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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

Kruger Brothers perform world premiere in Bristol

The Kruger Brothers
The Kruger Brothers

September 26, 2016

The Kruger Brothers have become world renowned for their classically infused folk/acoustic music. On Oct. 15 in Bristol, Tennessee, the trio performs the worldwide premiere of an original work, commissioned to honor the region, history and legacy of Tennessee's Roan Mountain. The Kruger Brothers are joined by The Kontras Quartet for this performance at the Paramount Center for the Arts.

"The Roan Mountain Suite" is the fifth commission granted to composer Jens Kruger and the Kruger Brothers trio. The performance coincides with the 50th anniversary of the inaugural meeting to conserve the Roan, an effort initiated by the late Stanley A. Murray, husband of patron, Judy Murray, of Kingsport, Tennessee.

Dedicated to the memory of Stanley A. Murray, 1923-1990, "The Roan Mountain Suite" is a musical experience honoring the treasured landscape of the region. Murray was a 14-year chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference, a visionary and champion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Highlands of Roan, and founder of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, initially founded for the protection of Roan Mountain.

"Roan can be perceived in many ways through all of our senses, and countless words. Beautiful words, have been written about the Roan, and glorious photographs have been taken, but I've always felt that Roan needed a wonderful piece of music to pay tribute to it, to honor it," Murray says. "When I heard the Kruger Brothers and works that Jens had composed, I knew I'd found my composer and my musicians."

"The Roan Mountain Suite" is a vibrant new example of Jens Kruger's ability to enlist the illustrative power of music to tell a story in eloquent detail. While Jens plays in a melodic style that has roots in bluegrass, his music is distinguished by long, melodic passages and a complex compositional foundation, often building on jazz or classical themes and techniques.

"Jens is able to capture the essence of a landscape and translate it into music," Murray says.

Jens Kruger is nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year Award for 2016. He was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music in 2013, the fourth recipient of this prestigious honor. Jens is known for his innovative banjo composition and performance, integrating folk music with European classical music. Jens was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Originally from Switzerland, Jens Kruger began playing North American folk music at an early age and was inspired by recordings of Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe and other progenitors of country, bluegrass and folk music. He writes the music for all of The Kruger Brothers' original tunes, collaborating with brother, Uwe Kruger, for lyrics that complement the music. In 2006, Jens began his official venture into the themes and forms of classical music when he was commissioned to write "Music from the Spring" for banjo, guitar, bass and full symphonic orchestra. Jens has since received four commissions to write classical pieces which The Kruger Brothers have performed with various orchestral ensembles: "Appalachian Concerto" with string quartet; "Spirit of the Rockies" (commissioned by Canada's Banff Center) with a small orchestra; "Lucid Dreamer," a chamber music piece written specifically for and commissioned by the Kontras Quartet; and now, the "Roan Mountain Suite."

"Music is an enhancer," Jens Kruger says. "For instance, you can look at a landscape and the right music enhances the emotion you have for that imagery. Music also shapes, to a certain degree, your perception of the landscape."

Born and raised in Europe, the brothers began singing and playing instruments at a very young age, and began their professional career in 1979. With the more recent addition of New York City native, Joel Landsberg, (who comes with his own noteworthy musical pedigree, having studied with jazz great Milt Hinton), the trio has been performing together since 1995, and is based in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Topics: Music