Poster The OK Factor
The OK Factor (Olivia Diercks, cello; Karla Colahan, violin)
Brittany Todd
Minnesota's World Stage

Bringing the strings to unexpected places

The Folk, Fiddle & Friends Festival, hitting the Cedar Cultural Center on Jan. 16, is more than just a clever original title. It's the absolute, stone-cold truth about what Sprig of That, the OK Factor and the Orange Mighty Trio will bring to the stage.

They could have added another "f" word — "fun" — according to Sprig of That's Krissy Bergmark.

"We love to show people we're having a good time," Bergmark said, adding that the gig should appeal to "anyone looking to watch people having fun together. If it's enjoyable for musicians, it's more enjoyable for the audience."

What that audience will be seeing and hearing are three ensembles performing original takes on traditional songs, and infusing traditional flavors into original songs — all with a whole lotta genre-bending, or more precisely genre-merging.

Rooted in folk music, often imbued with classical notes and some dabbling in jazz, pop and more, this is truly eclectic — but tightly played — music. A bonus: "Because we're genre-fluid, we all do a lot of improvisation, too," Bergmark said.

Still, each of the three acts brings something different to the proceedings

Cellist Olivia Diercks and violinist Karla Colahan describe OK Factor as a "new-classical crossover duo ... [that] find great joy in defying expectations and delivering an experience outside of what audiences anticipate from a cello and violin combo." But they don't take themselves as seriously as they do their music; witness one of their album titles: "Have Yourself an OK Christmas."

Billing itself as "hybrid chamber music," the Orange Mighty Trio finds Zack Kline on violin-slash-fiddle, accompanied by Mike Vasich on piano and Nick Gaudette on bass. They're "equally comfortable on orchestral stage, at a bluegrass festival, in farmers markets, or even in a jazz club." Oh, and they have provided live soundtracks for national modern dance companies.

Sprig of That is the youngest assemblage in the mix. Formed in 2018 by three graduates of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., it includes violinist Isabel Dammann, acoustic guitarist Ilan Blanck and Bergmark on tabla.

They define themselves as a "folk-fusion trio that combines vibrant Americana, Western classical virtuosity, and world rhythmic textures to form a surprisingly natural acoustic blend."

Bergmark said her mates were equally at home doing traditional and original works. Or even variations on a theme.

"Someone might bring in a snippet of Vivaldi," she said. In adding their own interpretation to older songs, "the flexibility of arrangements is important. There are a lot of fiddle tunes to choose from. We really enjoy digging into that repertoire."

Crafting original pieces is a true collaboration, although it generally starts with one member's idea.

"Our mode of operation is each of us would bring in a more fully formed tune," Bergmark said. "Isabell loves coming up with melodies and Ilan loves coming up with harmonies, and I try to figure out rhythmically what can happen. The tabla ends up being really melodic. I try connecting with what's happening with the melody and also try to have the guitar interact with the rhythm."

Musicians such as these inevitably cross paths. Bergmark said Spring of That and the OK Factor have collaborated in various capacities. The Cedar Cultural Center lineup is a natural because of the different groups' not-so-different approaches to integrating genres

Each group will do its own set, and then all the players will take the stage for what Bergmark called "a megagroup set." That gives the show a natural target audience, she added.

"[It's] anybody who can appreciate the joy of live music and particularly the aspect of musicians interacting with each other."

The Folk, Fiddle & Friends Festival

Who: The Orange Mighty Trio, Sprig of That and the OK Factor

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16

Where: Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis

Seating: General admission, first come, first served; access accommodations here.

Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show at the Cedar box office, the Electric Fetus and on Eventbrite. More info here.

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