© 2019 by Shelley Katsh Music & Art

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shelleykatsh@gmail.com

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Listen to the interview on NPR's Artscape

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From the Inside Out is composed of lesser known tunes from cultures near and far, arranged for violin, cello, erhu, accordion, piano and percussion.  This compilation is the result of being in the moment together with our instruments—improvising  and sharing our interpretations, associations and memories.  

 

Each piece is as a heartfelt blend of music and friendship.

1.   Dimming of the Day            

This love song was written by Richard Thompson and recorded with his wife, Linda, in 1975.  In our instrumental version we reach for the feelings expressed in their words, and the power of being drawn together in the evening, when the sun sets.   Piano, accordion, violin, cello, organ.

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2.   Shnirele Perele                   

Originally in Yiddish, this song proclaims that riches (“a pearl, ribbon, or a golden flag”) do not have meaning; what is of worth is only what makes the world a better place.  Our version opens with an improvised “Doina”, a traditional Klezmer form that slowly brings the listener into the melody and tonality.   The bells evoke for us the feel of a faraway caravan moving slowly through the desert.    Accordions, violin, piano, bells, percussion.

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3.  Little Brown Island in the Sea

This Scottish tune, written by Donald McDonald Morrison, musically describes two elements of nature -- a small, vulnerable circle of land and the large rolling ocean.  Cathy learned to play the erhu, a Chinese two-string folk fiddle, while living on the island of Hong Kong.  In this piece the erhu enhances the Asian feel of the melody, and creates for us haunting waves of sound.   Erhu, piano, cello.

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4.  Ahavat Hadassah

The original poem from which this song was born was written in Yemen, in Hebrew and Arabic, by Shalom Shabazi at the end of the 17th century.  While other musical versions of this poem exist, this is one that has gained popularity over many years as a folk dance tune in the Middle East.  The lightness of the melody, to us, evokes an essence of sweetness, innocence and peace.  Piano, violin, hajini drum.

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5.  Yom Zeh L’Yisrael

Singing is the traditional means of welcoming and celebrating the Shabbat (Sabbath) in a Jewish home.  Many texts and poems are sung to a variety of melodies, and tunes are preserved through oral, and aural, history.  This song means “This is a day of light and joy for the Jewish people”.  This particular melody has been passed down through many generations in Shelley’s family.  We bring traditional harmony to it in our improvisation, but add the haunting sound of Cathy’s erhu to highlight the ancient feel of the tune.   Piano, violin, cello, accordion, erhu.     

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6.   Skye Boat Song 

A late 19th century Scottish tune which has become part of the modern folk repertoire.  It’s lullaby-like melody is both haunting and hopeful. It inspired improvisation for us before and after the melody.   Cello, piano.

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7.  Wayfaring Stranger

An early 19th century American folk/gospel song in which Cathy, through layers of harmony, expresses longing, searching and the need for home.   Solo violin.

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8.  Midnight Waltz

A tune of Eastern European origin that evokes the music of Jewish, Gypsy, Russian and Slavic traditions.  Its modal harmonies provide a sense of mystery.  In our version, harmonies build and swirl while clay drumbeats propel the dance movement forward.   Accordions, piano, violin, udu drum.

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9.  Talk to me of Mendocino

This song, by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, speaks to the power of memory of a beloved place.  We bring melody and harmony together to convey these feelings and paint an emotional picture of returning home.   Piano, accordion, violin, cello, organ.

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10.  Priestly Blessing

The words of this blessing are familiar to many individuals, families, religions and cultures:  “May God bless you and keep you, may God shine his light upon you and be kind to you, may God’s presence surround you and grant you peace.”   In Jewish tradition, this is said to bless children at the Shabbat table; it is also said in synagogue by the “Kohanim”, the descendants of the priests, on the major Jewish holidays.  It is often recited with great mystery and with ritual movement.  This particular “nigun”, Hebrew for “wordless tune”, is part of this ritual, and has been sung for generations in Shelley’s family.  Piano, cello, violin.

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