May 15, 2008


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Stories and strings
True-to-life immigrant’s tale in music and words
By Brian Early

A New Hampshire fiddler who usually performs classical music will debut her first original show, a story told through a mix of words and music.

“The Music of Aoife Galbally” is a story about life in New England for an immigrant girl, written and performed by Beverly Ramstrom-Manning. The first show is Sunday, May 18, at the Vestry of the Chester Congregational Church, at 2 p.m.

With three fiddlers and a pianist, Ramstrom-Manning will tell the story. And while the main character is Irish, it’s more about the lives of her and her family members and their experiences in the States — but they were all Swedish, not Irish.

“My father is a pure-blood Swede but born in the U.S.,” she said. But the Swedish fiddle has a different rhythm than the Irish fiddle, a rhythm that Ramstrom-Manning felt was more familiar to people in the area.

So she picked the character Aoife Galbally to tell her story, which she made into a book two years ago. Although she had the idea of writing music to accompany the story, it was new territory for her. Most of the time she plays the classics like Bach; she’d never performed her own originals before.

“I’m a little nervous,” she said about her upcoming performance. “Are they going to boo me, or clap? Will they enjoy it? When it’s all your own work, it’s scary.”

But she’ll have her family nearby to support her. Her husband, Rick, will play piano, and her daughter, Lara Skinner, will read the narrative. MaryAnn Schroeder will play fiddle alongside Ramstrom-Manning, and Carly Rockenhauser plays the viola.

Skinner will introduce a song, like “Catbird,” and tell a story about how when Aoife was young and learning how to play the fiddle, a catbird use to perch itself on a tree outside the front room and sing along with her practice. Then the musicians will play a piece that Ramstrom-Manning wrote to tell the story musically.

There are other selections, such as “Grandpa’s Jig,” a story about Aoife’s grandpa playing fiddle, and “Castlebridge Waltz,” the story of Aoife’s last night in Ireland with her extended family before leaving for the United States. They danced, sang and drank until the morning light, ending the party with “the saddest waltz that Aoife had ever heard.”

Ramstrom-Manning has performed with the New Hampshire Philharmonic, the University of New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra and the Merrimack Valley Philharmonic. Currently, she performs at the Fiddler’s Loft in Kingston. She also conducts the string ensemble at Pinkerton academy, directs the Third Sunday Fiddlers and teaches fiddle lessons.

Hear the life of Aoife
Where: Chester Congregational Church, 4 Chester St., Chester
When: Sunday, May 18, at 2 p.m.
Admission: free