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The Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, PineCone, as they are known, is the largest traditional music organization in North Carolina. Readers may recognize the name from their popular radio show, The PineCone Bluegrass show, aired weekly from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays on 94.7 WQDR-FM. Offering more than 170 musical performances a year, the small staff of three succeeds in introducing, cultivating, and preserving musical traditions of the many cultures that contribute to North Carolina’s history. From Native American rituals to gospel to blues to bluegrass, PineCone seeks to honor all of NC’s cultural communities and serves over 24,000 people through their programming each year.
For this event PineCone collaborated with Durham’s Carolina Theatre to present a unique fusion of American and European folk music with the Kruger Brothers, folk musicians hailing from Switzerland who now call Carolina home. Brothers Jens and Uwe, along with their bassist Joel Landsberg, opened the evening, Jens on the banjo and Uwe on the guitar, with folk music of yearning, faith, and love and a traditional twist on the contemporary tune “Fields of Gold.” The trio’s lighthearted banter and warm connection to the crowd did not lessen the impact of their serious commitment to their art.
The gentlemen spanned music traditions of the Carolina grassroots and European classical, knitting the two seamlessly with their second act performance of Appalachian Concerto. Composed by Jens Kruger in 2010, the three-movement work features banjo, guitar, bass and string quartet; for the latter the Kruger brothers welcomed the Kontras String Quartet. With an American cellist, a Japanese violist, South African second violinist, and Russian first violinist, Kontras are as diverse as the music they played, and a perfect complement to the theme of the evening. Appalachian Concerto explores the settling of the Americas and its parallels in the immigration of Jens and Uwe to the US from Europe. The primitive depth painting imagery of a country being born gave way to an exhilarating homage to the wild horses of North Carolina, highlighting the lightning fast bows and enthusiastic style of the Kontras. The second movement blends elements of classical French and German composition in the strings, honoring the Kruger Brothers’ European heritage. This movement explores the emotional journey taken by immigrants as they leave a life behind them to begin in a new country, illustrated in the aptly titled third movement, “The New Country.”
The prodigious skill and the utmost respect conveyed by the Kruger Brothers for the many traditions of music they explored left the audience with a rekindled enthusiasm for the musical traditions of cultures both familiar and new. PineCone succeeded once again in opening our minds to new musical cultures and sparking new appreciation for our own.