An Dro performed in-studio for this week’s Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by Luke Winslow King, Mat Churchill, Mark Harrell, Steve Hilger Jazz Quintet, Bootstrap Boys and more.
THE BAND: An Dro
THE MUSIC: Celtic and world music
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE BAND: 8 p.m. Wednesday (March 13) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids; 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Brass Ring Brewing in Grand Rapids; Friday at Ramsdell Center for the Arts in Manistee; Saturday at The Curragh and New Holland Brewing in Holland; Sunday at Fiddler’s Hearth in South Bend, Ind.
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Amid the maelstrom of another hectic St. Patrick’s week of performances by Celtic bands, there’s often an assumption by holiday revelers that the musical party will be driven by plenty of sing-along favorites.
That’s not necessarily the case when it comes to An Dro.
While the celebrated West Michigan Celtic and world music group will roll out some vocals on occasion, the trio – and sometimes quartet – focuses predominantly on instrumentals, filling the night with the virtuosic splendor of traditional jigs, Irish-hued originals and genre-melding fusion music.
So, don’t expect to hear “The Unicorn Song” or most other “green beer” tunes.
“We do an instrumental version of ‘Danny Boy’ – that’s our tip of the hat to the beloved tunes that people often request, but some of the other green beer tunes … you’ll already get to hear played by every other band in the lineup, so we do take a pass on those,” said percussionist Carolyn Koebel.
“We play instrumental tune sets that have a great spirit and a dance feeling to them, and most of the time, 9-1/2 out of 10 people are perfectly happy with that situation.”
Formed more than seven years ago, the band – Koebel, Jim Spalink (bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, Celtic harp) and Michele Venegas (fiddle, mandolin), with Cara Lieurance pitching in frequently on accordion, whistle and flute – has become one of Michigan’s pre-eminent Celtic groups while releasing several studio and live recordings.
Not surprisingly, An Dro is bracing for another uber-intense week of mid-March performances, with eight shows at eight different venues in eight days. And most of those will focus on the band’s unparalleled instrumentals.
SURPRISING FANS WITH THE ENGAGING NATURE OF INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
“It’s sort of a pre-determinate notion people have so they’re surprised that you’re not going to sing,” Koebel said.
“But when they sit back and take in what’s actually happening a lot of time they’ll come up at the end of the night and say, ‘Wow, the music was so interesting and there were so many textures – particularly if it’s a night where Jim has a Celtic harp and a hurdy-gurdy and a bouzouki, and there’s a mix of percussion, and Michele sometimes has a mandolin as well as her fiddle, and there’s any variety of things that bring a lot of variance to the texture.
“I think that we’ve won a lot of people over who weren’t expecting the instrumental music to be as engaging.”
Added Venegas: “I think at the end sometimes people don’t even realize they were missing that (vocals).”
Nothing certainly felt like it was missing from the trio’s performance for this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, with An Dro performing a set of jigs and the song, “Music for a Found Harmonium” in Studio X. Watch highlights from the performance here with the full podcast below.
VIDEO: An Dro (Local Spins on WYCE)
The band – which also performs at Koebel’s annual “Global Roots” concerts which showcase a wide range of world music and percussion – takes pride in sharing the history and tradition of much of the material it plays, and many fans have come to appreciate the educational aspect of these shows.
“There’s certain … people that actually want to know,” Spalink says of sharing the origins of the music An Dro plays. “If you can give it to them in the right forum, they’re going to be interested in the meat of the culture of it.”
But band members also revel in “different seasons and different reasons,” exploring their own projects and rolling out different versions of An Dro as a duo, trio and quartet. An accomplished teacher and music therapist, Koebel has recorded numerous world music percussion albums on her own and recently became part of a new urban music super-group, The Dacia Bridges Project.
“We’ve really had to, I think, cultivate flexibility and creativity as an ensemble,” said Koebel, who insisted it’s “good for listeners” when the band reimagines its approach and lineup on any given evening, and explores the possibilities that the musical universe offers.
“Once I was introduced to the world of percussion, I didn’t have any limits or any lack of interest,” she said. “Each culture is somehow equally compelling to me. It’s sort of a process of discovery and availability of resources and being able to interact with different forms.”
That discovery continues in An Dro, too, which notes that the addition of Lieurance for many performances pushes them into new musical territory, including some French-Canadian music. That means every show varies depending on the audience and the mood.
“There’s a lot of winging it,” Venegas conceded. “You feel the room and the crowd that you have.”
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE also featured new local and regional tracks from Luke Winslow King, Mat Churchill, Mark Harrell, Steve Hilger Jazz Quintet, The Bootstrap Boys, Wing Vilma and LVRS, plus music from Peat in the Creel and Radiator Hospital. Listen to the podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (3/9/18)
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC