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Meet Wolf & Clover, Columbus’ latest cultural phenom

Wolf & Clover will perform this week in Legacy Hall to celebrate the release of their first CD.
Wolf & Clover will perform this week in Legacy Hall to celebrate the release of their first CD. Courtesy of Wolf & Clover

A new listening experience is coming to RiverCenter for the Performing Arts on Saturday in the form of a debut concert.

Wolf & Clover, Columbus’ own Celtic and Irish music group, releases their first album and they’re giving a free concert to celebrate.

Wolf & Clover’s highly anticipated self-titled debut album has been in the works for over a year. The group is comprised of five musicians who will each play multiple instruments over the course of the concert — just as they did on the album.

Stephanie Payne, one of the ensemble’s members, recently corresponded with arts reporter Carrie Beth Wallace to discuss Wolf & Clover’s music, each of the instrumentalists involved, their upcoming concert and their debut album. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Describe Wolf & Clover’s musical style. What can listeners expect to hear?

A: We are heavily influenced by Celtic and Irish music, which is where we get the tunes we play. We also bring bluegrass, blues, country and classical influences into our work as well. Listeners can expect to hear Irish music on a kind of spectrum from more traditional to true fusions of Irish music and other styles.

Our two sets of jigs are played most traditionally, similar to The Chieftans or other traditional groups. On the other end of the spectrum, we worked with Neal Lucas and Mike Jerel Johnson to create an Irish-blues fusion of a traditional Irish song, which was both challenging and a lot of fun.

We will also have a lot of tunes that fall between these two musical extremes. We try to make each piece fun and unique. It keeps things interesting and pushes us all as musicians.

Q: Who are the members of the group? What should we know about each instrumentalist?

A: Jeremy Bass, a graduate of Columbus State University and the University of Kentucky, recently returned to Columbus to direct the guitar program at Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts. As a classical guitarist he has performed throughout the east coast, as well as in Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Ecuador. He also plays mandolin and octave mandolin.

Bass was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to live in Madrid, Spain, for nine months where he will work with composers and musicians in order to promote new solo and chamber music for guitar.

Justin Belew, a graduate of Point University, has worked over 25 years as a professional musician for schools and churches. He has a full music production studio that he operates where he specializes in recording professional voice overs and jingles, “demos” and boutique album projects of various budget sizes. He resides in Columbus with his wife, Jenna.

Jessica Bennett, a native of Columbus, graduated from Columbus State University concentrating on music education, viola and instrument repair. Jessica has recorded in Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., for several country music artists, performed with the Lagrange Symphony Orchestra, and worked with the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus as a string instructor and mentor for the violin ensemble. She has also worked with the Columbus Symphony and other organizations as a violin instructor for the Empowered Youth of Columbus program.

Matthew McCabe is currently assistant professor of audio technology at the Schwob School of Music at CSU. He has an extensive list of credits as a recording engineer of primarily concert hall music. He teaches audio engineering and production as well as composition and popular music courses at CSU and has been studying the Irish language for several years.

I’m currently the executive director of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus. I grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and graduated from CSU’s Schwob School of Music and D. Abbott Turner College of Business. I then completed my master’s degree at Florida State University where I held internships with a variety of performing arts organizations, including FSU Summer Music Camps, Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Tallahassee’ Council on Culture & Arts.

Q: What repertoire will you be playing on the 10th?

A: We will be playing the tunes from our self-titled debut album. Some tunes we will play are: Top of Cork Road, First Avenue in America, Shanagolden, The Wild Goose, The Magpie’s Nest, Drowsy Maggie and Sleepy Maggie.

Many of these are arranged into sets, which is very traditional in Irish music. The concept of the sets allow us additional creativity in shaping pieces from shorter tunes that can go in a million different ways, depending on what we want to express.

Q: Are any of the compositions you’ll be playing originals?

A: Yes, Matthew McCabe has written two tunes, one for each of the jig sets. One is called “Will Smith’s” and the other is “First Avenue.” We have paired these originals with traditional Irish jigs for three tunes in each set of music.

Q: Is your CD out yet? Which digital platforms are offering it?

A: This concert is actually our way of celebrating with the community the release of our first CD. The CD comes out the same day as the concert, Feb 10.

This is a culmination of over a year of work by the band. It is a huge accomplishment for us, and it is hard to describe the excitement to be done and share that with the public. We will have CDs on sale at the concert, and the album will also be on all the major digital stores and streaming platforms.

Q: Does Wolf & Clover have any other upcoming performances scheduled?

A: We have two other performances coming up soon. On March 16, we will play for the Albany Symphony’s fundraiser for the second year in a row. Then on March 17, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. we will play Uptown’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

Q: What else should our readers know about Wolf & Clover?

A: We have a surprising number of instruments represented in the concert. Attendees will hear guitar, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, accordion, banjo, fiddle, viola, piano, flute, multiple Irish whistles, vocals, mandicello and bagpipes. All played by five people. We all play multiple instruments, and there several unusual instruments. That allows for a wide sound palette and an interesting experience for listeners.

We will also be bringing some guest musicians on stage with us, including Neal Lucas and Robert Sharpe and have some surprises in store for the concert that we think will be quite exciting. After the concert, audience members can join the band at The Loft to meet and mingle with the group.

Wolf & Clover is sponsored by local luthier Frank Schley IV and his company Silvan Guitars. He’s been a fantastic partner for the group and is really an amazing asset for Columbus to have here. The concert is also sponsored by the Schwob School of Music.

If you go

What: Wolf & Clover

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10

Where: Legacy Hall, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, 900 Broadway

Cost: Free

Call: The group’s website is www.wolfandclover.com, they can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wolfandclovercolumbus. For direct inquiries, email info@wolfandclover.com.

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