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Boulder Irish folk trio Banthom House delivering livestream show between Pearl Street pop-ups

Band will perform at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden for a socially distanced gig that will be streamed

From left, Banthom House band members David Otto (mandolin, vocals), Allegra Ludwig (fiddle, vocals) and Aaron Vega (guitar, cajon, vocals) during a rehearsal at The People’s Building in Aurora, Colo. Banthom House formed after members were cast in the Irish folk-rock musical “Once,” that ran at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden last Summer. Banthom House will return to the playhouse Saturday to perform a set that will be livestreamed. (Aaron Vega/ Courtesy photo)
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Boulder-based trio Banthom House was born out of last summer’s highly-popular production of “Once” that ran at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden. Band members Allegra Ludwig, David Otto and Aaron Vega met when they were cast in the Tony Award-winning Irish folk-rock musical based on the 2007 film starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Saturday, Banthom House will return to the venue in the former gold-rush town  at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains for a night of lively jigs, ballads and reels. While the limited number of in-person tickets have sold out, fans can enjoy a high-quality livestream of the band’s set starting at 7:30 p.m. for $5.

From left, members of Banthom House, Aaron Vega, David Otto and Allegra Ludwig perform on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder in September 2020. (Marco Robinson Photo/ Courtesy photo)

Throughout the pandemic, the three have been bringing Irish folk music to unlikely places across the Front Range. Wanting to keep the public entertained amidst numerous barrooms shuttered and seeking a creative outlet with many of their own theatrical projects on hold, the musicians and actors have held pop-ups on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall and continue to deliver jovial sets to unsuspecting crowds.

With tight musicianship, gorgeous harmonies and undeniable spirit, the newly formed Banthom House is quickly becoming a force to watch. From Guinness-raising renditions of “Whiskey in the Jar” to spirit-lifting bluegrass instrumentals, these creatives are providing a much-welcomed soundtrack in the midst of a global health scare and social unrest.

We caught up Ludwig, with the group’s fiddlist, to find out more about the band’s formation, what we can expect from Saturday’s livestream and her desire to eventually settle in the country that delivered the Celtic tunes she holds dear.

Folk and bluegrass trio Banthom House perform on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder in September 2020. (Marco Robinson Photo/ Courtesy photo)

Daily Camera: Love that Banthom House was actually born out of the stage production of “Once.” What was it that motivated you to want to keep collaborating with a couple of these fellow creatives after that production wrapped?

Allegra Ludwig: We all had an extraordinary connection during the show. David (Otto) and I discussed forming a band because we were so distraught when “Once” ended. Being able to dance, sing, act and play an instrument together every night on stage was a gift. Unfortunately, and predictably after the show came to an end, the idea to form a band took a backseat to other responsibilities. When the pandemic happened, and the traditional arts world shut down, we found ourselves with more free time to play music together. David (Otto) and I started learning new tunes and playing outdoor concerts in Holiday Park in Boulder. Aaron (Vega) joined us to add some percussion and our trio was formed. As David (Otto) says, none of us could create this music without the others. After playing in several local bands, this one is particularly special to me because we all carry equal weight and that symbiosis has resulted in a remarkable musical collaboration. These are not just extremely talented musicians, but truly entertaining performers.

Members of Banthom House, center from left, Aaron Vega, Allegra Ludwig and David Otto perform during a production of “Once” at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden in September 2019. (Sarah Roshan/ Courtesy photo)

DC: As an actor and a musician how are you coping with so many canceled art events?

AL: All three of us had fallout from the pandemic. I was in the final stretch of rehearsals for “The Odd Couple” at the Longmont Theatre Company. David (Otto) was just about to start rehearsals for “Something Rotten” at the Arvada Center and Aaron (Vega), who is part of the stage actors’ union, had opportunities fall through. Summers are typically a very lucrative time for my chamber music company, Front Range Strings, because of the wedding season. Almost all of our wedding gigs were also canceled.  It has been a really difficult time for artists and, true to their spirit, I have seen many colleagues create opportunities with sheer creativity and innovation. Livestream shows and readings, virtual cabarets, pop-up outdoor shows, backyard house concerts — performing artists are finding ways to continue despite the obstacles. I have been so inspired by watching fellow performers rise above this pandemic to create new content and service delivery models. Banthom House is just another example of what’s happening all over the arts industry.

Allegra Ludwig performs with her band Banthom House on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder in September 2020. (Marco Robinson Photo/ Courtesy photo)

DC: What can we expect from the upcoming livestream from Miners Alley Playhouse?

AL: It will be a party. This performance will mark almost one year to the day that “Once” had its opening night at Miners Alley Playhouse. We will bring back some favorite pre-show tunes from the production, and also introduce a number of new fiddle tunes, Irish ballads, bluegrass and folk music. We all trade off vocal and instrumental melodies and harmonies. The look and feel of the music will be different than it was a year ago. We are also a much smaller ensemble, but that has a few benefits — like a greater focus on the mandolin. Miners Alley has done an extraordinary job with their Quarantine Cabaret Series. They have been able to bring music to life by providing an up-close-and-personal experience for audiences with local musicians and state-of-the-art streaming video and audio equipment.

DC: When did your love of Irish folk music start? Do you remember a time when you knew this would be your career path?

AL: My discovery of Irish folk music happened in 2011, when I was performing in a local house concert in Boulder and shared the evening’s program with an exceptional Irish music duo, Adam Agee (fiddler) and Jon Sousa (guitarist). A woman at the concert stood up and started performing an Irish dance while they played. There was a palpable joy, not just in their playing, but in the audience as well. I was instantly smitten and also stunned, because I never experienced this same joy when I played. Classical audiences are usually rather subdued. I grew up on the East Coast in a heavily musical family and am classically trained. I attended summer music camps, conservatories and arts programs that were all extremely competitive and focused on technique and traditional classical repertoire. My experience as a professional classical and orchestral performer has been fraught and I have struggled with the competition and cliquishness, feelings of inadequacy and also a lack of personal connection to the music. I never understood why I didn’t love playing the violin as much as my peers. Listening to Adam (Agee) and Jon (Sousa) was an aha moment for me. I just hadn’t found the music that spoke to me. I had the supreme honor of attending a masterclass with Martin Hayes in 2015, and started listening in on Irish sessions, especially the one that used to take place in Boulder at Conor O’Neill’s before it closed. In 2016, I finally made my way to Ireland for a brief vacation and played with any willing musicians I could find. I don’t kid myself — for me, playing Irish music is like being immersed in a foreign language. I try to sound like a native but every true native can tell I’m a foreigner. I dreamt — and still dream — of someday living and playing music in Ireland full time. I am raising two daughters in Boulder and so that dream needs to wait a few more years.

 

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