Coming To Stone Church Arts: Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma, Contemporary Modal Music

BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT: As part of their third annual New England tour on the back of their new double record “Lunar,” Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma will stop in Bellows Falls to perform a Stone Church Arts concert on Saturday, May 19th at 7:30 p.m. Based on the island of Crete in Greece, Daly and Thoma are masters of the Mediterranean lyra. In this performance, their only one in Vermont on their brief New England tour, they will be joined by Tev Stevig (oud) and Michael K. Harris (double bass) of Çesni Trio.


PRESS RELEASE * Photos courtesy of Stone Church Arts

Music doesn’t understand national borders. It can’t be so easily constrained. Music grows, it travels, and it resonates. Traditions, sounds, styles all interconnect. The modal music that Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma explore seems to exist outside time, weaving strands from so many parts of the world and combining past, present, and future together in gliding, mesmerizing melodies. “Modal music – music that’s based around tones or modes rather than Western scales – covers a region that stretches from the north west of Africa to west China,” Daly explains. “All of those areas have things in common, and they’re all constantly changing and evolving.”

Daly and Thoma are masters of the Mediterranean lyra, a bowed fiddle that also has more than a dozen sympathetic strings. Daly has spent his life exploring the possibilities and connections in modal music, recording and performing all over the globe as well as hosting the annual Labyrinth music workshop in his home village of Houdetsi on the island of Crete. Daly and Thoma appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2015 and are regular visitors to the U.S. almost every year. Their new release “Lunar” has spent several months in the top of the Transglobal World Music Chart, rubbing shoulders with releases from Boubacar Traore, Anouar Brahem and Jivan Gasparyan.

Many years before what we call "World Music" appeared on the scene, certain individuals had already understood the enormous value and vast variety of the world's various musical traditions and had dedicated their lives to their study. One such person is Ross Daly.

Although of Irish descent, Ross Daly does not really fit into any particular ethnic stereotype given that his life has been spend in many different parts of the world and his home for the last 35 years is the island of Crete in Greece. Ross Daly, at a very early age, discovered that music was, in his own words, "the language of my dialogue with that which I perceive to be sacred."

This dialogue eventually led him to the great modal traditions of the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent where he finally found the musical archetypes that he had been searching for all his life. In these traditions he encountered music which was not merely a vehicle of self-expression, but which was able to take one beyond what one normally perceived to be the boundaries of one's self into other trans-personal realms of experience.

This discovery changed everything in Ross Daly's life and he subsequently gave up all other activities and dedicated his life to the study of the innermost secrets of these musical traditions as well as to the art of composition. He subsequently travelled extensively, studying under many of the world's greatest masters of modal traditions. Since 1975 he has been based on the island of Crete where he is universally recognized as one of the foremost experts on the island's rich musical tradition.

He is also especially well known and respected for his ability to bring artists of different and seemingly unrelated traditions together in collaborations of unique quality and depth. In 1982 he established the Labyrinth Musical Workshop which is today situated in the village of Houdetsi 20 kms south of the capital city of Herakleion.

The Musical Workshop Labyrinth (www.labyrinthmusic.gr) is a unique educational institution dedicated to the study of the world's modal musical traditions and every year Ross Daly and his colleagues organize an impressive number of seminars and master-classes which are taught by many of the world's greatest master-musicians.

Each year hundreds of students from all over the world arrive in Houdetsi in order to study with some of the most renowned teachers of modal music from all over the world. Ross Daly's impressive collection of more than 250 instruments which he has collected over the years during his travels is also permanently on exhibition in the building of Labyrinth.

After many years of intensive training in a variety of musical traditions, Ross Daly turned his attention largely to composition drawing heavily on all of the knowledge which he acquired during his long apprenticeships. Today he has released more than thirty five albums of his own compositions as well as of his own arrangements of traditional melodies that he collected during his travels.

The island of Crete in Greece still provides a base for his personal and musical research as he continues traveling around the world performing his music. Kelly Thoma was born in Piraeus in 1978. Since 1995, she has been studying the lyra with Ross Daly and three years later started traveling with him and his group, “Labyrinth”, participating in concerts in Europe, Asia, Australia and the U.S. She has taken part in many projects with musicians from various different traditions from other countries.

Being a member of "Labyrinth" and Labyrinth Musical Workshop she has had the chance to meet and play with many important musicians such as the Trio Chemirani, Omer Erdogdular, Derya Turkan, Zohar Fresco, Pedram Khavar Zamini, Dhruba Ghosh, Ballake Sissoko, Erdal Erzincan, Mehmet Erenler,Yurdal Tokcan, Ustad Mohammed Rahim Khushnawaz and many more. She participates in many of Ross Daly's projects : Ross Daly Quartet, Seyir, Iris, White Dragon (...) as well as in ToksoFolk String Quartet, (with Anne Hytta, Eleonore Billy and Sigrun Eng) and has performed in Carnegie Hall, Theatre de la Ville, Queen Elizabeth Hall, San Francisco WMF, Rainforest WMF, Womadelaide, Rudolstadt and many important venues and festivals around the world.

Experience Contemporary Modal Music with Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma, masters of the Mediterranean lyra, on Saturday, May 19 at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 20 Church St., Bellows Falls, Vermont. Tickets are limited and available in advance: $20 general admission, $15 for seniors, and $45 for premium, reserved seats. At the door, prices increase by $5 to $25 general admission and $20 for seniors. Information and tickets are available in person at Village Square Booksellers on the Square in Bellows Falls, by phone at 802-460-0110, and online at www.stonechurcharts.org.