Family band will present concert at United Methodist Church
By Cathy Hay
One might say the Zahasky family has life on a string, a string band that is. This family makes up the Alaska String Band, playing an impressive collection of acoustic stringed instruments including guitar, violin-fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, banjo, bass, ukulele and percussion.
Their vocals are impressive too, with the Juneau Empire saying, “There’s a family band playing bluegrass up here on the mountain and they totally wail!”
The family band will present its Southeast Alaska Odyssey concert at 3 p.m. Oct. 18 at United Methodist Church on U.S. Highway 69 South in Albert Lea. The show will be like a voyage through Alaska’s wilderness, history, culture and adventures, traversing through songs, stories and photos.
“They have been here several times in the past and have always wowed their audience! This event has been well attended and I’m excited to have them back,” said Lora Virgil, music director at the church.
The band consists of Paul and Melissa, husband and wife of 31 years; their daughters Laura, 24, and Abigail, 17; and their son, Quinn, 21, and his wife, Emily, 24.
The Zahaskys live in Juneau, Alaska, which is accessible only by boat or plane. In the summer, they perform on cruise ships in Alaskan waters and at Chilkat Theatre. In the fall and early winter they travel in a 40-foot bus touring Canada and the lower 48 states.
“We are excited to return to Albert Lea this month. We have made some good friends there,” said Paul Zahasky. “We will be providing a taste of our Southeast Alaska Odyssey program on the 18th. It includes music that we have written about Alaska as well as history and stories from the region. We also do a mix of Americana music such as swing, bluegrass, gospel, and maybe even a touch of Cajun. Tunes like ‘All of Me,’ ‘Joli Blon,’ and ‘Daybreak in Dixie.’”
Paul Zahasky is a native of northeast Iowa, who worked in California, Colorado, Wyoming and other places before settling in Alaska. The guitarist and songwriter married Melissa, a violinist and vocalist trained in the classical tradition. She enjoyed a seat with the Juneau Symphony Orchestra before marriage and children consumed her attention. Their daughter Laura plays violin-fiddle, guitar and mandolin while their youngest, Abigail, plays violin-fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, pickin’ stick, piano and drums. Their son, Quinn, plays the bass and his wife, Emily, the mandolin. The family members often swap instruments while performing.
According to the band’s website, www.alaskastringband.com, the Zahasky family narration brings to life ancient customs and stories as well as an intimate peek at the lives of contemporary Alaskans, all laced with humor, scandal, tragedy and celebration. Their violin notes echo the haunting beauty of Alaska and their plucking the pluckiness of pioneers.
For a taste of the concert, visit the website for a trailer of their film version of the Southeast Alaska Odyssey that will be distributed nationally through PBS this winter.
Who: Zahasky Family
What: Southeast Alaska Odyssey String Band concert
Where: United Methodist Church in Albert Lea
When: 3 p.m. Oct. 18
Tickets: $10 per adult, $20 per family, no charge for age 5 and under
Available: At the church office, online at www.eventbrite.com or at the door