Music for Thanksgiving

A time of harvest, of gathering in, of celebrating, of looking back and looking forward, remembering the work of summer and preparing for what is to be learned in winter: whether or not you’ve ever lived on a farm or otherwise been closely connected with the turn of seasons, the changing angle of autumn light and the celebration of Thanksgiving bring all these things to mind.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason bring these things to mind. too, with the music they offer on Harvest Home. With a gathering of music by turns celebratory and reflective, they draw on strains of American music from Cajun to Celtic to old time to bluegrass to orchestral to frame these ideas. Mason’s song Bound for Another Harvest Home brings together an old time dance tune atmosphere with a celebratory reflection on the work of harvesting. Bonaparte’s Retreat is a traditional melody which could have been played at the harvest celebration. Haymaker’s Hoedown is another lively dance set. There’s a Thanksgiving waltz and a song for Mardi Gras, as well as a piece celebrating spring across the prairies. These ideas from the history of American music wraps themselves into orchestra settings which celebrate life across the seasons as The Nashville Chamber Orchestra joins Ungar and Mason to close out the album.

Jay Ungar plays the fiddle. Molly Mason plays guitar and bass. He’s from the Bronx in New York, she grew up in Washington State, and they make their home now in the countryside of New York State. Even if you are not familiar with their names, you’ll know their music. They have composed music for several of Ken Burns’ public television series, and their piece Lovers’ Waltz has become a frequent wedding music request. The haunting lament Ashokan Farewell, which you will recognize from the PBS series about the Civil War, is on Harvest Home, while Lovers Waltz is the title cut of another Ungar and Mason recording.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason make their home in New York’s Hudson Valley from which they teach, host a public radio show, and tour across the country.

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