Women in Song: Maeve Gilchrist with Nic Gareiss

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 8:00 pm

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Described by one critic as “a phenomenal harp player who can make her instrument ring with unparalleled purity,” Maeve Gilchrist has taken the Celtic harp to new levels of performance.

Maeve’s innovative folk-jazz fusion approach to her instrument stretches its harmonic limits and improvisational possibilities. She is as at home playing with a traditional Irish folk group as she is with an American string band or a contemporary ensemble.

She also maintains a widely-acclaimed duo project with percussive dancer Nic Gareiss, a Michigan-born dancer, musician, and dance researcher who has studied a broad variety of percussive movement forms from around the world.

Sharing a deep respect for traditional music and culture while drawing on contemporary elements of music, dance, rhythm and improvisation, Maeve and Nic have emerged from the vibrant new acoustic scene as innovators in their fields.

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About Maeve Gilchrist:

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Maeve‘s innovative approach to her instrument stretches its harmonic limits and improvisational possibilities. She is as at home as a soloist with an internationally renowned orchestra as she is playing with a traditional Irish folk group or using electronic augmentation in a more contemporary, improvisatory setting.
She tours internationally as a band leader as well as maintaining a number of collaborations including a duo project with percussive dancer Nic Gareiss, a more electronics based project with Viktor Krauss and as a member of the Irish network commissioned ‘Edges of Light’ quartet: a multidisciplinary group featuring the piper David Power, dancer Colin Dunne and the fiddler Tola Custy. She has appeared at such major music events as Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Tanglewood Jazz festival, the World Harp Congress in Amsterdam and the opening of the Scottish Parliament. She has played with such luminaries asEsperanza Spalding, Tony Trishka, Ambrose Akinmusire, Solas and Darol Anger.
Maeve has released five albums to date, including her most recent recording Vignette, on Adventure Records, with Nashville legend Viktor Krauss while on her own label her solo Ostinato Project is a beguiling exploration of the possibilities of her instrument.
Maeve was the first lever harpist to join the faculty of the iconic Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she taught for five years before switching to a visiting roots department artist this spring. She has written several instructional books published by Hal Leonard Music. Also an in-demand composer and arranger; this year, Maeve premiered her first concerto for lever harp and symphony orchestra and is currently working on a number of commissions including a string quartet for Irish harp and string quartet to be premiered in Scotland in the spring of 2018.

About Nic Gareiss:

Michigan-born dancer, musician, and dance researcher Nic Gareiss has studied a broad variety of percussive movement forms from around the world. At the age of eight he began taking tap dance lessons with Sam and Lisa Williams at Vision Studio of Performing Arts in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Soon after, he was exposed to fiddle music and other percussive dance forms at the Wheatland Music Organization’s annual Traditional Arts Weekend. It was there that he had his first instruction in Appalachian clogging with Michigan dance mentor, Sheila Graziano. As a teenager, Nic also studied Irish step dance with John Heinzman, T.C.R.G., Appalachian flat-footing with Ira Bernstein, Québécois step dance with Benoit Bourque, and improvisation and composition with Sandy Silva.  
 In 2001, Nic began an educational relationship with the internationally-renowned company, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. After meeting Footworks’ director, NEA Choreography Fellow Eileen Carson at the Augusta Heritage Center dance camp, Nic was invited to spend nine weeks apprenticing with the company in Annapolis, Maryland. While working with Footworks, Gareiss danced in their evening-length theater show, Incredible Feets as well as two new collaborative works: SoleMates, with StepAfrika and The Crossing, with Grammy-winning recording artist Tim O’Brien.
In 2007, Nic spent a year studying at the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick, Ireland. There he studied Cape Breton step dance with Mats Melin as well as Irish dance and choreography with Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain, T.C.R.G, A.D.C.R.G. He also studied with contemporary Irish dancer Colin Dunne and sean-nós dancer Seosamh Ó Néachtain.
Nic has performed with many of the luminaries of traditional music and dance, including The Chieftains, The Gloaming, Dervish, Gráda, Beoga, Téada, FIDIL, Le Vent du Nord, Genticorum, Dr. Anthony Barrand, Rhythm in Shoes, Buille, Liz Carroll, Frankie Gavin, Martin Hayes, Bruce Molsky, Darol Anger, Bill Frisell and Alasdair Fraser. His dancing has been seen on CMT in Uncle Earl’s music video Streak O’ Lean, Steak O’ Fat and also on Ireland’s RTÉ 2 in the film Unsung, commissioned by the Irish Arts Council, which premiered during the 2008 Dublin Dance Festival.  He has performed for the Irish head of state, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and American Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He collaborates regularly with Cleek Schrey, Maeve Gilchrist, Simon Chrisman, Allison de Groot, Brittany Haas, Jordan Tice, and as a member of the quartet This is How we Fly. Gareiss has concertized in fourteen countries and continues to tour and teach internationally, working with dance communities and making solo percussive dance performances. 
In 2011, Nic received a commission from the Cork Opera House to create two new solo percussive dance works for Reich’s pieces Six Marimbas and Clapping Music in honor of the composer’s 75thbirthday. The pieces were hailed by the Irish Times as “a leftfield tour-de-force with irresistible wow factor.” In 2013, Gareiss served as community liaison for the Wheatland Music Organization’s 40th Anniversary production Carry it on…, supervising a cast of 70 dancers from rural communities across the state of Michigan. Gareiss received a Traditional Arts Commission from the Irish Arts Council to create an evening-length fiddle and dance duo show with Caoimhín Ó Raghalliah. The resulting piece, Mice Will Play had a sell-out run at the Project Arts Centre during the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival. In 2015, Nic was recognized by Michigan State Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program as a master traditional artist.
Nic has taught workshops in percussive dance technique and improvisation internationally including at Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp in northern California, as well as for Scottish Culture & Traditions Organization, The University of Limerick, Michigan State University, Beloit College, Wesleyan University, Princeton University, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Derry, Northern Ireland. Through workshops for both dancers and musicians, Nic seeks to remind students of the crucial, intrinsic, and historic place that percussive dance has held in the formation and development of many world music traditions as well as encourage dancers with the innately sonic capabilities of movement.  
Nic holds degrees in Anthropology and Music from Central Michigan University.  In 2011, he earned a distinction from the Norwegian University for Science and Technology’s IPEDAM Erasmus Intensive for Ethnochoreologists. Nic completed post-graduate studies in 2012, earning a MA in Ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick. His thesis based upon ethnographic work with LGTBQ competitive step dancers was the first piece of scholarship to query the experience of sexual minorities within Irish dance. Gareiss’ essay, An Buachaillín Bán: Reflections on One Queer’s Performance within Traditional Irish Music & Dance” appears in the book Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings edited by Clare Croft on Oxford University Press. His present research seeks to illuminate discursive formations of national identity, gender and sexual orientation via ethnography and embodied practice.