the appalachian
christmas quartet

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ACQ and the Gloria CD
an interview with Michael Aukofer
September 2002

I understand that you are now an official quartet, how did that finally come about?

Well we had been doing some research and recently came across some folks that told us there should be four members in a quartet---so with Brad "retiring" the three person group to focus on new ventures, we decided to look into forming a four person quartet. For those of you who have seen us perform you already know Jeanne Anne Schroeder. She has performed with the band for the past four seasons and is an exceptional talent. She is a trained vocalist and has spent many years playing the flute and various other woodwind instruments. It had just come to a point that we knew her musical contributions were becoming an essential element to the direction the band is heading. So before this past Christmas season, 2001, we had invited Jeanne Anne to join the group, and she accepted, committing to record on the new album and perform with the quartet this coming season, 2002. Now with three of us, David, Jeanne Anne and myself committed to the band, the decision on the fourth member was a "no-brainer". Ever since this group formed in 1997 I have thought that it would be a perfect setting for the Cincinnati based singer/songwriter Eric Hauck. Eric is an extremely versatile musician who plays cello, guitar, mandolin, mando-cello, harp, piano and occasionally some percussion. Eric is also an exceptional vocalist, having picked up quite a few pointers on singing and music in general from his parents who are both highly respected music teachers in the Cincinnati area. Eric already knew about the band, and in fact, already knew everyone in the group. Eric and I had met in 1997 on a Rich Mullins tour and then continued to work together in different bands as well as many recordings in Nashville. David and Eric have known each other since a 1998 recording in Nashville, in which they were both guest musicians on Alathea's "Just Falling" album. Eric later met Jeanne Anne in 2000 during the recording his second solo album.

Were all 4 of you involved in the recording of "Gloria"?

Yes---in-fact we even recruited Brad to come in and play some of his favorite parts and Phil Keaggy joined us on a couple of tunes as well. But, more than 95% of the recording is the four of us.

How is Jack A. Lope doing? And what does he think about the addition of Eric and Jeanne Anne?

He seems to be doing great! He has been fired up ever since his big photo shoot for the album. This was a highlight for him in more ways than one. Of course he loved the attention and all the fancy clothes they had him wearing for the pictures, but he was also really excited about getting to go to Nashville and run around in the Appalachian Mountains. Since Jack was born and raised outside of Las Vegas, Nevada (in the government restricted areas) he has never seen the beautiful trees and mountains in the East. Before this album, he had only known the mountains in the desert, so he had thought that all mountains were bare and jagged. So seeing the Appalachians was an eye opening experience for him; and he hasn't quit talking about it since we've gotten back. You see, unfortunately, since Jack now lives in my Dad's basement in Wichita, KS, he is not allowed out much (being so close to Texas and all), because there are so many jack-a-lope hunters coming up from there to find game, it's just not safe for him to be out. So his experience of "Roaming Free in Tennessee" was wonderful for him.

As far as Eric and Jeanne Anne joining the group, he says they haven't had any trouble following his direction for them. Since Jack often conducts the band during rehearsals and recordings, he becomes pretty particular about musicians being able to follow his musical visions and directions. Jeanne Anne has known Jack for many years and they get along great. Eric, on the other hand, just met Jack during the recording of "Gloria" and they seemed to hit it off well! Plus, Eric and his family are avid dog lovers and I think that Jack could immediately sense Eric's instinctual love for domesticated animals.

How long were you in planning for this new CD?

We have been planning for "Gloria" ever since we finished our first album in 2000. However, with changing the band personnel this past year there was quite a bit of last minute planning that went into this recording. There was even a last minute arrangement of Silent Night/O Holy Night that Eric wrote for the album a few days before we started. So the recording has a nice combination of music that was well rehearsed and music that was almost purely improvised and inspired.

How do you, as a band, determine who will do the arranging?

This is one of the best parts about being in a band with mature musicians. We are all bringing new arrangements to the group. Whether we use an arrangement or not is determined by the band after we play around with it for a while. At this point, we have never had any bickering or hurt feelings about whose arrangements are selected, it is just a group decision determined by what we think works best for the band. We try hard, to have a variety of styles and feels that will keep the music interesting. Now that Jeanne Anne and Eric are in the band we will be able to be even more creative about the types of arrangements that we can do. On the album we even tried some 4 part vocal arrangements, since Jeanne Anne and Eric are such great singers, but we haven't quite figured out the best way to utilize this new element yet, so most of these vocal attempts did not make it on the album (This concert season, 2002, we will be experimenting more with vocal elements).

