Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick, with Jackie Moran — A Star in the East (Flower Pot Productions)
Last year around this time, Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick, who are usually quite busy with their early music ensembles, had the time and space to finally make music together. That special musical connection has just produced their second recording, A Star in the East. It features more original music, and a fresh look at some familiar Christmas melodies.
How do we hear Christmas throughout the album?
Carolyn: “I don't think Christmas will ever be the same after 2020. We're transforming the music the way our lives and Christmas have been transformed. One beautiful way this CD and music came together was in the ‘Carol of the Bells.’ Ron did a beautiful arrangement, which gets overlaid with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.’
“You also have the ‘L’Homme Arme,’ which is a piece of music that most people have no idea what it is. It's part of our musical history because it was an incredibly popular tune in the 16th and late 15th-century.
“‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is definitely not a gamba and lute piece. I'm sure that this piece has never been recorded with gamba and lute before. We were in the process of looking at pieces that we love that have something meaningful to say.”
Can you tell me about ‘What Wondrous Love Is This/ Walking In The Air’?
Ronn: “I brought ‘Walking In The Air’ to one of our rehearsals. It's something that I had loved for a long time because it was from the animated Christmas movie The Snowman. The idea of putting it together along with ‘What Wondrous Love Is This’ and creating a sort of bridge between the two was completely Carolyn's inspiration.”
Can you talk about the title track that you wrote for Carolyn?
Ronn: “I actually wrote it before we recorded our first album, Fermi's Paradox. I felt so happy and excited to play with Carolyn. I wanted to create some music specifically for us and also write for viola da gamba in a way that exploited what it can do.”
Carolyn: “I can tell you exactly what it was like the first time we played it. ‘Oh, this is so beautiful!’”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts