Polyphonic Ground Concert: Ariko / Gaelynn Lea Album Release
Polyphonic Ground concert co-presented with World Fiddle Day Toronto.
NPR Music's 2016 Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea Music returns to Toronto for an intimate album release concert under the auspices of Polyphonic Ground. The co-presentation with World Fiddle Day Toronto welcomes Ariko to the bill – the dynamic fiddle stylings of the Lefaive sisters. Until now Gaelynn Lea has presented most of her songs using only a few tools: a violin, her voice, and a looping pedal. Her latest effort involves several of Minnesota's heavy hitters including guitarist Dave Mehling who joins her on tour. Stay tuned for the release of "learning how to stay."
Whether at a festival or in a kitchen, the party ignites when Ariko takes the stage. Homegrown in Tiny, Ontario, Ariko features the rich vocal harmonies and dynamic fiddle stylings of the Lefaive sisters along with a driving and energetic rhythm section delivered by their parents Laura and Louis. Performance highlights since Ariko’s debut in 2003 include the Main Stage at Mariposa Folk Festival, the Spectacle de la solidarité franco-ontarienne in Ottawa, and the Pan Am Games at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
Recipient of the “Coup de foudre Salut!” award for their concert Portrait de famille at Contact Ontarois in 2018, Ariko is touring this dynamic show through public venues and schools across the province during the 2018-2019 season. On the menu: the original repertoire of their album Portrait de famille, unique arrangements of traditional French-Canadian songs, traditional fiddle tunes and stepdance! Ariko’s performances engage audiences of all ages with interactive rhythm, song and dance activities. Rooted in traditional music, their dynamic repertoire is colored by zydeco, jazz and popular genres. Let yourself be recharged by the positive energy of this family group!
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“Karen Dalton and Joanna Newsom melt together in the form of Gaelynn Lea and set about absolutely obliterating your heart.” - Dan Auerbach (Grammy-winning artist and producer, The Black Keys)
When Gaelynn Lea won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, her two decades as a hardworking and talented musician finally crystallized in a beautiful moment of national recognition. It was also just the beginning of a grand adventure. With the wind of her award at their backs, Gaelynn and her husband Paul sold their house in Northern Minnesota, quit their jobs, bought a van, and hit the road.
Since then, Gaelynn has played over 250 shows in 42 states and seven countries, adding nearly 100,000 miles to their Ford Econoline’s odometer. The singer-songwriter and violinist has performed everywhere from coffee shops, bars, schools and festivals; she’s graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots, The Kennedy Center, House of Blues and even BBC World News. This June she was featured at arts festivals in Iceland and Switzerland, and she’s set to appear at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in July and Travelers' Rest Fest (curated by The Decemberists) in August.
Yet somehow between this perpetual blitz of performances, Gaelynn also recorded her third full-length album set for release in September. Until this point Gaelynn Lea has presented most of her songs using only a few tools: a violin, a voice, and a looping pedal. But for her latest, Gaelynn Lea enlisted the help of some musical friends to bring her new album to life. Several of Minnesota’s heavy-hitters—including Al Church, Dave Mehling, Marty Dosh, Andrew Foreman and Alan Sparhawk—lent their creative influence and musicality to this recording. The result is a powerfully emotive effort of confidence and purpose which captures the poignancy and presence of Gaelynn Lea’s crafted repertoire.
Her forthcoming album, Learning How To Stay, is an 11-song collection that runs the gamut sonically from pensive and luscious to aggressive and intentioned, from folk to decidedly pop, and even includes a couple of traditional fiddle tunes. Undoubtedly the connecting thread of this album is Gaelynn Lea herself. With her singular voice and deeply-affecting violin, she guides the listener through a journey that explores the contrasting nature of existence: dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Learning How to Stay encourages the listener to stay present for it all.
The album opens with a droning cascade of strings and a lone piano setting the tone on “Bound By a Thread,” then abruptly shifts to the bright country twang of guitars through a lesson of literal biology and figurative heart on “Dark to Light and Dark Again.” This contrast is indicative of the record as a complete thought, presenting the listener with an ever-widening spectrum of themes and musical moods. The sparse indie-rock vibe of “I See It Too” is then juxtaposed with the Celtic-like pastoral build of the instrumental, “Jim and Judy’s Wedding” (Larry Unger).
Mid-tempo grooves are broken down and piled back up on both “Lost in the Woods” and the backstreet rocker “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun”. Carefully, patiently, the music unfolds with a myriad of tasteful choices: a Hammond B-3 organ harmonizing briefly with the heartbreak vocal of “The Last Three Feet;” the polyrhythmic art rock sensibility and sheets of violin coursing through “I Wait.”
Bright, bare minimalism adorns the Irish-tinged original “Grace and a Tender Hand,” while a foreboding darkness inhabits the Finnish traditional instrumental, “Metsakukkia”. This genre-defying album winds down with some welcomed serenity during the ballad “Moment of Bliss”, which is a fitting end to this emotionally satisfying listening experience.
In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn Lea loves to do speaking engagements about disability awareness, inclusion in the arts, and leading an enriching life. Gaelynn has a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones Disease) and she is a strong voice in the disability community. Gaelynn Lea believes society must prioritize accessibility so people with disabilities can participate in their communities and use their gifts without barriers or discrimination.
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Note: Venue is accessible ♿