Sunday, September 8, 2013

Music in Alaska ...

Recently I learned that Paul Krugman, the New York Times op-ed columnist and blogger who, in his day job, is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and, in 2008, won the Nobel prize in Economics, also posts occasional pieces on music.  I wouldn't have guessed it, but he and I apparently share some tastes in that arena; his most recent post was on Sarah Jarosz, a young singer-songwriter from Wimberley, Texas, whose first two albums (the first mostly recorded while she was still in high school) are outstanding pieces and who is on the cusp of releasing her third to already building acclaim.

As some of the readers of my Facebook page realize, I occasionally -- ok, well frequently -- comment on music there, including on Sarah's upcoming album.  I also use my occasional stints as a guest host for KFQD talk radio show moguls Dave Stieren and Casey Reynolds to do the same.  For example, I subbed in for Casey early last week and the opening segment, up until Anchorage Education Association President Andy Holleman joined to talk about education stuff, was mostly about music.

I am intrigued by Krugman's use of his column also to hi-lite his musical interests, and frankly, will pay even closer attention to his blog as a result.  But I don't think I will start boring readers of these pages also with mine -- well, except now and maybe occasionally.

The reason I do so this morning is because I am still enjoying, by playing over in my head, last evening's closing concert of Fairbank's now, annual Far North Fiddle Festival.  The brainchild originally of Fairbanks oncologists Drs. Andrew and Jacqui Cox, in just three short years the Festival already has become more than a small blip on the world Celtic music map, even earning a shout out yesterday from WGBH (Boston public radio)'s Brian O'Donovan during his weekly Celtic music radio show, A Celtic Sojourn.

This year's Festival attracted some outstanding artists, including two pantheons of world Celtic music, John Doyle and Nuala Kennedy, who recently have joined with Eamon O'Leary to form a new group, ALT, which made its debut last night in Fairbanks, Alaska.  But last evening's show also was marked by the inclusion of a number of other up and coming artists.  The full list is here.

For me (and many, many others), the epitome of Celtic music festivals (at least on this side of the Atlantic) is Cape Breton, Nova Scotia's annual Celtic Colours International Festival, held over nine days each fall (as the leaves are turning) throughout the island. Last night's Far North closing concert was every bit the equivalent of a Celtic Colours session. I don't know how to give it any higher rating.

But music in Alaska isn't only one event.  Within the next two weeks, for example, family-owned (Mike McCormick and his wife Katie Spangler) Whistling Swan Productions is bringing four incredible performers to Alaska:  Leon Russell (a long time favorite from my Tulsa days), Dougie MacLean (a Scot Celt performer who I first saw live at Celtic Colours), Hot Club of Cowtown (a Western swing trio) and the Taj Mahal Trio (which, unbeknownst to them, played an interesting role in my college experience) all will be playing in Anchorage.

And the list could go on from there by simply going through the upcoming playlist at the Anchorage Concert Association, Fairbanks Concert Association, The Blue Loon in Fairbanks, The Tap Root in Anchorage and on, and on, and on.

Music in Alaska is an incredibly rich experience and the Far North Fiddle Festival was and is an outstanding event.  Maybe we can get Paul Krugman to blog about that sometime as well.