WESTFIELD — The British are coming to Westfield! Steeple Concerts at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will open its 2023-2024 Season this Sunday, September 24, at 5 p.m., with Britain’s Vagabond Duo. The general public is invited to attend this event, which also launches a United States tour for “traditional Brit rebel” Vagabond.
Concert tickets, priced at $30 for adults and $15 for students, are available at www.steepleconcerts.org and also at the door.
Comprised of master button-key accordionist Murray Grainger and violin/guitar virtuoso Adam Summerhayes (he calls himself a “beer fiddler”), this duo takes their audience on a whirlwind, musicalspectrum tour that features folk, Celtic, Jewish klezmer and Roma (aka gypsy) music, with a dash of classical and a shot of Irish pub music thrown in. “Hang on to your hats,” said St. Paul’s Music Director Mark Hyczko. “These two musical improv kibitzers have been known to blow their audiences away!”
The two colleagues have been playing together for more than a decade, often at prestigious British/international folk festivals. BBC Radio has featured their music. Their ties are so close that, when named “Instrumentalist of the Year” in 2022 by FATEA music magazine, Mr. Summerhayes was quick to publicly thank Mr. Grainger, saying, “I could not have done it without you, Murray.”
Both are skilled multi-instrumentalists who have mastered many musical genres. Moving effortlessly between accordion, piano, accordina and bandoneon (used in tango ensembles), Mr. Grainger also is recognized as an outstanding music tutor, workshop leader, music engineer, producer and traditional folk player. He has performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Liverpool Philharmonic.
Mr. Summerhayes’ classical pedigree is impeccable. He attributes his technical grounding to formidable pedagogist Yfrah Neaman. He also boasts a “fiddle heritage,” having studied with his own grandfather, a pupil of the violinist who premiered Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in 1881 (Vienna).
For Mr. Summerhayes, however, “music is about storytelling, communication and unrestrained creativity.” As stated in ABOUT, he shows an “apparent disregard for traditional boundaries…, creating new musical narratives in his own dialect” and is “steeped in folk idioms from a long line of north-country fiddlers, and Eastern European influences are part of his musical bloodline.”
He first began pushing genre boundaries in Zum, a gypsy-tango band. Touring worldwide, Zum created and popularized the new “gypsy tango” genre.
In 2017, Mr. Summerhayes and Mr. Grainger, with Piers Adams (recorder), Malcolm Creese (bass) and Cormac Byrne (percussion), formed the Dodo Street Band, a Celtic gypsy klezmer ensemble. Dodo’s first CD, “Natural Selection,” was released in 2019 to “rapturous acclaim.”
Most recently, the duo has created music “on the spot” in The Ciderhouse Rebellion and in a new “improv-trad” band, The Haar, again with Cormac Byrne, plus Irish singer Molly Donnery.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located at 414 East Broad Street, near Euclid Avenue, in Westfield. Church and area parking are free. Steeple Concerts are sponsored by the Friends of Music at St. Paul’s.