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Sun, May 19


All Saints' Episcopal Church

Airs & Nefes: Melodies from Albania, Turkey, Ireland, Japan and beyond

Global Contemporary Improvisations

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Airs & Nefes: Melodies from Albania, Turkey, Ireland, Japan and beyond
Airs & Nefes: Melodies from Albania, Turkey, Ireland, Japan and beyond

Time & Location

May 19, 2024, 4:00 PM EDT

All Saints' Episcopal Church , 7 Woodbridge St, South Hadley, MA 01075


About the event

Airs and Nefes: Melodies from Albania, Turkey, Ireland, Japan and beyond

  • Geni Skendo (transverse western flute, wooden Irish flute, shakuhachi)
  • Michael K. Harrist (yayli tanbur, double bass, bendir)
  • Tobey Sol LaRoche (cajón, djembe, cymbals, bells, etc.)

Geni Skendo was born in a pre-internet Albania. With the Adriatic Sea in the distance, his hometown of Tirana felt parochial growing up—ceilings and plateaus everywhere. Skendo wanted an escape and he had two: music and weightlifting. For him, music was an act of rebellion, a mode of transcendence, a portal to other realities. Or as he puts it, “I got high on music.” Skendo grew up studying both Western classical and traditional Albanian music. He absorbed the latter’s polyphony, Middle Eastern tinges, and wild dance rhythms. But he always had a thirst for new sounds. Through films and radio broadcasts, Skendo felt like he could visit other cultures through sound. He soaked in tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, America, and beyond. They would beam from the radio to his ears, on through his fingers, and into the rooms he longed to transform and eventually escape. Songs were bottled messages, unearthed time capsules, stowaway music boxes, and transcendental oracles. Skendo plays Persian nay, Japanese shakuhachi, Irish flute, penny whistle, and his custom-made, signature fluorescent orange contrabass flute. As a youngster, Skendo played for the prestigious Albanian National Folk Ensemble but didn’t truly appreciate his native traditions until his 20s. As an angsty teen, he thought of folk songs as lowly village music, not high art. It was only when he left Albania to study at the Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory—and saw his peers light up to the sounds of his heritage—that he could finally appreciate its depth and beauty. Traditional music became a portal back to his culture. The name of Skendo’s primary ensemble, “Astronauts of Albania,” captures this arc of escape and return. It also telegraphs his imagination and humor. Albania, of course, doesn’t have a space program. So Skendo is flirting with the improbable. Skendo’s other escape was weightlifting. He would alternate flutes and kettlebells, staying fit and agile—musically and otherwise. He later represented Albania in the World Kettlebell Championships in Hungary and has competed in Italy, Canada, and the United States. Skendo has worked with many artists, including the Violent Femmes, and has performed around the world at venues like the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix), Le Poisson Rouge (New York), Montréal Jazz Festival, Vassar Music Festival (Berlin), and Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris (Mexico City). He was voted one of the top ten jazz flute players in Downbeat Magazine for five years running. As an educator, Skendo has taught workshops at the Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, Wellesley College, and North Arizona University, among others. “Uniquely engaging.” - BOSTON GLOBE “Breaking molds with the force of an iconoclast.” - ALL ABOUT JAZZ

Michael K. Harrist is a New York City based multi-instrumentalist and educator, specializing in contrabass and yaylı tanbur. Michael works in a wide array of traditions including Ottoman court music, Turkish folk, Jazz, Western Classical, Hindustani, and American roots music. Michael has concertized across the Americas, Europe and Asia with various ensembles including Labyrinth Ontario Ensemble, Ameranouche, Çeşni Trio, Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma, Orchestrotica, Capillary Action, Sol & Kiel, Michael Kiel Cash and Mitos Orchestra. He is the founding artistic director of Halcyon Arts New England and runs his own private teaching studio. A disciple of W. A. Mathieu, Michael has also studied under Ross Daly, Melisa Yildirim, Ramesh Mishra, George Ruckert, Suhail Yusuf Khan, Fred Stubbs, and Evgenios Voulgaris.

Tobey Sol LaRoche was raised in a household surrounded by instruments from across the globe. He became fascinated with many of them, however the djembe called to him at an early age. Over the years - while he always considered his voice to be his primary instrument - his love of rhythm led him to join a variety of bands on drum kit and percussion, with whom he has continued to learn and thrive. Currently, Tobey can be found elevating local artists on congas, bongos, and assorted shakers and tambourines with the likes of Lexi Weege, JJ Slater, Incus, and a variety of other bands. While these groups have kept him busy for years, getting folks dancing at venues all over New England, much of his free time has been spent composing his own original material on his other love, the guitar. His earlier writing and explorations on numerous instruments can be enjoyed via recordings made by the Americana group, Sol & Kiel, which he co-founded back in 2011 alongside Michael Kiel Cash.

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