Contranella, the CD
There's special power and in hearing family members play joyous
dance music together.
A review by Pamela Goddard
Central New York is fortunate to have so
many fabulous family bands playing northern style fiddle music:
Glenrose (the Sloboda family from North Rose), Great Bear Trio
(the VanNortrand family from Fulton), and Contranella from
Manlius. Father and daughter John Wobus and Megan Wobus Beller
have been playing contradances together for more than a decade,
and they've just released a recording which fully expresses their
creativity and musicianship.
Fiddle music is dance music, and Contranella has honed its style
playing for dances, using traditional, contemporary, and many
original tunes. The Wobuses, with Charley Beller's tasteful
percussion, have played at the New England Folk Festival, and at
contradances in Toronto, Ohio, and Indiana. They play with a
purity and clarity rooted in a deep understanding of the
tradition. At it's best, Contranella's music combines a dark
intensity with playful whimsy.
John grew up studying classical piano, spent a part of his
college career as a piano performance major, later doing graduate
work in music theory. During college, John took up a number of
folk instruments and developed an avid interest in Old Time, Irish,
and contradance music. Eventually, John came to apply his piano
skills to this music, bringing together his experience as a
contradancer, a melody-instrument player, his musical knowledge,
and his piano technique. Megan Beller first picked up fiddle from
her father and began playing contradances while in high school.
She polished her technique at Eastman School of Music, and now
performs and teaches fiddle and violin in the Rochester area.
Contranella, the CD, has ten cuts, mostly driving reels
(only two jig sets, one waltz, and one set of marches) including
nineteen original tunes by either John or Megan. These are presented
with simplicity overall. The arrangements are the same straight
ahead sounds you might hear them play at a dance, with just
enough swinging angularity to make this an interesting listen.
Megan's fiddle can chomp and growl through her favorite notey
tunes, while John's piano playing and Charley's percussion
combine into some interesting vamps. They play with a strong
attack on the downbeats and the relentless driving energy of
120 beats per minute.
For those who would like to make these tunes "their own" by
learning them for play at dances or regional music jams, the
Contranella web site includes a Wobus tune book. Music is
available in JPG, ABC, and MIDI formats. The Contranella CD is
available at Ludgate's Farm Market and through the band at
More info about
Folkstuff home page
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