Equipped with an orchestral ensemble of banjo, accordion, trumpet, xylophone, shepherd harp, musical saw, pedal steel, a suitcase pump organ, cittern, guitar and dobro, double bass, foot percussion, various ukuleles and mechanical horned violins, Orpheum Bell performs an original "Country & Eastern" songbook of lullabies, stomps, dirt-road ballads, and gypsy suites and waltzes.
The band came together in 2005 when former Chicago bandmates (Serge van der Voo, Aaron Klein) reconnected in an old Michigan house to trade tapes and listen. Combing through the ruins of originals ideas and melodic fragments, they began to develop a lyrical, percussive sound driven by Klein's "downtrodden rural poetry" and van der Voo's fluid, Hot Club-infused bass lines.
Over the course of the next two years, several multi-instrumentalists coalesced around the core, creating a stark, darkly ornamented sound heard on their 2007 debut release, "Pretty As You".
Relying on old, acoustic instruments, the band's sound moves from chiseled, plaintive song stories to articulate, richly-played instrumentals. The members come at the music from different angles - a classically trained harpsichordist, a rural folk polymath, a church choir girl, one from Holland, another from Ukraine.
Katie Lee's drifting, tin-cup vocals provide both contrast and complement to Klein's thistled singing and her violin and ukulele skills leaven the mix further.
Annie Crawford, a classically-trained violinist with E. European influence has a sound that is alternately plaintive, pastoral, and brooding. Using traditional and aluminum-horned violins (Stroviols), she threads through fine and coarse textures.
Multi-instrumentalist Michael Billmire contributes a textural range of sound; delicate harp runs, open-air accordion swells, and gliding silver-trumpet melodies.
Orpheum Bell will be featured in several regional concert series and festival events in '10 and are expanding their touring throughout the Midwest. Most recently their track 'Goodbye is the Sweetest Word' ('Pearls' '09) was selected for the soundtrack of the art documentary 'The Life of Chris Roberts-Antieau' by Brookbank Productions (www.brookbankproductions.com). The Film will be released in the summer of 2010, and will be featured at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum (www.avam.org). By Fall of 2011 Orpheum Bell plans on releasing it's third full-length recording.
'Pretty as You' (debut release '07) and 'Pearls' ('09) co-produced with Jim Roll of Backseat Productions in Ann Arbor, MI.
Performers on 'Pearls' include Laurel Premo (vocals/banjo/dobro/violin), Merrill Hodnefield (vocals/saw/violin), Shaun Williams (accordion/banjo/clarinets), Drew Howard (pedal steel/mando), Matt Jones (drums), Colette Alexander (cello), Meg Bedwell (vocals) and Jim Roll, Billy Harrington, and Al Diblassio (percussion).
75% originals / 25% forgotten covers
45 minutes - 90 minutes long (can be adapted)
O R I G I N A L S
Something from Above
Motor in the Weeds
Slowly, Betty Pulls Ahead
Pretty As You
Feel Like a Million
Goodbye is the Sweetest Word
The Girls Leaned In
What if No Sparrow Fell
Money from Another Town
Sins and Flowers
New Hearse for Hastings
Letters & Thread
Don't Let On
Old Sisters Home
Whatever Shines So Bright
C O V E R S
J'arrive a la Ville (Lhasa de Sela)
Autoharp Concerto (Grandpa Jones)
A Satisfied Mind (Rhodes & Hayes)