When guitarist Sharon Isbin played with the West Virginia Symphony a decade ago, she did not know that it was the beginning of a journey that would culminate in her latest album,
Journey to the New World
While in Charleston, she researched all manner of fiddle and Celtic tunes; studying scores and meeting musicians who played Appalachian music. She says, “the whole album started in West Virginia.”
Sharon Isbin's West Virginia inspiration
Isbin collaborated with composer John Duarte on the Joan Baez Suite, and subsequently Baez agreed to sing "Wayfaring Stranger" on this album. The album is chronological – starting with Renaissance duets, with both parts performed by Isbin, to 18th century English Folksongs and then moves to Andrew York’s Andecy, a piece which serves as a musical bridge to early America.
Sharon Isbin talks about the music on Journey to the New World
Virtuoso fiddler Mark O’Connor (interview) composed the Strings and Threads Suite as a duet. Since O’Connor is also a guitarist, Isbin figured the parts would be reasonable, but a month before the premiere, she soon found out different. Isbin reveals the humorous back-story behind their collaboration.
Sharon Isbin interview about working with Mark O'Connor
Guitar playing has been a male-dominated field, even the classical variety. Truth be told, attitudes back in the 70’s were that girls could not be taken seriously. I asked her if attitudes have changed.
Also, many guitarists dream of the level that Isbin has reached, but few might be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve it. I asked about her “typical” day.
Sharon Isbin on becoming a guitarist
My thanks to Sharon Isbin for being so gracious after five hours of interviews! You can hear more samples of her album Journey to the New World and pick up your own copy here.
Here's a video of Sharon Isbin performing selections from this album, including a duet with Mark O'Connor.
Sharon Isbin and Mark O'Connor