As a violinist, Danielle Lennon is accustomed to accompanying other people, but now she’s the one doing the asking.
Lennon — who plays in the Kingston Symphony and teaches at Kingston School of Music — finally releases her debut album, String Theory, on Friday.
“I think I’ve wanted to do it for a really long time, I just had no idea what I wanted it to be, mostly because, as a violinist, my main gig is playing other people’s music,” she said. “People call me to record things for them here and there.”
Still, Lennon — who didn’t even start playing the violin until she was 13 years old — had been mulling making her own music for awhile.
“I didn’t have anything that was my own baby,” the 34-year-old remarked. “I didn’t even know I could write music.”
Sometimes a melody would get stuck in her head, she said, so she would write it down and often forget about it. She did, however, try out one of her melodies that she had written years ago with the Celtic band Boru’s Harp, who started jamming along with her.
“And that’s when I thought, ‘OK, this might have potential,’ ” she recalled of the track Erratic Nomad, the fourth of eight tracks on the album, which was produced by Matt Rogalsky.
She initially thought she would write and record all of the tracks herself, but soon found herself missing the shared energy of playing with others.
Lennon, who plays with a variety of different groups, from Celtic to pop to ambient rock, describes herself as an “eclectic” musician.
“I play a little bit of everything and I think that’s what I’m trying to put on this album,” she said.
As a 14-year member of the symphony, one might think Lennon’s album would be a classical one, but instead she also incorporates other contemporary elements, such as percussion.
“That’s been one of my biggest challenges, actually, is to figure out how to describe this music, because classical’s a really easy way to describe it, but I don’t think it fits into that box perfectly,” she suggested. “I don’t think it fits into any box, really, which makes it challenging.”
The people for whom she played some of the tracks thought differently.
“One of the first things people said when they heard it was, ‘This is movie music,’ which I really, really rejected,” she recalled.
“I was like, ‘Stop saying that, I hate that idea.’ And then, finally, I thought I can make it that way but on my own terms.”
Now thinking that the tracks could use a visual element — one track, Full Rotation, was included in the documentary Til the Cows Come Home — she approached friend Irina Skvortsova, who helped persuade local filmmakers to each create a short film to accompany a track.
“It felt right to have some kind of visual, but I didn’t want to necessarily dictate what that’s going to be. So I told them, ‘You have free rein to do whatever you want,’ ” she recalled.
“Some of them didn’t even want to know the title of the piece they were working on. I had no idea what I was going to get.”
The paying public will have a chance to hear and see both a week after the album’s release at the University Club. Lennon and her accompanists will perform the album as the short films are projected on a screen behind them.
“I think it gives it a little extra allure,” she suggested. “People are interested to see these films.”
She will also perform the album and screen the films in her hometown of Hamilton later this month. With her symphony and teaching commitments, and her other job running The Kingstonist website along with her husband, it’s unlikely she will be leaving on tour any time soon.
When asked the reason why she decided to release her album now, Lennon joked that her husband was “getting tired of me talking about it.” Now that it’s finished, what will they talk about now?
“He’s already planning the next one,” she said, laughing.
Written by Peter Hendra and published in The Kingston Whig-Standard. Saturday, November 1st 2014.