Williamsburg Natives Return to Perform Free Shows with String Ensemble

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Nashville's World String Ensemble includes two musicians who grew up in the Historic Triangle, Emily Scalici and Liana Alpino.
Nashville’s World Fiddle Ensemble includes two musicians who grew up in the Historic Triangle, Emily Scalici (center) and Liana Alpino (far right). Ben Johnson, Lauren Conklin and Megan Bilodeau complete the quintet. (Courtesy World Fiddle Ensemble)

A five-piece string ensemble with roots in the greater Williamsburg area is coming to the Historic Triangle this week for a series of free concerts.

The series begins in Norfolk, but will come through Williamsburg later this week.

World Fiddle Ensemble comes out of Nashville, Tennessee, where the group met at Belmont University.

Emily Scalici and Lauren Conklin, both on violin, Megan Bilodeau on five-string violin, and Ben Johnson on cello made up a standard string quartet, with harpist Liana Alpino joining shortly after the group was first established.

The complete quintet officially came together in 2012 when they were randomly grouped together in a world music course at Belmont.

When the class wrapped up for the semester the group found themselves compelled to continue playing together, and in the three years since then they have built up an impressive resume of performances, including playing at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Meridian Symphony Orchestra “Symphony Fun Fest” and the wedding of Kimberly Perry, lead singer of the popular country trio The Band Perry.

Both Scalici and Alpino hail from the Williamsburg area, which is what inspired the latter to begin planning a tour in Hampton Roads.

“I just love Williamsburg,” Alpino said. “It’s a welcoming group of people. We like to play stuff that appeals to everyone, and there’s a little bit of everyone here.”

Alpino also highlighted the ties she and Scalici have to music organizations in the area. Alpino was first introduced to the harp through the Williamsburg Youth Harp Society and participated in the Williamsburg Youth Orchestra for several years, while Scalici was involved with several local fiddle organizations.

Though Alpino and Scalici have often talked about the idea of bringing World Fiddle Ensemble to their hometown, the reality of making it happen required more than eight months of advance planning and preparation.

Since graduating from Belmont, Scalici has relocated to St. Louis, and though the four other musicians have remained in Nashville they are all busy with their own individual projects and pursuits.

Despite the geographical and scheduling obstacles, the group tries to reunite frequently and continues to book gigs and performances.

“I just can’t imagine making music like this and that’s this good with any other group of people,” Alpino said.

The ensemble has developed a distinctive sound that is heavily influenced by their classroom experience, with world music ranging from Scottish to Arabic to Scandinavian making up the base of their repertoire.

“It’s something different,” Alpino said. “It’s upbeat and fun.”

Though at its core the ensemble is a world music act, the musicians are not afraid to throw some recognizable pop and rock songs into the mix during their sets. Alpino said Beyoncé is a particular favorite contemporary musician the group will cover.

The World String Ensemble will be performing several free concerts during its weeklong visit to the area. The tour kicks off at Cure Coffehouse in Norfolk at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The first Historic Triangle performance is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, followed by a community concert at Lane Auditorium in Bruton Heights Schools at 8 p.m. Friday.

In addition to these public shows, the group will also give private performances for Brookdale Assisted Living, Warhill High School, York County School of the Arts and at a private party sponsored by Colonial Gastroenterology Associates.

To learn more about the group and to purchase its CD, click here.