Mark O'Connor & the O'Connor Band Come to MPAC, 2/17
The Grammy Award winning O'Connor Band, featuring iconic fiddler Mark O'Connor, puts on a dynamic bluegrass showcase at Mayo Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 17 at 8 pm. Tickets are $29-$59.
The O'Connor Band's very first performance took place at the legendary Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 2015. In 2017 - less than a year and a half later - they took home the GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album for their debut recording, Coming Home.
In a whirlwind 18 months, the band has also performed at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, received standing ovations at the Grand Ole Opry and reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Top Bluegrass Albums chart. They have put together a show unlike any other, one that blends country and pop sensibilities with Americana rawness, bluegrass drive, and chamber music sophistication, one that has begun winning over audiences at festivals (AmericanaFest, GreyFox, IBMA, RockyGrass), clubs (Jazz Alley, Dakota Jazz Club), and the world's premier theaters (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center).
Their recently released sophomore album, O'Connor Band Live!, is a stunning showcase of their most exciting concert material to date. Recorded in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, the album captures the band on the heels of a packed summer festival schedule, during which they had honed their sound and risen to an even higher level of cohesion, power, and expressiveness than before.
The O'Connor Band is the product of Mark O'Connor's imagination - one that has served him well over the course of his four-decade professional career. A former child prodigy and national champion on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, Mark has won numerous GRAMMYs and CMA Awards, appeared on hundreds of commercial country albums, collaborated with the likes of Johnny Cash, Wynton Marsalis, Dolly Parton, and Yo-Yo Ma, and performed everything from original violin concertos to swing and jazz. But until recently, he had not worked on a project quite like this.
"It's been one of the most surprising and rewarding experiences to perform with my family members on stage," says Mark. "It's really exciting to bend these American genres in new ways, combining accessibility with a real depth of musicianship and writing."
In addition to Mark, the band features his son Forrest, (Harvard graduate and former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion), daughter-in-law Kate (frequent performer on the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows), and wife Maggie (graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University). The four of them play together as though they have been sharing the stage for many years - and in some ways, they have.
"We all grew up listening to my dad's music," says Forrest, "so in a sense, we've been preparing for this band for a majority of our lives."
The band is rounded out by Joe Smart (national flatpick champion on guitar) and Geoff Saunders (bassist/banjoist extraordinaire and recent graduate of the University of Miami's DMA program).
All six band members possess charisma that, when combined onstage, ensnares audiences from start to finish. All are masters of their instruments, all improvise as readily as they play parts in counterpoint, all can sing, and all move about the stage in a free but gripping choreography. Kate's beautiful and powerful voice belies her age. Forrest's songwriting is at once poetic and accessible. Maggie's violin playing blends effortlessly with her husband's, so much so that, at times, the two sound like one player. Joe rips solos on the acoustic guitar as though he were playing electric. Geoff arcos high as commandingly as he grooves low. And Mark, of course, does things on the fiddle that has Paganini turning in his grave.
Mayo Performing Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, presents a wide range of programs that entertain, enrich, and educate the diverse population of the region and enhance the economic vitality of Northern New Jersey. The 2017-2018 season is made possible, in part, by a grant the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as support received from the F.M. Kirby Foundation and numerous corporations, foundations and individuals. The Mayo Performing Arts Center has been designated a Major Presenting Organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Mayo Performing Arts Center was named 2016 Outstanding Historic Theatre by the League of Historic American Theatres, and is ranked in the top 50 mid-sized performing arts centers by Pollstar Magazine.