic level, to be able to put the violin and violin/fiddle playing right at the center of some of the greatest holiday music, and with some of the greatest singers we know is rare these days. And as far as the singers, I mean it doesn't get much better for me than the jazz of Jane Monheit, the classical of Renee Fleming and the bluegrass of Alison Krauss, all coming over for An Appalachian Christmas! Having the violin be the thread through this album, weaving the history of Americana through its tracks with such strong themes as Christmas, faith, love, family, passing down a fiddle through the generations, saying goodbye to a loved one and even a favorite hunting dog. All of it inspired by the original melting pot, stir fry and the mystical musical culture of what is Appalachia, is something I have been thinking about for not just years, but in fact decades.
I have told this story a few times times now, but it bears repeating. I grew up very poor like a lot of folks. My own successful music career today however does not erase the very vivid memories at Christmas time as a child for me. My mother did the very best she could for us to have a wonderful Christmas. She often worried that there were not going to be many presents for me and my little sister under the tree, so she would often save the record albums she received through mail order during the year - the music she knew I needed to listen to for my inspiration as a music student. She held on to them sometimes for months so she could have something nice under the Christmas tree for me. I could always tell those specific presents were albums wrapped in Christmas paper, because they were about 12" square, and very thin. She did not try to disguise them, rather she used record albums and music as a feature at Christmas time, and wisely knew that this is how we could feel fulfilled and blessed. We were rich with great music around us, even if it was mostly from the family turntable in the beginning, and in later years, friends would drop by to play music with me.
Consequently, my Christmases growing up were listening and playing some carols, but also listening to the music I had been waiting to hear all year and to learn from - everything from Copland and Bernstein to Stephane and Django, to Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and Jimmy Rodgers, to the Carter Family (with Mother Mabel on that L-5 Gibson guitar) and the Stanley Brothers. I knew Copland's Appalachian Spring at the very same time I was first checking out Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys - music from the exact same time period and inspired by the same region of our country - Appalachia. Copland's famous Appalachian piece composed in 1941, just four years prior to Flatte, Scruggs and Monroe uniting in 1945 to invent bluegrass music. Then turning back towards jazz, Monroe's most famous fiddlers, and heroes of mine, Chubby Wise, Vassar Clements and Kenny Baker all were jazz swing fiddlers before they were bluegrass fiddlers. Monroe found them as jazz and hoedown players mostly, and taught them bluegrass! Once you know all of this, Appalachia grows in dimension and scope, and I knew it from my earliest beginnings. A matter of fact, I believe Appalachia had more jazz violin players than New York did in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. African American blues, spirituals and ragtime have roots in Appalachia of course going back even hundreds of years. More recently even pop icons and a guest on An Appalachian Christmas, James Taylor, has North Carolina ties. Appalachia gave birth to some of our best pop, rock, gospel and country styles.
Thank you so much for being such a big part of my Christmas this year. Personally, I spent my holiday in our Appalachian Mountain country home on the river. It gives me a chance to spend time with family, and reflect once again on the year I have had, and to be on the mountain range that inspired my most famous piece, Appalachia Waltz, the one that Yo-Yo Ma played even last month at the memorial service for the iconic genius Steve Jobs, and the one I reprise on the new album with the help of classical guitar great Sharon Isbin. And so that waltz led to my Appalachian trilogy of now perhaps my most famous recordings - Appalachia Waltz (1995), An Appalachian Journey (2000) and An Appalachian Christmas (2011).
We had a wonderful, amazing Christmas Party and Revue last month on the 22nd at Le Poisson Rouge club in Greenwich Village. We had An Appalachian Christmas right in the heart of New York City! Special thanks goes to the great musicians who played on the show. Sharon Isbin, Heather Masse, Julian Lage, Matt Munisteri, Jonathan Batiste, Gary Mazzaroppi, Wycliffe Gordon, Allan Harris, Sam Weiser, Dana Leong, Aurora Barnes, Daisy Castro, Yale Strom, Elizabeth Schwartz, Peter Stan, Stay Human Band and more!
And I am excited to say, that based on the huge success of this album, with its entry into five different Billboard Charts, we are looking forward to a Christmas tour next December! We will do it all again!
The Los Angeles Time ranks Mark's "An Appalachian Christmas" CD the best Holiday releases of the year!
"Mark O'Connor, "An Appalachian Christmas" (OMAC). The esteemed fiddler and composer brings his inclusive merging of folk, country, jazz and classical music to this warmly elegant session. Guest singers James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Renee Fleming, Jane Monheit and Steve Wariner join on seven of the 16 tracks. A model of intelligence, heart and soul." - Los Angeles Times
The USA Today chose "An Appalachian Christmas" as a "notable release," and during the week before Christmas, they chose Mark O'Connor's version of "The Christmas Song" as pick of the week! Mark invited Jane Monheit to sing this beautiful song for "An Appalachian Christmas."
Music Review By Sean Hickey
The Daily Local News (PA) -
For the Journal Register News Service
Time once again to look at the new holiday releases for this year and see which ones are worth putting under your tree. Here's a batch of recommended titles:
"An Appalachian Christmas"
With all the hustle and bustle associated with this time of year, it's a real joy to find something so simple and pure as this holiday offering from Mark O'Connor.
O'Connor is a Grammy winning composer and violinist who revisits classic Christmas songs on this release. Recorded in an intimate setting, he gives the impression that this is an off the cuff performance for friends and family; providing a relaxed and spirited performance that just happened to be recorded. Guest performers on this recording include James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, Allison Krauss, Renee Fleming, Steve Wariner, Chris Thile, and Jane Monheit. These contributors make for a fresh new take on familiar songs, and provide a few new gems as well. The collection is playful and joyous but it can also be solemn at times. "Carol of the Bells" is turned into a haunting string affair, and O'Connor adds smoky jazz coloring to the "The Christmas Song" on which he teams up with Monheit. These tracks, along with the inclusion of some lesser known songs like "Cherry Tree Carol," and "One
Winter's Night," make this a different sort of holiday release. "Slumber My Darling" flows with gentle echoes and whispers between O'Connor and Krauss, and it is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is an outstanding Christmas offering from a virtuoso string player performing in a wide range of musical genres. If you make a point to only buy one new holiday CD a year, this one would be a wise and wonderful choice - for this year and for the years to come. - The Daily Local News (PA)
Click here for more info on Mark's upcoming tour dates.
Like Mark on Facebook!
Friends, become a fan of Mark on Facebook! You can see posts made personally by Mark, exclusive pictures and information, and keep up with him on his travels and his music.
You can also follow Mark on Twitter @markoconnor35
Follow this link to Like Mark on Facebook