PUBLISHED IN THE KW RECORD FOR THURSDAY, JUNE 3

 

By Nick Krewen

For The Record

 

Pssst. Wanna buy a house?

It's a nice one, located in a private Nashville cul-de-sac about ten minutes from Music Row. An "artist retreat," this 4100 square foot cedar home contains three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a great room with a 26' ceiling, inset shelving, a staircase, a library loft, two skylights, decks galore and a spacious kitchen. The main bathroom contains a partially sunken Jacuzzi; another contains 24 karat gold bathroom fixtures, and there are many other amenities that contribute towards its appraised value of $545,000 U.S.

The reason such luxurious quarters are on the market is because its owner, MARK O' CONNOR, doesn't need them anymore. After spending most of his career as one of the world's most sought after fiddlers -- guesting on over 500 plus recording sessions, recording 20 solo albums of his own, and traveling the world as a performer, sideman and composer -- O'Connor, his wife and two sons have relocted to the sunny climes of San Diego.

"I wanted to get out of the rat race," said O'Connor, 37, from his new San Diego digs. "Since I was no longer in that scene, living in it physically and mentally was a little tiresome. So I decided to go back out West where my wife and I came from. We had both lived in California before. We decided to set up home here and we're really enjoying it."

The Seattle-born O'Connor has been trying to distance himself from the Nashville studio community since the early '90s, when he plunged into a solo career that has focused on his abilities as a classical music composer.

Until that point, O'Connor had literally been the man to call if you needed a fiddle on your session. If you bought a country album in the '80s, check the album credits -- he's probably on there. He didn't restrict himself to the country field, either, recording with artists as disparate as fusion rockers DIXIE DREGS, Swiss new age harpist ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER and bluegrass guitarist DAVID GRISMAN.

"I've been turning down sessions since 1990," O'Connor explains. "I do a lot of things to learn. That's why I became a session player, because I wanted to learn how to do that. Now I know how, sessions don't interest me anymore. I've already been down that road."

Today he finds more satisfaction writing and recording his Fiddle Concertos and Suites, composing chamber music or collaborating with celebrated cellist YO-YO MA, jazz and classical trumpeter WYNTON MARSALIS, noted pop singer JAMES TAYLOR, longtime doublebass associate EDGAR MEYER or Cape Breton fiddler NATALIE MacMASTER. His most recent album, a solo performance effort called Midnight On The Water, entered the Billboard Classical charts at #5 in mid-May.

"I definitely want to be pegged as a solo artist," says O'Connor, whose next album Fanfare for the Volunteer, recorded with the LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA will be out on Sony Classical in the Fall.

"I think the biggest difference in becoming a solo artist is trying to figure out my voice on the fiddle."

A child prodigy, O'Connor didn't take up the fiddle until the age of 11, five years after learning guitar.

"I was definitely drawn to the violin because of its emotional depth." he recalls. "I remember growing up and listening to YEHUDI MENUHIN, my Mom's favorite violinist. Then I saw DOUG KERSHAW on television and VASSAR CLEMENTS play `House Of The Rising Sun.' I couldn't believe the extremes that this wooden instrument could reach. The violin was the perfect vehicle for me."

By the time he reached high school, he had released four albums and had won every major fiddle competition in the U.S. In 1982, CHET ATKINS suggested he relocate to Nashville and test session waters as a fiddler, guitarist and mandolin player. He was named Country Music Association's Instrumentalist Of The Year six times, and in 1990 was commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival to write his Fiddle Concerto For Violin and Orchestra.

A former student of Texas fiddler BENNY THOMASSON and French jazz violinist STEPHANE GRAPPELLI, O'Connor does his part to educate others. His annual week-long Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camps will be held June 20 and August 1 near Nashville, giving young fiddlers the opportunity for $600 U.S. to learn from such masters as Natalie MacMaster, RACHEL BARTON, Vassar Clements and BUDDY SPICER.

As for Friday's concert, O' Connor has the program picked out.

"I'll play half the concert with my solo material, which is featured on my album Midnight On The Water, and then the other half is going to be with string orchestra. I'm going to be performing a couple of pieces from The Liberty Project, a soundtrack I did for the six-part PBS series."

Oh, and if you want to take a gander at a sketch of his former residence, visit O'Connor's web site at www.markoconnor.com.

 

 

WHO: MARK O' CONNOR with The Festival Strings Of Canada

 

WHERE: River Run Centre, Guelph 519-763-3000

 

WHEN: Friday, June 04, 8:00 p.m.

 

TICKETS: $24, $22 for seniors and students. Call The River Run box office at 519-763-3000.

 

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

1975 -- Pickin' In The Wind

1976 -- In Concert, (with Byron Berline and Sam Bush)

1978 -- Markology

1979 -- On The Rampage

1979 -- Soppin' The Gravy

1982 -- False Dawn

1982 -- Retrospective

1984 -- The Championship Years

1987 -- Stone From Which The Arch Was Made

1988 -- Elysian Forest

1989 -- On The Mark

1991 -- The New Nashville Cats

1993 -- Heroes

1995 -- The Fiddle Concerto

1996 -- Applachia Waltz (with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer)

1997 -- Liberty!

1999 -- Midnight On The Water

1999 -- Fanfare For The Volunteer

 

COLLABORATOR

1993 -- Various Artists, The Night Before Christmas (with Meryl Streep)

1999 -- Wynton Marsalis, Reeltime

 

CONTRIBUTOR

 

1999 -- Various Artists, Music From The Heart -- The Album

AWARDS

1986 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1988 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1989 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1990 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1991 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1991 -- Country Music Award, Vocal Event Of The Year, "Restless"

1991 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

1991 -- Grammy, Best Country Musical Instrumental Performance, The New            Nashville Cats (with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner)

1991 -- Grammy, Best Country Vocal Collaboration, "Restless" (with Vince Gill,            Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner)

1992 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1992 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

1993 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1993 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

1994 -- Academy Of Country Music, Fiddle

1994 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

1995 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

1996 -- Country Music Award, Musician Of The Year

 

THANKS: PHILIP BAST

©1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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