Blending tradition, experimentation, and sheer nonsense in roughly equal measure, the Idumea Quartet deconstruct and reconstitute Appalachian folk music, drawing strong influences from minimalism and experimental music. Using the traditional string quartet instrumentation while coming from a shared background in traditional music, the quartet seeks to bring the trad repertoire into conversation with a chamber music aesthetic. Add harmonized singing into the mix and the result is a sound which is both high and lonesome and symphonic.
The band’s first unofficial performance came at the end of 2016 in a small pub in Kent; a serendipitous combination of people who all knew of each other, but had never all been in the same room before, let alone played together. The resulting gig and the unique conjoining of different styles and approaches made each of them feel that there was something worth exploring. So, six months later, they met, performed again and started to shape more clearly the sound of the Idumea Quartet. Debut album More Than One shows traditional Appalachian music in a new light, complemented and transformed by the aesthetic of a classical string quartet, albeit one in which there is no written music, content is originally improvised and vocals also take a prominent position.
Janie Rothfield is a powerhouse American Fiddler and clawhammer banjo player who is widely recognized for her traditional and inventive style and her own award winning original tunes and songs . She has been performing, recording and teaching music that is rooted in Traditional American Old Time and Celtic Music since her teens when she started playing with older generation musicians from New England, North Carolina and Quebec. Janie has traveled the world with her unique brand of traditional based music including the UK, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Australia, Canada and throughout the USA. She has over 15 recordings to her credit, including iFIDDLE theyBANJO, OUT OF THIN AIR (all Janie originals), PUFFNSAW (with Harmonica master Brendan Power) OFF THE CUFF AND ON THE FLY (with Hen’s Teeth) and MORE THAN ONE (with The Idumea Quartet). Janie currently performs internationally as a solo artist and with HEN’S TEETH (with cellist Nathan Bontrager), Scottish Singer/Guitarist ALLAN CARR (her husband), CORACREE (Contra Dance and Folk Band) LITTLE MISSY (with daughter Shona Carr), THE JANIE ROTHFIELD OLD TIME TRIO and Breton Fiddle star, YUNA LEON. Janie has taught both fiddle and banjo at camps, festivals and workshops around the world and is the founder and director of Janie’s Jumpstart Weekend Music Camps. www.janerothfield.com
Hailing originally from Scotland, but now based in London, Ewan Macdonald is a highly accomplished fiddler and cittern player. Whilst influenced by his background in Scottish traditional music, he enjoys most exploring the crossover between that and Old Time music in the bands that he plays in. These include the Wanton String Band, Root & Branch and the highly acclaimed Band of Burns who have just released their much anticipated first studio album The Thread. and with whom he has already toured with this year, including an appearance at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections.
Becka Wolfe was born in Canterbury, studied in Edinburgh and has lived in Syria, Palestine and now Greece. Following a classical training on violin and performing in orchestras and choirs, she diverged into Scottish and Irish trad and somehow segued into the Old Time repertoire. After several years in Edinburgh playing the circuit she now lives Athens running a multilingual mobile library for refugees whilst also playing Greek, Ottoman and Arabic music on violin and oud. She has recorded with several projects, including Gillespie & Wolfe, Wayward Jane, New Urban Frontier and now the Idumea Quartet.
Cellist and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bontrager, from the United States, is at home in a variety of musical styles ranging from Renaissance music to the traditional music of the Appalachian mountains to avant-garde jazz. He spent his younger years, alongside technical and classical lessons, playing in rock and pop bands and singing a cappella sacred music. After focusing on technical development as an undergraduate and Masters student in classical cello, Bontrager quickly branched out into a variety of genres as a professional performer. In addition, he studied the viola da gamba which he uses both in early music contexts and in contemporary and improvised music. Years spent living in New Haven, Connecticut plunged Bontrager into the world of improvised music. With the improvised and chamber music trio, Broadcloth, he performed throughout the United States and composed numerous pieces. In addition, he performed and collaborated regularly with Anthony Braxton, Carl Testa, Joe Morris, the Tri-Centric Foundation, among others. During these years he also became a proficient interpreter of Appalachian traditional music on the fiddle and banjo as well. In 2012, Bontrager moved to Cologne, Germany to study Baroque cello and viola da gamba. He quickly became an active part of the European music scene and tours regularly throughout the continent and the UK as well as remaining active back home in the USA. Always involved in starting new and relevant projects, Bontrager is an original member of Impakt, the collective for improvised and contemporary music in Cologne, and the RundfunkTanzorchester Ehrenfeld, Germany’s only active television orchestra. In demand with both local and visiting ensembles, he regularly tours and performs with Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians, the acclaimed production of Robert Wilson’s “Der Sandmann” as well as various traditional and folk performers and ensembles. Current bands and projects include the James Ilgenfritz Quartet (feat. Gerry Hemingway), the Idumea Quartet, ENSO, theO’Henry Consort, the Octopus, and many others.