Film & TV

The Barefoot Movement Brings Bluegrass to Shelter Island

The Barefoot Movement brings their foot-stomping, hard-driving bluegrass music from their home in Nashville to Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, a place where the fiddle has been played for centuries. The foursome, which consists of fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin and stand-up bass, will fill the intimate manor house with their signature sound.

The Barefoot Movement got its start when mandolin player Tommy Norris and fiddle player/vocalist Noah Wall started playing together in high school. Wall went to East Tennessee State University, where she studied in the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program. There, she met Hasee Ciaccio, the stand-up bass player. They found their guitar player, Alex Conerly, in Nashville. The four of them have been playing together for five years now, finding their groove.

“The acoustic guitar and upright bass form the rhythmic foundation of our sound,” Wall says. “The mandolin is layered on top, providing another element that fills out the music. The fiddle is usually only heard as a solo instrument during breaks between vocal lines.”

But Wall is quick to note that this typical outline leaves plenty of room for improvisation and play. “Half the fun of being in this band is switching it up and taking ourselves out of that box of what we’re used to,” she says. “So these are very loose rules!”

Wall has been playing the fiddle since her mom handed her one in the second grade. Over the years, her interest waxed and waned, but she never abandoned it completely. “Then one day I knew that music was the only thing I really wanted to do,” she says. “And I haven’t looked back ever since.”

The group plays mostly original songs, which usually start with a spark of inspiration from Wall.

“Most of the time I either hear a melody or think of a line that sticks out to me,” she explains. “And I write it down or record it.” It might sit for days or weeks, but eventually she’ll come back to it when she feels the urge to work on something. “I sit down with a guitar and see it through,” she says.

She can’t plan when inspiration will strike, so Wall believes it’s important to listen to the call when it comes. “Sometimes that can be in the middle of the day,” she says. “Or when I’m almost asleep at night.”

When she finishes a song, Wall brings it to the band. Each member puts his or her own spin on the arrangement, and they flesh it out together from there. “Once the arrangement is established and we get used to performing the song, we can be a little more free with our individual parts, and maybe improvise a bit,” Wall says.

The band performs for the love of the music, as is evidenced from the giant smiles on their faces as they all crowd around a single microphone and belt out a tightly harmonized chorus. They hope that that joy comes through and extends to their audiences. At Sylvester Manor, with the audience just a few feet away, the experience will certainly be shared.

“We always look forward to playing at new venues and for new audiences,” Wall says. “Sylvester Manor seems like a unique place with a lot to explore, so we’re certainly looking forward to that.”

In the interest of spreading the joy of music, the group likes to keep the mood of their shows upbeat. Their songs may range from “rip-roaring barn burners to emotional ballads,” Wall says, but regardless, they’re sure to keep the feet tapping.

The Barefoot Movement will play two shows at Sylvester Manor (80 North Ferry Road) on Shelter Island on Saturday, April 25. The first show will be at 6 p.m. and the second will be at 8 p.m. Call 631-749-0626 or visit sylvestermanor.org for more information or to purchase tickets.

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