The Lowell Summer Music Series Welcomes Another Fabulous First-Timer To The Series
“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, reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top Bluegrass Albums chart, signed a management deal with Velvet Stone (led by industry veterans John Mason and Tony Brown, the latter of whom has produced acclaimed, chart-topping records by Lyle Lovett, Wynonna, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and many others), and partnered with powerhouse booking agency William Morris Entertainment.
“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, Grey Fox, 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).
“I never expect to like a show – I have been disappointed too many times,” says Velvet Stone’s John Mason. “However, when I first saw the O’Connor Band, I was stunned. This is the best band I have seen in decades, the best musicians. It was the most entertaining show and the most fun I have had in years.”
“Tony Brown concurs. “I pride myself as a person with good musical taste,” he says. “The O’Connor Band is almost too good to describe. Excellent abilities in musicianship, stylistic vocals, and showmanship beyond compare.”
“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 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 arcs high as commandingly as he grooves low. And Mark, of course, does things on the fiddle that has Paganini turning in his grave.
“If the band’s first year was a flash flood, their second will be a calculated, steady rise. After exploring their bluegrass roots, the band is spending much of 2017 honing a sound that coheres even more than before, one that leverages the band’s songwriting talent and background in acoustic, country, jazz, and classical music in a way that is geared toward wider audiences yet still true to themselves and their roots. With the help of their new creative mentor, Tony Brown, Forrest and Kate are co-writing with some of Nashville’s most adept and insightful songwriters in preparation for the band’s sophomore album, which they plan to release in the near future.”
Tickets for The O’Connor Band show are priced at $34 in advance (fee-free!) and children 12 and under are always free courtesy of Eastern Bank. There are also premium seats – beach chairs are provided by the Series – set in two rows directly in front of the stage for $109. Tickets for this show go on sale on Thursday, April 20th at 9 a.m. through Lowell Summer Music Series.
For those of you who are unaware of the Series, or if you are aware of it but have never attended a show there, it is an outdoor (weather permitting) concert series held on National Park Service grounds in Lowell, Massachusetts. The Series is not-for-profit, which helps keep the ticket prices reasonable.
Surrounding Boarding House Park are old mill buildings, part of the Lowell National Historical Park, which you can tour if you arrive early enough. They provide an unusual setting for an evening of great music and ambiance.
The Series generally runs from mid-June to early September.
This Series is dear to my heart. I have been a season pass holder since 2007 and it is one of the highlights of the year (and of summer in particular) for me. Many lasting friendships have been made there. I expect this will be another excellent year!
I will post additional announcements for the Series as they are made.
The final lineup is:
June 10 (Saturday) – Trombone Shorty
June 16 (Friday) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
June 17 (Saturday) – Vince Gill
July 14 (Friday) – The O’Connor Band
July 21 (Friday) – Graham Nash
August 4 (Friday) – Amos Lee
August 6 (Sunday) – Dawes
August 12 (Saturday) – Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
August 19 (Saturday) – David Grisman Sextet
August 20 (Sunday) – Stephen Stills and Judy Collins
September 1 (Friday) – Rosanne Cash
Posted on April 19, 2017, in concert announcements, music, Uncategorized and tagged Boarding House Park, boston, concert announcement, forrest o'connor, kate lee, Lowell, Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell Summer Music Series, Mark O'Connor, music, The O'Connor Band. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.