Rindge native’s harmony group headed to the East
Lynn Mahoney Rowan, left, Lauren Breunig, Will Thomas Rowan and Jeremy Carter-Gordon will be traveling on a month-long tour through Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Angola as part of a music abroad program. Before leaving, the four, who make up the vocal group Windborne, will be featured in a three-concert tour in Vermont and Massachusetts.
Jeremy Carter-Gordon, left, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig and Lynn Mahoney Rowan, the four members of Windborne, a New England-based vocal group, will be traveling through three South Asia countries as musical ambassadors as part of the Department of State's American Music Abroad program.
Will Thomas Rowan and Lauren Bruenig of Windborne will join the other two members of their vocal harmony group on a world tour starting at the end of January.
Windborne, a New-England based vocal harmony group, has been selected by the State Department’s American Music Abroad program to go on a musical ambassadorship month-long tour of three South Asian countries this winter. Before the group leaves, however, they are offering New Englanders a three-concert tour, with shows in Vermont and Massachusetts.
When Will Thomas Rowan, who grew up in Rindge, was in high school at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., he participated in a summer music camp, Village Harmony in Marshfield, Vt., with two of Windborne’s current members. The camp, for teens and adults, teaches noteshaping and world music. By the time the camp was over, Rowan said he was hooked on the world music genre, and he and some friends decided to continue their singing in their own group. In 2004, a year after Rowan graduated from high school, Windborne was born.
Windborne began as a three-part vocal harmony group, and eventually grew to include four people — Rowan, Jeremy Carter-Gordon, Lauren Breunig and Lynn Mahoney Rowan. The group is a bit far-flung currently, said Rowan, with he and his wife, Lynn Mahoney Rowan based in Marlborough,Vt., Carter-Gordon currently attending graduate school in Europe, and Breunig teaching circus arts in Tempe, Ariz. The group gets together at least once a year for performances, however, Rowan said, and will be taking off from their regular jobs for the tour. The group will use the New England tour to coalesce as a group and try out their Americana repertoire for their South Asia tour.
Rowan, who now lives in Marlborough, Vt., said in an interview Monday that the group sings music from all over the world, focusing on harmony singing and using minimal accompaniment; sometimes it’s even a cappella. For the tour in South East Asia, however, because they are representing the U.S., they will be focusing on their Americana repertoire.
“It’s all in the harmonies, and the act of singing together,” said Rowan about what he enjoys best about the music the group does. “And really enjoying singing harmony and having that close personal connection with the people you’re singing with.”
The group isn’t a stranger to world travel. With Northern Harmony, a touring group under the Village Harmony umbrella, all four have toured throughout both the U.S. and Europe. So when they heard about an opportunity to apply for the American Music Abroad program and bring their music to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Angola, the four decided to audition.
Of the 350 groups who submitted applications, Windborne was one of the 50 chosen to fly to New York City for an audition, said Rowan. And of those 50, only 10 were chosen for the program.
“We were totally flabbergasted that we got it,” said Rowan. “We thought it might be an interesting exercise when we applied. It was quite a surprise when we were selected.” And Windborne is a little different from the many other types of musicians and groups selected, said Rowan, because they work so minimally with instruments.
“That may be part of what made us stand out,” said Rowan. “When we came into the audition, they said ‘Take your time to set up,’ and we set down two banjo stands and said, ‘We’re ready,’ and they looked up in surprise. They need people that can move around quickly and don’t take a ton of set up, so that may have been a point in our favor.”
Now, the group is preparing for their trip, and it’s becoming ever more a reality, said Rowan. The group will be performing at schools and with other local music groups, including a Kyrgyszstani folk group.
“It’s pretty cool to me to think of us as the face of America that’s being put out there,” said Rowan. “America has so many different subcultures, and I don’t know how much they see New Englanders and that particular face of America. I’ve been in Germany, and for some people, I was the first American they met, and they had a very different impression of what an American would be. And I had a very different view of what a German would be. To put a face on a people besides what you see on TV or in the movies is so important. It’s important to have those cross-cultural exchanges, so that when you’re thinking of a people, you see people, rather than cardboard cutouts.”
Windborne will appear in three New England concerts before departing for their world tour, including: Jan. 10 at St. Barnabas Church in Norwich, Vt., at 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 11 at the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro, Vt., at 7:30 p.m.; and Jan. 12 at Hubbard St. Music in Concord, Mass., at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at hubbardstreetmusic.com. For more information, call 802-451-0425.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.