In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re proud to continue the series with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, an American roots music duo based in New York’s Catskill Mountains. They are best known for their work on the soundtrack of Ken Burns’s PBS documentary series, The Civil War. Jay’s composition “Ashokan Farewell” became the musical centerpiece of the Grammy-winning soundtrack and was nominated for an Emmy. Their performance left a lasting impression on everyone who tuned in. Jay’s fiddling is known for playfulness, drama, soul and technical verve, as he explores many musical styles and idioms that he has internalized and made his own. Molly’s inventiveness on piano and guitar supports the tunes and follows the flow of the melody. Her rich and expressive vocals round out the experience of their award-winning concert presentations. Jay and Molly have recorded numerous albums of traditional and original fiddle music along with vintage country and jazz. They head the Ashokan Center, home of Ashokan Music & Dance Camps, founded in 1980.
Jay and Molly came to the Homegrown series through the Archive Challenge. They performed one of our tunes in the Archive Challenge showcase at Folk Alliance International in 2020, and we knew we wanted more! So we invited them to perform in the Homegrown series and they agreed to perform more material from the American Folklife Center Archive–with a few other favorites as well. They also did a great job talking about the archival recordings they used and how they were influenced by great musicians of the past. It’s a wonderful concert video, which you can see in the player below.
In the conversation, we talked about their lives and careers; their musical influences; how Jay came to compose “Ashokan Farewell” and how they came to play on the soundtrack of The Civil War; and how they drew on archival resources to create their concert. Watch it in the player below!
Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.