The Pocahontas County Opera House will present a two-part concert Friday, November 15, at 7:30 p.m., with genre-defying cellist and songwriter Ben Sollee and the multi-instrumentalist duo of Daniel Joseph Dorff and Ronnie Kuller.
Tickets are $8. Children 17 and younger are admitted free of charge.
Musicians often claim they are “giving themselves” to their listeners, but it’s rarely as true as on Ben Sollee’s fourth album, Half-Made Man, a revealing, deeply moving album that explores a man trying to figure himself out, just as we all are. Known for his thrilling cello-playing that incorporates new techniques to create a unique mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B, Sollee possesses rough-smooth-smoky vocal stylings and a knack for intricate arrangements that have brought about comparisons to Sufjan Stevens. Sollee shares himself completely with his audience, whether it be by personal lyrics, or his commitment to the environment. Sollee can often be found riding a bicycle to his concerts (cello strapped to the back), which have become legendary for their intimacy.
Opera House concert-goers may remember Sollee from his appearance there in July 2010 alongside Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, Daniel Martin Moore and Dorff, as part of the Appalachian Voices tour.
Sollee first gained major notice with his 2008 debut, Learning to Bend, which led NPR’s “Morning Edition” to call him one of the “Top Ten Great Unknown Artists” of the year. Later, “All Things Considered” called his debut “an inspired collection of acoustic, folk and jazz-flavored songs, filled with hope and the earnest belief that the world is good.” Around the same time, Sollee was touring the world with Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet alongside Grammy nominee Casey Driessen and multi-Grammy winner Bela Fleck. Sollee’s music drew the attention of My Morning Jacket frontman Yim Yames, who produced his second full-length album, a collaboration with Daniel Martin Moore. In 2010 they released Dear Companion, a stunning collection of songs meant to inspire environmental stewardship. The next year Sollee contributed his cello stylings to My Morning Jacket’s hit album Circuital and released Inclusions, a sonically awe-inspiring album about relationships that was called “structurally brilliant” by Slant and “stunning” by No Depression.
Dorff and Kuller came together to record “The Quiltbox Sessions” in Louisville, Kentucky in 2012, “The Quiltbox Sessions” is a collection of vignettes composed by Kuller and Dorff, as well as themes from Bach, Mozart and Prokofiev re-imagined through the lens of folk tradition. The project had its beginnings as a forum to sketch ideas for the Chicago-based writing collective and theatrical marching band Mucca Pazza, of which both Kuller and Dorff are members. The joint effort soon developed a life of its own.
Dorff is a multi-instrumentalist, teacher and composer. He has performed on five continents and in more than 25 countries and has two records under his own name: “Now!” released in 2008 and “Living Room” released in 2011. Dorff has performed and recorded with Jim James, STOMP, Mucca Pazza, Daniel Martin Moore, Sollee and many more. In addition to composing for Mucca Pazza he has written music for the Cincinnati Ballet, and for the Performance Time Arts Series at the Contemporary Dance Theater in Cincinnati. He is on faculty at Northern Kentucky University where he is professor of drumset in the Jazz Studies department.
Ronnie Kuller is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, teaching artist, and member of Mucca Pazza. She has composed and performed music for Theater Oobleck and Zephyr Dance Ensemble, and is an artistic associate of Opera-Matic. Since 2006, she’s been an Artist-in-Residence at Snow City Arts, where she teaches music to pediatric inpatients at Stroger Hospital of Cook County and Rush Children’s Hospital. Kuller has performed at Lincoln Center, Millennium Park, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Mass MoCA, the Watermill Centre, and 92Y Tribeca. Her compositions have been performed live on Chicago Public Radio’s Morning Shift and recorded onto wax cylinder at Edison National Historical Park.
Opera House doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at pocahontasoperahouse.org and at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Financial support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals, Pendleton Community Bank, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Allegheny Mountain Radio and the Law Office of Roger D. Forman.