Cellist Brooks Whitehouse, left, and bassist Paul Sharpe, right, are seen here performing at the Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs, Virginia, on Nov. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Brooks Whitehouse)

Cellist Brooks Whitehouse, left, and bassist Paul Sharpe, right, are seen here performing at the Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs, Virginia, on Nov. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Brooks Whitehouse)

Musicians go ‘low’

Spoken word meets classical music in Low and Lower comedy performance

An unconventional musical duo from North Carolina will make their way to Soldotna this weekend for a performance that combines comedy with classical music.

Bassist Paul Sharpe and cellist Brooks Whitehouse make up the music group Low and Lower, a duo that brings “artistry, virtuosity and satire” to the stage, according to their website, complementing their skills as classically trained musicians with elements of singing and spoken word. Whitehouse and Sharpe satirize classic pieces and provide commentary on everyday concepts, such as social media, while also making time for more traditional performances.

Sharpe is originally from Alaska and grew up in Anchorage, but it’s been several years since Low and Lower performed in the state. Their tour across the state this year stems from two of their newest pieces: one an epic poem about Sharpe kayaking in Kachemak Bay after an eagle feather fell into his lap, and the other a rendition of Robert Service’s 1907 poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

Sharpe and Whitehouse both teach at the University of North Carolina School of Music and began playing together in 2010.

“Our first performance was at the South Carolina Governor’s School, and at the end we got a standing ovation,” Sharpe said. “So in the car on the way home we looked at each other and thought ‘maybe we should keep doing this.’”

Sharpe said their group became a bit of an internet sensation after recording one of their songs, “Poke: A Bagatelle on Antisocial Media,” originally written by Lawrence Dillon, and uploading the clip to YouTube.

“We had performed the song before our first Alaska tour in 2012, but at one point we had two days to kill in Soldotna, and it was -30 degrees outside, so we spent that time mastering it,” Sharpe said. “Then we had a student from University of Alaska Fairbanks record our performance and upload it, and it quickly got a few thousand views, which was surprising.”

Sharpe said their style of performance brings new challenges that are distinct from performing in an orchestra or with other traditional ensembles.

“We’re dealing with spoken word while playing bowed instruments, so that’s already dividing your brain up,” Sharpe said. “Then you add the rhythmic delivery and incorporate singing, and it’s a bit like juggling. Like you’re singing with two voices.”

Low and Lower will be presented at the Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. The performance was arranged through the Kenai Performing Arts Society.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for students, and are available at Northcountry Fair and River City Books in Soldotna, Already Read Books and Country Liquor in Kenai or at the door the night of the performance.

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