A show such as "First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World" needs the perfect musical accompaniment, which is where Ensemble Galilei comes in. The show, to be held Friday, Nov. 16, was edited and written and will be narrated by National Public Radio's Neal Conan and actress Lily Knight.
Playing early classical and Celtic music, the group has a long-time connection with Conan. They've been interviewed on the air on "Performance Today," "All Things Considered," "Talk of the Nation" and the "Diane Rehm Show," and have performed on the air several times.
The members of Ensemble Galilei for this concert are Kathryn Montoya, Sue Richards, Carolyn Surrick, Rosie Shipley and Andrew Fouts. Each musician comes from both classical and Celtic traditions.
"We used the goose bump test—I read, they played, and when the words and music fit, everybody knew it," Conan said. "That's when we came up with the name—the writings we chose came from diaries, letters and memoirs—the first-person statements of men and women, many of them the first to accomplish something significant, usually in remote parts of the globe."
The ensemble has played in the valley before in 2005 for a holiday musical concert. Based in Annapolis, Md., they've recorded nine CDs and regularly tour the United States, Mexico and Canada. Formed 17 years ago by viola da gamba player Carolyn Anderson Surrick, the Ensemble Galilei play an eclectic assortment of instruments.
"The idea of Celtic/early-music crossover was a happy accident," Surrick said. "We were tired of playing the same old gigs, where you rehearse alone, have a couple rehearsals with the groups, play an event, then never see each other again. Half of us played Celtic, the other half early music."
At the time Surrick was running the Music in the Great Hall series in her hometown of Annapolis, which she continued until a few years ago, when she had to give up the gig due to time constraints.
"It was just raise a child, run a series, do Ensemble Galilei," Surrick said. "One thing had to go."
Joining her in the ensemble was fellow Maryland musician and four-time American National Scottish Harp champion Sue Richards and recorder, oboe and whistle player Kathryn Montoya.
For the Sun Valley Center concert, blazing-hot Cape Breton/Irish fiddler Rosie Shipley, violinist Andrew Fouts and Irish-born guest percussionist Jackie Moran will be joining them.
The music for the show is intended to evoke the mysteries and emotions of the journeys described.
"This is a really beautiful early music, classical, Bach, Scottish traditional, Swedish traditional and original," Surrick said. "It's the usual Ensemble Galilei that audiences have come to know."
As true collaborators, the Ensemble joins Conan and Knight across the country for shows of "Stories from the Edge."
"People are just bowled over by it," she said. "It's kind of a remarkable show. The images are amazing and the music is gorgeous."
All of the original compositions can be found on Ensemble Galilei's latest CD, "From the Edge of the World."
What: "First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World,"
Where: Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16
Tickets: Sun Valley Center for the Arts, 726-9491