How long were you in the studio recording?

We spent a total of 12 days recording, and 3 days on mix and mastering. Our biggest challenge was that we could never be in the studio together at the same time. In fact, Eric could not even be in Nashville. We ended up packing up the studio gear from Nashville and moving it up to Cincinnati to record Eric for a few days in his living room.

What were some of the highlights of this recording?

There really are so many. To name just a few, David's new arrangements were all great to work on. His harmonic choices gave the rest of us in the band a lot of room for creativity. When Jeanne Anne showed up to the studio it was awesome to watch her work. She is extremely focused and played so well that we had plenty of time left over to experiment with different parts and instruments. Eric just played so naturally and is such a fun person to be around it didn't feel like we were ever working. Also, Eric coming up with a last minute arrangement that featured his harp, cello and guitar playing made for an exciting experience. Brad is just such a fun person that any time he's around there are going to be many laughs, and this album was no exception. If you listen closely to the intro of Winter Wonderland you can get a small taste of the fun we had getting to work together on this music.

Anytime that Phil Keaggy plays the guitar, it is a highlight. What an unbelievable musician and great person! Phil has always been willing to help me (Michael) out by playing on the albums that I'm involved in, but his participation on this album is even more special, simply because I have spent six years working in this band and this music. I think the best highlight for me was the willingness that everyone involved had to make the music the very best that it could be. We worked long hours and had many obstacles to overcome, but we did it and had a great time in the process.

What is this that I hear about some new guitars that were used on the album?

Everyone in the group plays the guitar and we are all quite fond of our own instruments. Well much to our surprise, when we arrived in Nashville for the recording, there were two beautiful guitars sitting in the studio, on loan from Jay Duncan at Duncan Guitars. The way the story goes is that Jim, who started his own acoustic guitar company in 1992, after leaving Larrivee Guitars Co., was looking to get some Nashville musicians familiar with his new line of instruments. Well, we knew after the first note from the guitars that these were amazing instruments, so we decided to tip our hat to Jim and his guitars, by solely using his instruments on the album. The two guitars that were at the studio, complimented each other so well, that there was no need to use any others. Plus, we felt like his willingness to let go of a couple of instruments and trust that his craftsmanship would speak for itself, which it does, was the type of person and company that we would like to support. Since the recording we have been in contact with Jay and are planning to support him however we can. Duncan guitars are "top of line" acoustic guitars made in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

Did you have other arrangements for consideration and have to cut them?

I think we went into the album with about 20 arrangements. A few of these never really made it to completion but a few others we actually completely recorded and then we, as a band, decided from the finished arrangements which ones worked best for the album. We went into mastering with 14 fully completed tracks and ended up with an album of 11 arrangements that we think compliment the bands strengths and versatility.

Would you be able to give us a little insight to each of the arrangements that will be on "Gloria"?

Sure, here goes:

"Gloria" is a very simple little arrangement that gets the album going with a calm, Appalachian feel. The very first instruments heard on this song, and the album, are bell lyres. These instruments are one-of-a-kind, made for us by our friend, Jim Steck. Jim has given the group many instruments over the years and has been a driving force to our creativity, since we are forced to think outside of the norm when we are using instruments that have never been heard or seen before. These bell lyres are hollow metal tubes, cut to size to create different pitches, and hung by string on to two-by-fours (they sound much prettier than they look). Throughout the "Gloria" arrangement the bell lyres share an original melody with the hammered dulcimer until the piece peaks with a hint of J.S. Bach's beautiful "Gloria in Excelsis Deo". The simplicity and feel of this arrangement inspired the band to name the album "Gloria."

"Winter Wonderland" is a perfect example of how the band has great fun with music. We start this arrangement with random sounds that we found in the studio, including a glass of water, and end the song with a choir of kazoo's--now that has got to be a first! We had a blast with this arrangement. Brad joined us for this one on the guitar and as a guest speaker. This arrangement has been a highlight for us at our performances and we were excited when we realized that it also works well recorded. Some of the other instruments included in this arrangement are the harmonica, claviola (sort of a wind accordion), guitars, bass, drum set and a ton of random percussive sounds.

