homepage logo

Toss the Feathers brings Irish music on early instruments

By Staff | Feb 7, 2014

A lovely, romantic evening of traditional music of Scotland and Ireland played on early instruments with the French/American duo, Toss the Feathers, provides a Valentine opportunity. The duo combines the lively, virtuosic playing of Tina Chancey on fiddle, viola da gamba and other renaissance bowed strings with the sensitive accompaniment of Valerie Loomer on theorbo, renaissance guitar and cittern. The concert is timed a little later than usual, at 8:30 p.m., as many couples like to have a sumptuous meal on Valentine’s Day, and it takes place in the lovely atmosphere of the stone chapel of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

The music was invented during the 17th and 18th centuries, as a new sort of “chamber music” which includes ballads and dance tunes, variations over repeating basses, sonatas, suites, “dompes” and “ports”. This inspired fusion blends refined taste and sparkling energy, harmonic complexity and rhythmic spontaneity and features many tunes that form a vital part of the traditional music still played today. The instruments evoke an earlier era, and these two musicians combine over 30 years of training and performing on these instruments.

Valerie and Tina have been playing together, mostly in France, since 2007, where they have done twice-annual tours with the third member of the Ensemble, Dimitri Boekhorn who plays the early style Irish wire-strung harp and flutes and whistle. They have recorded one album together, Fileacn, in 2012, and are currently working on their second release.

Here, in Shepherdstown, they’ll be joined on several pieces, by special guest hammered dulcimer player and builder, Nicholas Blanton; a long-time friend who introduced them, and who also built one of Valerie’s instruments, her cittern. Nick is no stranger to our series, but is more often seen behind the sound board than on stage and will play his dulcimer, border pipes and whistles.

Tina Chancey plays viola da gamba and renaissance violin in this ensemble. She is director of the early/traditional music group Hesperus and their fiddle specialist, playing Irish and old time violin; kamenj, lyra, rebec and vile; viola da gamba and pardessus de viole, all of which she plays indiscriminately on Sephardic music, early music, blues and jazz standards.

Tina is also a member of Trio Sefardi, and the contradance band North-South Railroad, and a former member (for 25 years) of the Folger Consort and the rock band, Blackmore’s Night. She also produces recordings for other artists, writes articles, and directs the Sound Catcher Workshop where she teaches playing by ear and improvisation. Her most recent solo recording is American Landscapes. She has received 2 WAMMIES for best Classical Instrumentalist and a Lifetime Acheivement Award in Education from Early Music America. She lives in Arlington, Va.

Valerie Loomer plays theorbo, renaissance guitar and cittern in the duo’s music. A plucked-string specialist, after doing her undergraduate work at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, she studied lute and basso continuo at the Schola Cantorum in Basel Switzerland.

For ten years Valerie performed with The Company Barbaroque in baroque operas staged in the castle of Grignan. She has collaborated with numerous European early music groups, as well as Hesperus, Ida Red String Band and the Cajun Collective of Dsaignes.

Valerie has branched out from playing her early instruments; she is performer on banjo, banjo-uke and other traditional instruments and performs regularly with the Cajun band, La Gang du Queteux. She is also a mime and a puppeteer, formerly with the Bil Baird Marionnettes, and now with Company of Beausavage of which she is co-founder. She has taught corporeal mime and well-being classes for many years to children and adults. She lives in the Ardche region of France.

The concert will be held in St Peter’s Lutheran Church, on the corner of King and High streets in Shepherdstown, on Friday, Feb. 14 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for SMaD members and $8 for children and full-time students. Shepherd University students get in free with their Ramber ID. For more information see the web page at smad.us or call Joanie Blanton at (304) 263-2531 or email at upperpotomac@gmail.com for more details.