Saturday Strings students had the honor of a visit from two very special guests on March 24:  Folk music icons Jay Ungar and Molly Mason stopped by to work with the Saturday Strings orchestras on “Ashokan Farewell” and “Lovers’ Waltz,” two pieces they composed. 

Jay Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell,” which he refers to as “a Scottish lament written by a Jewish guy from the Bronx,” is played worldwide and best known as the powerfully evocative theme chosen by Ken Burns for the soundtrack of his "Civil War" series.  It is the only contemporary tune used and can be heard 25 times, a total of 59 minutes and 33 seconds of the 11-hour series.  

Molly Mason, primarily an upright bass and guitar player, was in the original house band for A Prairie Home Companion. Jay Ungar, a fiddle player, was a founding member of the 1960s rock band, Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys, whose song “Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll,” produced by Jimi Hendrix, was a top 40 hit in the summer of 1969. For almost 30 years the couple has run The Ashokan Center, a folk music and dance camp in the Catskill Mountains not far from Woodstock, NY, that was the inspiration behind Ungar’s most famous piece.  Jay and Molly’s music has also been used in the soundtracks for "Legends of the Fall" and "Brother’s Keeper."

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Saturday Strings is sponsored by the non-profit organization Hunterdon Musical Arts, which also manages Hunterdon Symphony, Hunterdon Choral Union, and Hunterdon Youth Orchestra Camp. Saturday Strings serves students of stringed instruments of many levels, age 5 through adult, and takes place at the Flemington Baptist Church Saturday mornings from 9 to 1 p.m. The program includes ensemble training in orchestra, chamber music and fiddling, as well as beginning and intermediate instruction in violin, viola, cello, and bass.  You can hear the group at their end of term concert at 10:30 a.m. on May 12. The Saturday Strings Combined Orchestra will also be performing at the May 19 Veteran Concert, 2 p.m. at North Hunterdon High School, to be hosted by Joe Piscopo.

For more information on any of the Hunterdon Musical Arts offerings, contact Barbara Volkov at 908-995-7977, or send a message through the group’s Facebook page:  “Hunterdon Musical Arts”.