Cleek Shrey and Company at Garth Newel, part 1

Every now and then an artist bridges one generation, or style of music with another. And sometimes such an artist comes to play locally. Cleek Shrey, a traditional fiddle player, and modern experimentalist is coming to Garth Newel Music Center on Friday evening, and brings with him fellow musicians and a percussive dancer.   Other than the mountains being a home place for fiddle music, Cleek has specific roots to the Allegheny Highlands, and Bath County in particular.

“My mother is from Bath. She grew up in Warm Springs. And so my grandparents were there. My aunt is there, and my cousins. Yeah, I guess I still feel very connected to Bath.”

Is it a bit of a Homecoming for you when you get to come play at Garth Newel?

“Totally. It’s completely a homecoming. I love coming back to Bath. I come back anyway. I come to see family, and see that part of Virginia.”

I wondered if Cleek had taken up music when he was very young, and still living here.   It wasn’t until later that he really began to study and play, but by high school in Charlottesville, music was clearly going to be a big part of his future. Again, Cleek Shrey,

“Actually the first time I played at Garth Newel, I was in high school. I came over with a few of my friends who I played with in Charlottesville, and we did a little benefit concert. And then the next time was just a few years ago, maybe four years ago, but last year I would say was the first time in this sort of new era of Garth Newel. This kind of feels like an annual Fall Concert, I guess.”

How would you describe your current work, and the other artists you work with?

“As a free lance musician in New York, I end up coming across a lot of different types of musicians, a lot of different types of artists operating in this community, I’d say musicians are less and less concerned with distinctions like genre, and I think more and more people from different artistic backgrounds are ending up working together because we are existing in this place with so many different types of people doing all these different kinds of work. So, in Brooklyn, I’m very active in the folk music community. I play fiddle music with other folk musicians, and play gigs with other traditional musicians like the ones that I’m bringing to Bath County. “

I asked Cleek what Friday’s night’s concert might sound and look like.

“This year I’m bringing another percussive dancer who is really, I would say at the top of his game, at the top of his field, a dancer named Nick Garris. And he’s from Michigan, and dances all over the world, and has a truly unique percussive dance style, which he developed himself, and he’s really made a name for himself as some one who inserts dance into a musical context, as a musician. I mean what he does is quite visually stunning, but also what he offers sonically is incredibly rich, and very interesting. So he’ll be performing with us really as a member of the band. We have Nick doing percussive dance. Then I have probably the premiere folk cellist performing today, Natalie Hass. She teaches at the Berkley School of Music. She tours internationally with a Scottish fiddle player, named Alistair Frazier. She’s developed this very interesting, and now very imitated technique of playing fiddle tunes, and accompanying fiddle tunes on the cello. So we’ll have Natalie Hass on cello, and then her partner Jan Falquet, who is a French Canadian singer and guitarist. He’s a well-known musician in the Quebecois music scene, kind of the best folk musicians from Quebec.”

For more on Cleek Shrey, and Friday night’s music at Garth Newel, please tune in again for part two, and visit Garth


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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