Here’s a nice Merry Christmas from the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, performing their director Al White’s arrangement of the lovely Carol Of The Bells. It’s a difficult and demanding piece of music, but they pull it off nicely with a smart grassy gloss.
The Ensemble has been part of the Berea College Music Department for the past 16 years, and students at the central Kentucky school must audition to be accepted. Rehearsing two and a half hours each week while classes are in session, they each receive one credit per semester for their work, which includes several performances in their region.
White is taking them to Denmark this summer, and previous Ensembles have toured repeatedly in Ireland and Japan. It is a wonderful opportunity for students at this private, Christian college which accepts applicants regardless of their ability to pay tuition.
They recorded the audio for Carol Of The Bells this past winter at Oakwood Studios in Lexington, and shot the video in February. Videographer Josiah Stendel of Menlo Lights was so impressed with the music that he donated his services to create the music video, offering the Ensemble students another opportunity to experience the world of a professional musician.
Appearing in the video are students Theo Macmillan on fiddle, Brenna Macmillan on banjo and vocal, Matt Parsons on guitar, and Casey Papendieck on bass, with Al White on mandolin. Theo and Matt have since graduated, and Julie Nelms now plays fiddle with the band. Al has moved to guitar.
White is a long time grasser, having worked with James Monroe, the Bluegrass Alliance, and the McLain Family Band. With the McLains, he met his wife, Alice, the eldest sister in that family group. He currently teaches banjo, guitar, mandolin, and fiddle at Berea in addition to leading the bluegrass group.
The Ensemble will appear in a Christmas Eve Special on CBS airing at 11:35 p.m., along with other musical groups from the school.
Well done Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble!