The Epichorus brings its blend of Indo-Arabic roots and contemporary music inspired by old sounds to Sheffield – Berkshire Eagle

The Epichorus performs at the Race Brook Lodge on Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9.
2021 Grammy Award-nominee Priya Darshini performs as part of The Epichorus at the Race Brook Lodge in 2014. The ensemble returns to Sheffield on Oct. 8 and 9.

The Epichorus performs at the Race Brook Lodge on Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9.
2021 Grammy Award-nominee Priya Darshini performs as part of The Epichorus at the Race Brook Lodge in 2014. The ensemble returns to Sheffield on Oct. 8 and 9.
SHEFFIELD — In a rustic New England barn, far away sounds are close at hand.
On Oct. 8 and 9 at Sheffield’s Race Brook Lodge Barnspace, Brooklyn-based ensemble, The Epichorus, will perform a contemporary interpretation of traditional music from the Middle East, Greece, Egypt and India, bringing ancient poetry sung in Hebrew and Hindi into the present day.
The Epichorus: A two-night event
Where: Race Brook Lodge, 864 South Undermountain Road, Sheffield
Admission: $20. Tickets sold individually for each part. Attendance limited to 100.
Information and tickets: 413-229-2916, 
COVID-19 safety precautions: Proof of vaccination or recent negative test required, masks recommended.
Part 1:
An Evening with The Epichorus
What: An evening with the full ensemble of The Epichorus, highlighting songs of mourning and healing.
When: 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8
Part 2:
The Epichorus: Solos, Duos, Trios & Sextet
What: Birthed from the musical landscape of the pandemic, the Epichorus will highlight sounds created in solitude, before coming together as the full ensemble.
When: 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9
Proof of vaccination or recent negative test required, masks recommended.
A full ensemble concert on Friday is followed on Saturday by smaller configuration compositions written during shutdown.
Founded and led by Zach Fredman, who plays the oud, a Middle Eastern lute, the group includes co-founder violinist Megan Gould, Max ZT on hammered dulcimer, percussionist Rich Stein and Daniel Ori on upright bass.
Joining them is New York-based south Indian singer Priya Darshini, whose debut solo album “Periphery” recently earned a 2021 Grammy Award nomination for Best New Age Album.
“I grew up playing classical guitar, and at a certain point fell in love with the oud,” said Fredman during a phone interview from Cape Cod. “It took me on a path studying Middle Eastern music.”
At New York University, the Missouri native switched his major from guitar to religion, becoming a rabbi and leading Manhattan’s New Shul congregation for 10 years.
At rabbinical school, he spent a semester in Jerusalem, where mid-20th century Jewish immigration created musical communities from Egypt, North Africa, Syria, Iraq and Turkey — “really distinct lineages,” Fredman said.
“I had just enough education in Arabic music to understand what was going on, and ran around from teacher to teacher taking lessons.”
Shabbat mornings, he rose early to hear vocal improvisation by master musicians at a Syrian synagogue.
Back home he wrote songs, gathering friends in 2012 to form The Epichorus and record an album.
From a stable of a dozen musicians, he brings his core group to Sheffield.
“Priya is coming off the success of her solo album,” he said. “She’s married to Max, the dulcimer player, so they have a very beautiful chemistry on stage.”
International violinist Gould studied with Fredman’s late Lebanese oud teacher, Bassam Saba. “We share the Arabic music background,” he said.
Bassist Daniel Ori “is more of a jazz player. Growing up in Israel, he was exposed to Arabic and Middle Eastern music, so has an appreciation for all the subtleties.”
Multi-instrument percussionist Rich Stein “is the comedian,” Fredman says. “He’ll pick up the microphone and tell jokes in the middle of the set. He’s very funny.”
They perform songs primarily written in Hebrew.
“Most of the repertoire is music I’ve composed, but I’m not a lyricist,” Fredman said. “I study beautiful poetry from the 2nd to 14th century.”
Their 2018 album “Najara” is named after 16th-century poet and rabbi of Gaza, Israel Najara. He wrote religious poetry to folk melodies heard in taverns, Fredman said. “I love the sense that the religious and secular boundary can be crossed, and music brought across it.”
Darshini, he noted, sings melodies first in Hebrew then in a language she’s more fluent in like Hindi or Tamil.
Mixing Middle Eastern and Indian cultures tests the limits of world musical boundaries, Fredman said. “We’re attentive to that line, how to be respectful of the traditions.”
Live at National Sawdust – the Epichorus (CD release with special guests)
A lifelong classical Indian music student raised in Mumbai, singer-songwriter Darshini has sung and voiced Bollywood films and television commercials; acted in Hollywood and on stage, and led Raga music ensembles.
She studied film in New York and worked before and behind the camera in India and Hollywood. As an athlete she championed 100-mile Ultra Marathons in the Himalayas.
She recorded extensively, with Pearl Jam and many others, and toured with musicians in India and the U.S., including Roy “Futureman” Wooten based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Her American partner Max ZT, whom she met in India, introduced her to Fredman.
“His music was so beautiful, I was very excited to be a part of it,” Darshini recalled, saying the ensemble feels like family. “They’re all so exceptionally talented, it feels like we’re taking people on a journey.”
Expect a sublime evening of music that is transportive, said Casey Meade Rothstein-Fitzpatrick, general manager of Race Brook Lodge, which has been under his family’s stewardship for the past 30 years.
Having lived in Greece, India and New York City before returning to the Berkshires, he presents performers across a broad cultural and musical spectrum — from Mandolin Orange to Al Sarah and the Nubatones — as well as classical Indian music.
“It’s really eclectic, there’s not a specific genre,” Rothstein-Fitzpatrick said, “we only bring in people who we have personal fondness for.
“The Epichorus’ level of musicianship, emotional and spiritual sensitivity, openness to different styles, beautiful sense of harmony, and incredible instrumentation is going to make for a very special musical experience.”
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