Darol Anger likes to shake things up. This internationally recognized violinist enjoys mixing genres: sometimes he plays folk, other times he plays bluegrass and often he improvises.
Anger and a cadre of renowned musicians and string performers will mix and match music styles as they play Celtic melodies, Stevie Wonder hits and fiddle tunes Friday and Saturday at the Chamber Music at the Barn concert series in Maize. On July 7, they’ll head to Belle Plaine and perform under the trees at the Bartlett Arboretum with more of a folk music theme. This is Anger’s fourth time at the performance hall in Maize and his first appearance at the Arboretum. Both venues provide a beautiful backdrop for the performances.
“He is a dear friend to music lovers in Wichita,” said Catherine Consiglio, the artistic director of Chamber Music at the Barn. “He has the heart of an improvisationist.”
Because of Anger’s improvisational skill and his eclectic approach, the two venues will harbor two different sounds.
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“It’s the perfect dovetail concert. People would want to come to both,” said Robin Macy, the Arboretum’s proprietor.
Anger, a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, is bringing along fellow Berklee strings professor Mike Block to the Barn’s concerts. Block, a former member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, is an alumnus of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. This acclaimed cellist and composer appeared on “St. Paul Sunday Morning,” “30 Rock” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
Singer-songwriter Scott Law, classically-trained violinist Lauren Rioux and mandolinist Sharon Gilchrist and a few other performers will round out the strings. Sometimes, Anger said, the strings do not sound like strings. They take on the sound of drums or horns. Also, a couple of the violins have five strings, affording them viola range.
“We try to play at a high level and have it be fun,” Anger said. “We also involve the audience.”
Anger will play some of the music off of his many recordings. Much of this music is high energy. Anger found that music can cross borders and bring people together. The sounds of the string instruments are just as at home with Celtic ballads as with Appalachian fiddle music and Brazilian instrumentals.
On Saturday afternoon at the Barn, the string players will offer a workshop for students on string improvisation. Anger relishes the opportunity to show violinists how to let go and improvise.
“One of the hallmarks of a Darol Anger performance is the improvisation,” Macy said. “He’s so able to go where the music leads him.”
Anger and several string players will head to the Bartlett Arboretum on July 7 for an afternoon concert under the trees. This century-old garden was once open daily, but now is available for private gatherings and concerts.
The Arboretum hosts a broad-ranging summer concert series. Macy, one of the founding members of the Dixie Chicks, puts her heart into caring for this treasured landscape that houses hundreds of Japanese maples and dogwoods, as well as many trees that are rarely found in Kansas. Several years ago, Macy wrote a song honoring the Arboretum called “Deeper Every Year.” Anger played the violin accompaniment.
“Darol is an iconic performer,” Macy said. “He gives a really seasoned, amazing performance.”
All three concerts, along with the workshop, will demonstrate the versatility of string instruments and show off the talented musicians, singers and composers that are flying to Wichita from Maine, Massachusetts, California and Texas to make this weekend a success.
“We’re trying to communicate with the audience,” Anger said. “We’re here to get people excited about music.”