Windham Hill’s Winter Solstice brings Celtic holiday music to Weis Center

LEWISBURG — The Weis Center will end its fall performing arts season with a Celtic holiday performance, with Windham Hill’s Winter Solstice at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive.

Master musicians who made their names on the Windham Hill label, pianist Liz Story; singer and multi-instrumentalist Barbara Higbie; and guitarist Sean Harkness, have created a special show in celebration of Winter Solstice. This ensemble in various forms has toured nationally for the past 10 years in support of the recording series that sold over 8 million copies.

The significance of Winter Solstice is recognized in indigenous traditions around the world. Highlighted with warmth, humor and stunningly pristine performances, this concert brings the best of acoustic music to joyfully mark a special moment in time.

Raised in Indiana, Barbara Higbie grew up the youngest of six kids in a very musical family. “Growing up, we went to church a lot, listened to classical, pop, jazz and folk,” she said. “Joni Mitchell and Carol King, as well as Bach and Bernstein were huge influences on me.”

At age 13, Higbie and her family moved to Ghana, West Africa, where she studied with master drummer Mustafa Tetty Addy. After musical studies at Mills College, studies at the Sorbonne and a sojourn performing in Paris, she returned to West Africa with a Watson Fellowship to collect traditional music.

A professional musician since age 17, Higbie has played everything from traditional jazz, bluegrass and Irish to new classical music, blues and African pop. She is known for her ability to compose in a style that is both genre bending and accessible.

Higbie has 13 solo and group recordings to her name, as well as contributions to 10 compilations that have sold in the millions. She was the first female instrumentalist to compose and record for Windham Hill Records, 1982’s “Tideline,” a duet project with violinist, Darol Anger. Tideline’s unique sound became an instant classic, thanks in part to Higbie’s innovative and moving compositions.

A Grammy-nominated, Bammy award winning composer, pianist, fiddler, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Barbara Higbie has performed on more than 100 albums, including Carlos Santana’s 2007 release. Her latest solo release, 2014’s “Scenes from Life” was recorded for at Lucas Film’s Skywalker Sound.

Higbie has performed with Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Terry Riley, the Kronos Quartet, Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Laurie Lewis, Will Ackerman, Cris Williamson, Bobby McFerrin, Milton Nascimento, Spyro Gyra, Michael Hedges, Greg Brown, Ferron and Vinnie Colaiuta, among others.

A native of California, Story began her musical training as a young child, mastering Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 11 by the age of 11. Story studied piano formally at the Juilliard School of Music and also enrolled at Hunter College. She studied at the Dick Grove Music Workshops in Studio City.

When Windham Hill’s founder, Will Ackerman, heard a tape of Story’s compositions, he signed her to record her debut album in 1983, “Solid Colors.” Story has since recorded 11 more albums, including “Unaccountable Effect” (1985), “Escape of the Circus Ponies” (1990), “My Foolish Heart” (1992), “Liz Story” (1996), “17 Seconds to Anywhere” (1998), and “Pure Liz Story” (2006).

Story recently signed with DMI after recording a number of best-selling, critically acclaimed albums for Windham Hill and RCA Records. Those releases highlighted her classical piano background, fused with a wide range of styles embracing jazz, folk, pop and impressionistic music.

Harkness, a musical artist and guitarist living in the New York City suburb of Jersey City Heights, composes music for solo guitar and for small ensembles, and supports many singers, musicians, and theatrical productions.

In 1994, Harkness left Burlington, Vermont for New York City to immerse himself in their music scene. Known especially for duets and ensemble work with singers from Broadway, television, and screen, Harkness is now a first-call guitarist who compliments an exhaustive client list of artists and productions worldwide. Sean performs extensively both as a solo artist and sideman worldwide, and in New York City’s finest jazz, rock, folk, cabaret, blues, rhythm and blues and singer-songwriter venues.

Each year, Harkness performs in concert halls around the country with other Windham Hill artists such as Higbie, Story, Will Ackerman, Jim Brickman, Tuck and Patti, David Arkenstone and Samite.

For the Winter Solstice, a mixture of seasonal and original music will be performed, including Story’s Greensleeves,” one of the most beautiful piano pieces ever recorded. As a master guitarist, Harkness always expects to bring the house down with his version of “My Favorite Things.” The trio will also perform group and solo pieces, featuring Higbie’s championship fiddle playing and her vocal on “Calling All Angels” and “White Snow,” and for Hanukkah a song sung in Hebrew.

The three artists are very close and have toured and performed for years. “Liz and I shared hotel rooms in the early days of the label and have been like sisters ever since,” Higbie said. “Sean is a force of nature and is always so entertaining and bright. I love them both so much and can’t wait for a chance to share our feeling of community, warmth and humor to the audience.”

For Higbie and her fellow artists, every concert is an artistic creation, and she hopes this concert will be a unique and transporting experience for everyone involved.

“Folks can expect to laugh, be moved by music, feel warmth and joy for both the season and for the dedicated artistry of the performers,” she said. “You will be hearing three people who are masters of their craft and love working together.”

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