Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Ofra Harnoy — On The Rock (Analekta)
"We came here for a vacation, and it was within days that we decided to start looking for a house here and we found the perfect house, which is on a lake. I can look out and see eagles flying across the lake. Every day the weather's so different that it's like watching an ever-changing painting."
That beautiful scene in the province of Newfoundland is what inspired Ofra Harnoy's 44th recording, On the Rock. It's her second recording with her husband, multi-instrumentalist and arranger, Mike Herriott.
"Well, 'The Rock' is kind of a slang or nickname for the province of Newfoundland. My husband and I actually moved here about two years ago and we came up with a list of music that we thought could be beautifully arranged to suit the cello.
"Our hope with the album was to be true and respectful to the Newfoundland tradition but also share my love of this music through the voice of the cello. So, the music had to be suitable for that. I think we came up with a beautiful collection of songs that really tell a story. I think it's a universal story for any seaside or oceanside community. It has the love, the longing, the ballad, the pub culture, and the fun."
What were some of the challenges Mike faced as the arranger trying to figure out how the cello intertwines with the pieces?
"Well, I think having worked with me on Back to Bach he kind of knew what I was capable of and I'd always like to go out of my comfort zone. So he really had no limitations. He pushed my comfort zone a little bit. We did some fiddling, which I'd never done before, which is brutally hard on the cello. I had a lot of fun and I had some help from Kendall Carson, who's the fiddler on this album. She showed me some fiddling techniques, which was a lot of fun learning and preparing."
"St. John's Waltz" and "Cara's Waltz" are interwoven together, but are you borrowing from Bach?
"During the pandemic, while Mike and I were busy working on this album, every once in a while we'd make a little goofy video and put it on YouTube. I woke up one morning and I said, 'Mike, you wouldn't believe I had this crazy dream that I was sitting in my pajamas with my big fuzzy bunny slippers playing the prelude to the Bach Suite and then our stuffed animal whale that we have downstairs crept upstairs and attacked me.' He said, 'We've got to make a video.'
"So, we spent the day filming the video and also recording all the music. I did the Bach cello suite and I also played the double bass for the first time in my life. This was while Mike was working on the arrangement of 'St. John's Waltz.' He sat down at the piano and he said, 'Well, what do you think of starting with a Bach-like beginning not exactly the Bach suite, and a slightly different rhythm, but almost Bach-like beginning?' It melts together so beautifully with the rock and roll voice of Alan Doyle."
Could you talk more about "Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's?"
"Well, it's actually the very first piece that I heard coming here to 'The Rock,' coming to Newfoundland, and loved it so much that instead of sending a paper wedding invitation Mike and I actually recorded this as a duet and put pictures of ourselves in it to send to all the guests.
"Last year, we actually did an arrangement for voice, piano, flugelhorn, cello and orchestra with the Newfoundland Symphony, which Mike wrote the arrangement. It just seemed a natural thing to put on the album."