‘Music nerds’ surprise and delight

Gadbaw, Wong and Landes bring the Balkans, Sweden and Ireland to Taos


Music from Ireland, Sweden and the Balkans meet when musicians Beth Gadbaw, Sandra Wong and Roger Landes get together to play. The trio formed last November, and its members have been having fun combining the unique sounds of their instruments and traditional repertoire. Gadbaw plays bodhran, Wong plays nyckelharpa and violin and Landes plays bouzouki.

The trio is planning a concert Sunday (March 12), 4 p.m., at the Bareiss Gallery, 15 State Road 150, north of El Prado. Tickets are $20 at the door.

Landes is a former Taoseño and founder of ZoukFest, an international festival to celebrate the bouzouki. He is now teaching at the Texas Technical University’s Musicology Department, but still returns to New Mexico to perform from time to time.

Gadbaw and Wong both live in Boulder, Colorado, and play together on occasion. When Gadbaw approached Wong about forming a trio with Landes, she was surprised to learn that Wong and Landes had a history of playing together from back when Wong lived in Santa Fe. The three musicians tried out playing together as a trio for some performances in Colorado and had so much fun that they decided to repeat the experience in New Mexico.

Landes recalled that it was Wong who first introduced him to Swedish folk music and to the nyckelharpa.

“We found that [the nyckelharpa] and the bouzouki that I play fit together nicely,” said Landes. “They both have a built-in resonance. ... The nyckelharpa has sympathetic strings like the sitar, so when you play a note on it, you don’t just get the note on the string you are playing – you get a whole lot of other sympathetic vibrations and it sounds … like a built-in church, it sounds like built-in reverb. It’s kind of the same way with the bouzouki since the bouzouki has double strings instead of single strings like the guitar. It’s more ‘ringy.’”

Wong, who is a conservatory-trained violinist and traveled to Sweden to study the nyckelharpa, said it’s fun to choose repertoire for the trio because “everyone is a very capable and flexible player, so we can bring in just about anything we might come up with.”

“I think we each bring our favorite pieces from our personal repertoires to the group with an eye and ear to what will create diversity and a nicely balanced program,” Wong added.

Wong is currently playing with two other trios: one with pianist Bill Douglas and tabla player Ty Burhoe and another world-Celtic trio with Burhoe on tabla and guitarist Jon Sousa. In addition, she plays with an Andalusian group called Marrakesh Express. She also teaches music. This will be Wong’s first time touring in the last few years.

Gadbaw grew up singing with her two sisters, triplets in a musical household. She went on to sing in choirs and attended music school at the University of Colorado. As a continuing education student at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Gadbaw learned to sing in Gaelic. These days, Gadbaw plays with a band called Take Down the Door featuring fiddler Jessie Burns and composes choral music with harpist Margot Krimmel. Last year, Gadbaw released a solo album. She is also a children’s music teacher.

Speaking on why she thought playing with Wong and Landes would be a good fit, Gadbaw said, “The three of us are all music nerds with interesting instruments: me, with my bodhran; Sandra, her nyckelharpa and fiddle, which is often cross-tuned; and Roger with his bouzouki, of course, and his English pipes as well. I thought we’d have great car conversations nerding out about music, which we do, and we would all get along. We do.”

Gadbaw described the trio’s music as “uplifting, energetic and disparate,” saying the majority of the songs it plays are of the Celtic tradition with some Eastern European and Scandinavian influences.

For more information, call the venue at (575) 776-2284.


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