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A cappella group Emerald Stream performs Balkan musical traditions Jan. 21

January 8, 2007

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? At 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21, the a cappella singing group Emerald Stream will perform community-based music from a wide variety of Balkan singing traditions in Mead Chapel. The concert, sponsored by the Middlebury College Foreign Language Enrichment Fund and the Russian Department, will present a musical journey throughout the regions of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia, as well as Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia. Mead Chapel is located on Hepburn Road off College Street (Route 125.)

The Balkans are incredibly rich in diverse musical traditions. Emerald Stream will perform Bosnian love songs, a Ukrainian lullaby, a Russian Orthodox chant and many more songs that illustrate the rich fabric of music found among the various Slavic peoples. A Croatian form of a cappella singing, called "klapa," is a deeply honored and nurtured tradition with romantic themes, descriptions of the blue Adriatic Sea, and contemporary compositions. Lively dance songs, called "kolo," are found throughout the Balkans, and these Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian songs will be included in the concert.

Based in Saxtons River, Emerald Stream is led by Mary Cay Brass, an accomplished accordionist with deep roots in New England's music traditions. Emerald Stream's 28 members hail from three states and myriad walks of life - from blacksmith to archeologist and from doctor to pilot. The group will be accompanied by two ethnomusicologists who recently moved to Vermont from California - Miamon Miller on fiddle and Julian Gerstin on percussion - as well as Massachusetts-based clarinetist Addie Holland and Vermont guitarist Roger Kahle.

Brass, who has degrees in ethnomusicology and linguistics from Columbia University, traveled to the former Yugoslavia as a Fulbright Scholar. She researched vocal music and dance traditions, and eventually produced two CDs of Balkan music with companion books. More recently she directed a two-week singing camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina last summer, where singers intensively studied a program of traditional music of all ethnic groups and gave a series of concerts sharing what they learned with the Bosnian people.

While in Bosnia, Brass and other members of her choirs worked with the Sarajevo-based inter-religious choir Pontanima, which means "bridge of spirit." Pontanima was founded just after the Bosnian war by a Franciscan priest whose goal was to invite people of all faiths who believe that through the spirituality of music and religion, Bosnia could achieve peace and reconciliation. Emerald Stream will perform several selections from the Pontanima choir's repertoire.

For more information, contact Middlebury College Professor of Russian Kevin Moss at (802) 443-5786 or