Spirited sounds

Violin strings will dance with Gypsy music

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2005


  Violin virtuoso and composer Kim Angelis will perform in Seldovia on Nov. 10, in Homer on Nov. 13 and in Kenai on Nov. 18. She will be accompaied by her husband, guitarist Josef Gault. Photo by Irene Young

Violin virtuoso and composer Kim Angelis will perform in Seldovia on Nov. 10, in Homer on Nov. 13 and in Kenai on Nov. 18. She will be accompaied by her husband, guitarist Josef Gault.

Photo by Irene Young

From the opening strains of "Gypsy's Odyssey" to the CD's last notes, listeners are held spellbound, caught in the passionate music's whisper softness, thundering intensity, slow-moving grace and high-stepping frenzy.

At the heart of the experience is violinist and composer Kim Angelis, leading listeners into realms of mystery like a string-playing version of the Pied Piper. This month Alaskans will have the opportunity to follow where Angelis and her husband, Josef Gault, who plays flamenco guitar, lead, when the couple performs in Anchorage, Seldovia, Homer and Kenai.

"I first picked up a violin when I was 10 years old," Angelis recently told the Homer News from her home in Astoria, Calif. "I'd been studying piano since I was 4, so I had the enormous advantage of already being able to read music. My mother had a very eclectic record collection, which included flamenco, classical, and exotic music. ... Amongst my favorites of her old LPs were performances of Brahms' 'Hungarian Dances' for violin, and the Max Bruch Violin Concerto. I really wanted to be able to play music like that."

What Angelis heard worked its way into her music. After a few lessons, her first violin teacher exclaimed, "You play like a Gypsy."

"I'm not sure what he was referring to," Angelis said. "Perhaps I already played with a lot of energy and abandon."

In addition to her mother's musical influence, Angelis' great-grandmother was a British Gypsy. According to the musician, the Rom people, Gypsies, left India about 1,000 B.C., settled in various countries and reached Great Britain in 1502. Wherever they resided, the Rom adopted that county's culture.

"What we now commonly think of as Eastern European 'Gypsy' music was actually the folk music of that region, kept alive by Rom musicians," Angelis said. "So, in a very inadequate way, I have taken the varied influences of classical music, flamenco music, and Eastern European folk music, and tried to combine them into a homogeneous style of my own. A rather 'Gypsy-esque' thing to do, yes?"

"Inadequate" from a musician who has performed in and out of the United States, won every available scholarship when she studied at the University of California, Irvine and whose music has been performed on Network TV, PBS and in the award-winning documentary film, "Saviors of the Forest."

Angelis' music was exclusively featured in the independent film, "Sweet Nothings" and nominated for Best Original Score by the California Independent Film Society and Best Score by the International Independent Film Tour.

Asked what, of all her music-led adventures, she values the most, this "violin voyager," as she has become known, recalled her and her husband's second tour of Chile immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After performing at the Universidad de Talca, they were driven to the small country village of Villa Alhue where they had volunteered to give a concert.

"But the gift was to us," Angelis said. "We walked to the 16th-century church where our performance was to be held, and as we walked down the dusty streets, children started to follow us. More and more children, all in school uniform. We were the Pied Pipers of Chile."

The church filled, the excitement grew with each song played, and then someone called for silence.

"It was suggested that a prayer be offered up for the United States of America. And so, several hundred people, most of them children, prayed for us in perfect silence for five full minutes," Angelis said. "The tears welled up in our eyes, we felt an incredible outpouring of love. And then the concert resumed. ... When it was all over, the children again followed us down the street. But this time we stopped, exchanged hugs and kisses on each cheek, and signed autographs — lots of them!"

Angelis and Gault have visited Alaska in the past, performing in Juneau, Skagway, Craig and at the Bald Eagle Festival in Haines.

"That was an epic experience," Angelis said of the festival. "The majesty of the surrounding terrain — and the eagles — was so overwhelming that I could not keep from weeping."

Anchorage was the musicians' first stop on their current Alaska tour. They will give a workshop and concert in Seldovia today. At 7 p.m. Sunday, they perform at Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer. Angelis and Gault will perform at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Nov. 18. Tickets for the concert at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center are available at the center. Admission is $20 general, $15 for seniors and $10 for children 10 and under.

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