Any fans of music are likely already familiar with NPR’s Tiny Desk series.
For those who aren’t, its a series of highly intimate concerts performed by artists both well-known and somewhat obscure, all recorded at the desk of Bob Boilen, host of NPR’s All Songs Considered.
What makes the series so fun is that it provides a new platform for up-and-coming artists, but it also lets us see some of our favorite superstars in a different light.
By having them perform in such a tiny venue, they often show another side of themselves.
Though some of the best of these concerts have been of big name artists, sometimes new talents show everyone else up.
That was definitely the case with Gaelynn Lea. Lea is an American folk singer and violinist who was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1983.
Her style is rooted in traditional Celtic and Irish folk music. Aside from her musical talents, Lea is also known for her advocacy for those with disabilities. Lea herself was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that complicates the growth of bones and limbs.
Regardless of her difficulties, she’s been able to develop a unique sound and style that won her a spot on NPR’s Tiny Desk.
Because of her disability, Lea was forced to learn how to play violin in an unusual way.
While most violinists play the instrument on their shoulder, Lea performs it more in the style of a cello. Because of that, her style is different than most violinists’—and it involves hitting the lower strings first.
As the performance starts, she begins playing “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun,” a slow and mournful song, with the help of some backing instrumentalists. While she starts playing her violin in the traditional way, she also works in some plucking.
After that, Lea begins singing in a haunting, ethereal voice.
Even for those familiar with the kind of Celtic music she draws on, Lea’s version of this genre is completely her own.
After the first song is over, she gets a huge round of applause from the crowd. After that, she explains a little bit about her style.
Rather than just playing fiddle or violin, she also works in a looping pedal to help her build more complex melodies and to combine traditions from the past and the present. As she starts playing the second song, she uses this to incredible effect.
First, she builds all the bottom layers of the song and loops those—after that, she starts playing a solo melody on top of it!
Needless to say, Lea’s performance is both incredible and inspiring.
Through dealing with her own creative obstacles, she found a unique way to play the violin and an innovative way of blending past and present.
In her story is a lesson that life is all about attitude and outlook. No matter what kinds of issues you may be dealing with, having faith in your own abilities and finding creative ways to solve problems will lead to incredible results!
Congratulations to Gaelynn Lea on winning the NPR Tiny Desk contest! Be sure to check out the full performance in the link posted below:
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