Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Northern California wildfires and amid the devastation of a global pandemic, popular fusion duo Fire & Grace (Edwin Huizinga on violin and William Coulter on guitar) somehow managed to produce their third studio effort, Alma. It drops Sunday, Aug. 22, and everyone who attends the launch concert will receive a copy of the new CD.
“The truth is the pandemic actually allowed us to spend even more time playing and writing together than usual,” Huizinga says, “because we didn’t have to maintain our concerts and touring schedules with the other projects we usually do individually. Even though we were forced to stop live performances, there was no way we were just going to stop producing music.”
Back to that phoenix-like return, which happened in a very literal way: During the Covid shutdown, the duo performed outdoors on the deck of Coulter’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains for small, spaced-out audiences – until his home was among those destroyed by the CZU Complex Fire last summer.
The venue for this outing will be the awe-inspiring Church in the Forest, on the grounds of Stevenson School in Pebble Beach. “It’s one of my very favorite venues,” Huizinga says. “I try to play there every year. We both are super excited to produce a live concert again, especially right now. Videos and streaming have expanded our reach during these trying times, but there is nothing like the energetic interplay between live musicians and a live audience. It’s almost always magical.”
A mammoth 18-track, nearly 60-minute journey, the majority of Alma (the Spanish word for soul) is “Suite Español,” an amalgam of a six-movement Bach cello suite, which the two players rearranged for violin and guitar, with six more movements of Spanish folk songs and dance music. While that combination may sound odd, it works beautifully, and it’s the kind of blending of styles to their signature sound that Fire & Grace has become known for.
“We’ve always been about the concept of taking two very different things and finding commonality between them,” Huizinga says.
“The highly organized and controlled Bach cello figures and the wildly free Spanish dance tunes may seem like strange bedfellows,” he continues. “But the deeper we dug into the forms and structures of the rhythms and melodies, the more we discovered that they make perfect sense together. It makes me want to dance to Bach, just like I feel like dancing to flamenco. It’s really uncanny.”
Fire & Grace CD Release Concert is at 4pm Sunday, Aug. 22. Church in the Forest, 3152 Forest Lake Road, Pebble Beach. $50-$100. Masks and proof of vaccination required; outdoor seating available. Purchase tickets at eventbrite.com. More at fireandgracemusic.com