Unexpected duo leads to more than music

James Hill and Anne Janelle didn’t expect to get together. He played fiddle, she played the cello. He was studying folk music, she was studying classical cello. But in what Hill described as a series of “happy accidents,” they got together, both musically and romantically.

“It’s really kept us on our toes all these, and we always have a good time, and there’s always something unexpected that happens.”

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It took them a while to actually perform and record together, Hill explained.

“At first, it wasn’t really a match. We didn’t play music together at all. Gradually, we found our way to it. It seems very obvious to us now, but our first album together was ten years ago, so it didn’t seem obvious at the time.”

While recording and performing together ever since, they had mostly worked and contributed to each other’s solo albums – there was only one record that they actually recorded as a duo.

“People would be coming up to us after the show and ask us, which CD sounds like the concert we just heard? That was the comment we heard all the time. Which CD sounds like the two of you playing in our living room? We had to admit we didn’t have a CD like that,” said Hill.

They have that album now, described as “James and Ann, pure and simple,” recorded with one album off the floor. While it’s not actually out yet, their Saskatchewan tour will be the debut of the album, and it will be available in Yorkton at the show.

“You finally get to put the performance in your pocket.”

The goal was to make an album together, to reflect that they are together. The new album, Many a Moon, brings the reality of their lives together on an album, Hill explained.

“Our lives together are not separate. We share a home together, and everything, we have a son. To pretend our work is separate is just not true. We wanted to bring a bit of that to the material that released and the recordings that we make. Our lives are not separate from our work, and they’re not separate from our art, and you can say they never really are. If you make that distinction between your life and your art, it’s hard to justify that.”

Being a couple, recording the album did have a small complication, the couple’s son. Hill jokes that as soon as he went down for a nap they would run up to the studio and record. But he’s grateful that he’s there, and the family has the chance to tour and make music together. He describes it as home-grown, with the songs recorded live on the floor.

“You’re capturing a moment, and it’s the real thing.”

While he jokes they had to wait for him to nap to get recording, he’s grateful that he’s there.

“This little guy is always helping out, in ways he can’t even imagine and ways I never anticipated.”

Hill acknowledges that he’s lucky, both to have found the perfect partner, both in music and in life, and to be able to tour and record together.

“The fact that we can live out this dream of being musicians and put out something beautiful, that’s nothing to sneeze at.”

They are also grateful for the Saskatchewan tour, and the chance to go to venues they’ve never visited before and playing for audiences they have yet to meet. The goal is to do something special on stage, and he’s grateful to arts councils for programming live music and giving a chance for musicians like themselves to do these tours.

“This is really helping to keep live music alive. If you could just sit at home and put on the CD, I think everybody would do that. But what we’re looking for is an experience that will never happen again, that’s special. We put ourselves out there every night, and we open ourselves up to what everybody brings. We love to have things happen that we wouldn’t expect, that could happen in Yorkton, and we don’t know what that’s going to be.”

James Hill and Anne Janelle will be in Yorkton at the Anne Portnuff Theatre on April 4 as part of the Yorkton Arts Council’s Stars for Saskatchewan series. Tickets are available at www.yorktonarts.ca.

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