Harvest Home: Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Nashville Chamber Orchestra
“Classical music” is not a single style, but an ever-widening variety. Because of this, classical audiences have the broadest tastes, and will happily listen to music on the borders of what others might consider “classical.” Take this CD by fiddler Jay Ungar and guitarist Molly Mason, which will also match the Thanksgiving spirit of any gathering you may be planning. The music blooms with the excellent Nashville Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Paul Gambill.
It’s a fusion of mostly-new music in a mostly-folk style, with salutes to Yanks, Cajuns, and Copland. It also includes one tune you may already know from the Ken Burns film The Civil War, “The Ashokan Farewell.”
Ungar wrote that tune as the closing song for the fiddle camp he runs in the Catskills. Its genius is that it sounds like it’s an Appalachian or Scottish lament, hundreds of years old. It’s a timeless melody, given a ravishing reading here with orchestra.
The Harvest Home Suite includes “Autumn,” with a re-imagining of “We Gather Together to Ask Our Lord’s Blessing,” a Dutch hymn-text translated to Latin by Austrian Eduard Kremser (who composed the tune), then to English by the New Yorker Theodore Baker, the originator of one of the standard music reference resources, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary. New Yorker Jay Ungar now folds this classic Thanksgiving hymn into this lovingly-played suite. Everything on the CD is performed with beauty and sheen. That’s something all classical audiences love.