"The Holly and the Ivy/Ode to Joy" was arranged a month before the recording by David. David is one of those people that continually keeps musicians "on their toes." Somehow David finds a way to keep his musicianship and music fresh, while holding down a full-time desk job and a family. He is a natural and this arrangement shows it. The Holly…features David's guitar playing, Eric's cello and Jeanne Anne's flute as well as introduces one of the newest instruments to this band's repertoire, the bowed psaltery. The psaltery is only used to add a little coloring to this arrangement but this coming concert season we plan to use it more extensively.

"Drummer Boy" uses a "drum circle" approach and features yet another new instrument of the bands, the fife. This arrangement was inspired by the old drum and fife tunes that were used during the Revolutionary period. The first verse of this arrangement is purely drums and fife. The arrangement then modulates up and opens into a glorious improvisation on the fife supported by guitars and marimba. Jeanne Anne spent quite a bit of time this past year learning about the history of the fife and researching present day fife craftsmen. When she found the instrument that she was most pleased with, she got it and began learning this historical instrument. It has been a challenge for her to learn but as you can hear, well worth the work.

"Be Thou My Vision" was recorded on our first CD, but since then we have added Jeanne Anne's woodwind work on flute, piccolo and penny whistle as well as Eric's exceptional cello playing. We have also changed the arrangement considerably since the last CD and felt like it was worth recording again. In the past year, since all of these arrangement changes have taken place, this has been the most requested tune almost every concert. What makes this arrangement special to the band is that we sing a few of the verses in a "Chieftain" style group unison; we also get to do a bit of stomping. This is the closest we come to sounding Celtic.

"Ding Dong Merrily on High/Pachelbel's Canon" this arrangement has been in the band for a few years now, it just took us this long to be able to learn to play it. This is a challenging arrangement for us all. Brad joined us on the mandolin for this one. As you can hear, the melodies and countermelodies are interwoven throughout this arrangement and do not stop until the end. We are all very excited with how clearly the intricacies of this arrangement came out in the recording.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" This one is worth seeing! The marimba parts are written for four players, so who plays the drum set? We each take one of the pieces of the drum set and play it along with our marimba part. This is quite a sight and a lot of fun for us to play.

"Come Let Us Sing Noel" this arrangement has not stopped evolving since the day David brought it to the band. It started as a bass/recorder duet and has become an intense, full band jam. Set in C minor, the harmonic structure of this arrangement allows for endless possibilities on the bass, cello, recorder and marimba. We are looking forward to performing this one again this concert season.

"O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" started out as a hammered dulcimer feature, but when you have the unbelievable opportunity to work with a talent like Phil Keaggy, nothing can compare. Phil's wiliness to contribute his guitar virtuosity on our album has, once again, left us humbled and honored. Along with Phil's guitar playing, the band is tackeling tricky rhythmic and harmonic elements. This arrangement challenges all of our musicianship and brings a new light to an old church hymn.

"Silent Night/O Holy Night" is Eric Hauck's first arrangement contribution to the band. Eric is an extremely versatile musician and will be raising the level of this band every day. This arrangement of Silent Night/O Holy Night finds its beauty in its simplicity. Featuring Eric's cello, guitar and harp playing. We are all excited about the new possibilities that the cello and harp bring into the band, and this arrangement will give you a taste of what is the new Appalachian Christmas Quartet.

"Sing Along" We all felt that this simple "group sing" of four traditional Christmas tunes has become a staple in our live performances and should be represented on this album. The congregations that have inspired this "group sing" are the same that have supported us throughout the years and have, once again, made another album possible for us. We, the band, would never be able to earn the kind of money that it takes to produce a quality recording in the three weeks a year that we are performing. That has put us in a position of need, a need for financial assistance to continue making these albums. And once again this past Christmas we earned all that we could and relied on the rest to come from donations. We are extremely thankful to the Wichita, and surrounding communities for your gracious support. We wish you all could have been in Nashville to sing on this with us!

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