Gaelynn Lea, the winner of NPR’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest, makes music like nobody else. Her sounds are steeped in the deep melodies of great Irish fiddle tunes, but her performance and singing style aren’t traditional. More than 6,000 artists submitted videos in which they performed an original song behind a desk of their choosing with the hope of winning a chance to play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR. Gaelynn Lea was the overwhelming favorite of our six judges.
After voting for Lea, I wanted to learn more about her and her remarkable talent. Following about a minute of just focusing on the desk, her video pans to a small woman in a wheelchair as she plays a violin she holds like a cello. Lea has brittle bone disease, which made it necessary for her to reinvent the ordinary — and, in this case, a way to play the fiddle.
I also discovered, after selecting Gaelynn Lea, that she’d become friends with Alan Sparhawk of the band Low. Sparhawk first heard her perform at a farmers market in Duluth, Minn., where they both live. They’ve become friends who sometimes make music together, recording under the name The Murder Of Crows, so I also invited Sparhawk to join Gaelynn Lea for two of her four songs at this special Tiny Desk concert. There was hardly a dry eye.
- “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun”
- “Bird Song”
- “Moment Of Bliss”
Producers: Bob Boilen, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Kara Frame; Production Assistant: Jackson Sinnenberg; Photo: Colin Marshall/NPR.
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