Jay Ansill's Cheese Project


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Jay Ansill was born and raised in Suburban Philadelphia. He became interested in folk music while at Cheltenham High and before long he was playing mandolin and fiddle at square dances and Irish Ceilis. While still in high school, he formed the Schuylkill Valley Nature Boys, a band that played all kinds of folk music and became well known in Philadelphia in the early 1980s for a station ID they recorded for WXPN FM.

Since 1980, Jay has been playing professionally in various situations; He was a Scottish fiddler at Busch Gardens in VA, he has toured extensively with several folksingers including Saul Broudy and Priscilla Herdman. He has performed with such diverse musicians as Robin Williamson, Tony Trischka, Maria del Mar Bonet, Rodney Anonymous (of theDead Milkmen) and many others. He plays on recordings by Anne Hills, Kevin Roth, Barry Mitterhoff, Marah and others. He has also worked quite a bit in theatre as a musician, music director and composer.

As his range of abilities as a musician widened, Ansill developed an interest in composition. While never formally studying music, he has closely studied several composers with whom he felt an affinity, most notably David Amram, and has developed a unique approach to writing new music. Much of Ansill's writing centers on the Celtic harp, although recently he has been writing and arranging for strings and has written a woodwind quintet.

This music is firmly rooted in the traditional music of the U.S. and the British Isles and Ireland, but combines elements of classical music, jazz and rock. It is music that is very modern, yet it strikes directly at the ancient heart of music. The emotional power and stylistic adventurousness of Ansill's music also owes a great deal to the literature of the twentieth century, particularly the work of Laura Riding and James Joyce. Ansill was nominated twice as Best Folk Instrumentalist by the Philadelphia Music Foundation and in 1990 his album Origami, a collection of original compositions, was voted Best Folk Recording. He was also nominated for two Barrymore Awards in the same year for theatrical scores for productions of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Charlotte’s Web” at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

In 1994 Ansill released Mind and Body, a collection of new original music that includes settings of poems by Yeats and Graves, as well as some music written for theater, and some music that expands the boundaries of the harp through the use of compelling rhythms and improvisation.

His CD, A Lost World, a series of settings of poems by Robert Graves (I, Claudius, The White Goddess). This album features a excellent performances by a variety of singers and musicians.

Jay released a CD of his Music for Strings featuring several talented players.

In 2004 Jay was awarded an Independence Foundation grant and spent two months in Mallorca and Barcelona learning traditional music from the region.

The Folk Harp Journal says that "He has created a new language for the Celtic harp."

Jay's latest passion is Jay Ansill's Cheese Project, an ongoing work-in-progress featuring new versions of the songs you love to hate (or hate to love) from the 60s and 70s. From Bobby Goldsboro to Terry Jacks.