JPR Live Session: Aoife O’Donovan, Jeremy Kittel, Teddy Abrams

Aug 7, 2015

Aoife O’Donovan grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. She spent her school-year summers in Ireland singing songs with her extended family, and became interested in American folk music through artists such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Aoife went on to study contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Upon graduation, Aoife (pronounced “ee-fuh”) hit the road as the lead singer and principal songwriter/song-finder of Crooked Still, which grew into one of the world’s most acclaimed progressive string groups over the ensuing decade. The stunning versatility and appeal of her voice brought her to the attention of some of the most eminent names in music and led to collaborations across a wide variety of genres with everyone from Alison Krauss to Dave Douglas, along with a role as vocalist on the Grammy-winning Goat Rodeo Sessions alongside Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan.

Jeremy Kittel has earned a reputation as one of the most exceptional violinists and fiddlers of his generation. With tremendous musicality; a rare mastery of styles as diverse as jazz, Scottish and Irish fiddle, bluegrass, classical music, and more; a unique compositional voice, and an “exhilarating stage presence” (Strings Magazine), Kittel inspires listeners and fans worldwide through his solo work and collaborations.

Britt Music Director Teddy Abrams (who joined O'Donovan and Kittel for the conversation) and the Britt Festival Orchestra will perform the world premiere of Bull Frogs Croon, a song cycle composed by O’Donovan, Kittel and Abrams, on Friday, August 7th at the Britt Pavillion in Jacksonville, Oregon. The piece is based on the poetry of Oregon Poet Laureate Peter Sears, and is written for orchestra and solo vocals, guitar and violin.

O’Donovan says that she, Abrams and Kittel began working on the piece several months ago, and decided to use pre-existing text as their basis. She says, “When Teddy suggested Peter Sears, I was intrigued. I had seen his name before, but hadn’t spent time with his work. I purchased a copy of 'Small Talk,' his latest collection, and was moved to tears. The songs basically wrote themselves, and we are so honored to be premiering this work at Britt, with Peter in the audience.

Bassist Nate Farrington joined O'Donovan and Kittel for the live performances.