A bee eater is a name given to a wide variety of birds across the globe that, as the name implies, eat bees. They are swift, graceful, skilled, diverse, and strikingly colorful.
It is perfectly apt, then, for a band of the same name to reflect those qualities in its sound. And the Bee Eaters certainly do just that.
“[Our music] doesn’t really fit into any category,” said Simon Chrisman, who plays the hammer dulcimer in the Bee Eaters. “You can call it folk, chamber, bluegrass or new grass, and somebody may come along and say we don’t fit that exactly.
“As with any music, there isn’t a good way to describe it in a few words.”
With brother and sister duo Tristan and Tashina Clarridge — on cello and fiddle, respectively — the trio weaves and clashes a collection of musical traditions into Bee Eaters exclusives.
“Between my bandmates and I, we are grounded in some traditional forms of music,” Tashina said. “We are versed in the traditions of bluegrass and old-time music and Irish traditional music. And in the Bee Eaters we have elements of chamber music and jazz as well, and pop music.
“As new creations are brought into the mix, they don’t always have a definitive name at the get go,” she said. “But as energy is poured into those creations, they become something, a stylistic genre with a name tag.”
So far, their name tag reads “Bee Eaters — a sound all their own.”
The Bee Eaters will take that sound to Grace Episcopal Church at 8595 NE Day Road on Bainbridge Island, on May 9 at 8 p.m. The church has carved a niche for itself as an arts venue. The Bee Eaters know this well.
“We love the space. It’s a great acoustic space,” Chrisman said. “We are looking forward to making some music in there. The sound is good and you don’t have to use much amplification at all. Our sound is so much about blending the instruments together and it’s so nice to do that without a PA getting in the way.”
Tickets are $18 in advance, $22 at the door. Youth and seniors are $10. Online tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com.
The island concert is a bit of a homecoming for the band. Chrisman grew up on Bainbridge and after the group formed in 2006, it performed its first concert there.
“It was at the Island Music Guild,” Chrisman said. “That was probably one of the first times we performed together. Things just went from there. We put together shows up and down the West Coast, a lot on Bainbridge.”
Clarridge notes that the band members were initially drawn together by the music that naturally came from performing together.
“It was an interest in similar sounds and textures, that was at the heart of it,” she said. “We just had a lot of fun hanging out, and had an interest in a similar kind of friendship and camaraderie on the road.”
That camaraderie has produced two albums: a self-titled album in 2009, and 2011’s “Oddfellows Road,” named after the Bainbridge Island street.
“The first one was was produced by Darol Anger, friend and mentor to us,” Chrisman said. “The second was self produced, and was named after a street I grew up on the south end of the island.”
The band has also established an educational component to their music. They will be contributing to this year’s Shasta Music Summit, a popular gathering for musicians with a who’s-who of string talent and more.
“We teach as a band quite a bit,” Clarridge said. “And that can be in workshops, in school presentations, at camps, and private lessons. And my brother and I run a couple of music camps.”
“Our ambitions are in performing, and passing on the music that we are learning about as we learn about it,” she said. “Whether you call that being a teacher or not, it’s important to give back to the communities you are a part of.”
Clarridge notes that the Bee Eaters have a particular focus on rhythm and like to teach upon that, among other things.
“A lot of the focus that we have as a band, is how to take what you know about music and maybe expand it a bit,” she said. “And how to utilize what you know about music, in a community or jam setting. You can take your musicianship and be part of what’s going on.”