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  • Ayreheart

    Members of the group Ayreheart are (from left) Brian Kay, vocals and lute, Mattias Rucht, percussion, Ronn McFarlane, vocals and lute, and Willard Morris, colascione, fretless bass, keyboard, violin and mandolin. The group will play at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 21 in the “Abracadabra” series of the Second Stage.

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:23 am | Updated: 9:55 am, Tue Jul 23, 2013.

How does one classify music that uses lutes, a colascione and a komuz and incorporates pop, bluegrass, Celtic and Jazz?

“This is a conversation that we had,” acknowledges band member Brian Kay. “And it’s one I don’t really have an answer to.”

“I think we’re kind of … in the folk genre.” Kay said.

“[We’ve] even jokingly thrown around ‘pro-Ren’ — progressive Renaissance.”

Amherst audiences will decide for themselves at the July 21 concert of the folk band Ayreheart. The performance is part of the

Abracadabra summer lineup presented by Second Stage, the fledgling arts community that is striving to convert the former Amherst Baptist Church into a community venue.

Ayreheart founder Ronn McFarlane received his first taste of music during a childhood rendition of the 1960’s hit, “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris.

“That was one of the few moments in my life [where] everything changed for me,” McFarlane said. “Immediately I was on fire with music.”

That fire eventually drove him to pursue learning to play classical guitar, and later the lute, the stringed instrument that has gone the way of jerkins and knee breeches.

In 2009, he created Ayreheart—a composition of “ayre,” a song that incorporates vocals and lute, and the word “heart” to realize musical arrangements that were impossible to be performed on a single instrument.

Today, Ayreheart consists of McFarlane and Kay, along with Willard Morris and Mattias Rucht. The group performs otherworldly music using instruments ranging from the violin to instruments more familiar in the pages of a travel magazine.

“One thing I have heard over and over when Ayreheart is playing is someone who is aware of the lute, ‘I didn’t know a lute could do that or [that] was possible on that instrument,’ ” McFarlane said.

“In the treble, it has a twang-like quality,” McFarlane said of the lute. “But beyond that, it has a lighter and a more transparent quality.”

A former rock drummer who recently graduated from the Peabody Institute at The Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore-based Kay is singer as well as instrumentalist. He also is tasked with playing the komuz — a “very light and primitive” three-stringed instrument favored by Kyrgyzstani fisherman. By strumming as well as hitting the instrument, the komuz provides harmony, melody and percussion beat, he said.

“It’s a totally different [sound] than the lute, [which is] courtly and majestic; the komuz sounds very exotic,” Kay said.

Morris blends his talents with the mandolin, the violin and the colascione, a large bass instrument. Rucht rounds out the instrumentals with


The lute as well as the concert venue is undergoing a rebirth, said Anthony Harvey, friend, fellow lutist and an organizer for the Amherst concert.

“It compliments what’s going on in the space,” Harvey said of the concert. “From a church to

something that was abandoned, to being reborn as an arts space.”

That blending of the new and the old also is a mainstay of the Ayreheart acoustic universe. Within Morris’ favorite Ayreheart song, “Uncharted Waters” lies a break between two seemingly disparate halves of music.

When that cleft occurs, it’s like magic, Morris says.

“It’s like breaking through to another world.”

If you go

Ayreheart kicks off Sunday Series

  » Where: Second Stage, the former Amherst Baptist Church

  » When: 4 p.m. Sunday, July 18

  » Tickets: $10 / $5 for children. Buy at the door or from

  » More info: This will be the first of six performances lined up for upcoming Sundays at Second Stage. Other upcoming acts include theater performances, magic acts, art exhibits and other musical guests in blues, jazz and funk. Visit for the full lineup.


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