Belles on Strings


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Ann Borden - Celtic Harp

I had always wanted to play harp since the age of 8 but my Grandmother and Mother kept enrolling me in lessons for everything but.  I began a long series of studying different musical instruments including the piano, violin, mandolin and flute.  In one of my more discouraging lessons with a flute teacher I told him I really wanted to play the harp.  He jumped on that and called Jackie Bartlett, the principal harpist with the North Carolina symphony at the time, and she called my Mom and offered to give me a free introductory lesson. A young Ann playing her harp

I finally got to take my harp lessons at age seventeen, and it was as if I'd been playing it all my life!  So I went off to study harp with Patricia Pence Sokoloff at the North Carolina school of the Arts where I graduated with a bachelor of music in harp performance.  

It was always my intent to play traditional music of the British Isles, especially Scotland, where most of my family came from.  But, at that time, my only option was classical harp.  In my senior year of college I started to study traditional Scottish music on my own and realized that the North Carolina Old Time and Appalachian music I learned back in grade school was pretty much right out of the Scottish tradition brought here by Scottish immigrants like my ancestors.  The music I write now is highly influenced by Scottish traditional music with it's syncopated rhythms. There are also classical, jazz, rock, and world folk music influences. 

Working with Belles on Strings and my friends, Jennifer and Tracey, is a true delight.  They are fun-loving, creative musicians who are always ready to experiment with new sounds while holding on to their traditional roots.

Beth Hyland - Fiddle and Bodhrán

 My earliest days of fiddling happened in the living room of my grandparents’ house pretending to play along to my grandpa’s classical records with my little plastic violin and bow (which I still have!).  I received my first real violin in 4th grade when I joined my elementary school’s orchestra. 

 I saw Riverdance on PBS for the first time in 1998 and fell hard in love with Irish music and dance.  I spent a lot of time looking up sheet music for Irish tunes on the computer in Gramley Library at Salem College that summer while I was at Governor’s School West.  

I studied music at Salem College.  While there, I played in chamber groups, in the college’s orchestra.  I also played in the orchestra and the Collegium Musicum at WFU.  My love for Irish music didn’t go away, but wasn’t able to find any like-minded souls at school until after I graduated.  The fall of 2003, I became a founding member of my first Celtic band, Clover’s Fall, with three Salem College freshman.   

As time went by, I had plenty of other playing opportunities – as a wandering minstrel at the NC Renaissance Faire in Raleigh, as a costumed musical interpreter at Old Salem, for weddings and private parties, in area orchestras, and in the pit for local musical theater productions – but I missed having a band.  

In 2013, I became a founding member of an Irish band - Góilín, which means “making music” in Irish Gaelic. I bumped into Nora Garver, the Belles’ original fiddler, here and there in the mid-2000s as we drifted around in similar music circles.  I met Jennifer Lane, the Belle's second fiddler, during my senior year at Salem College when we both played in WFU’s orchestra, and we’ve played many weddings together since then. I’m truly honored to follow in the footsteps of these two fine fiddlers. 

 In addition to the fiddle, I also play bodhran (Irish frame drum).  I have dabbled on pennywhistle, mandolin, viola, and treble/bass viols da gamba over the years.  I own four violins: my first full-sized student violin, the violin that I received in 7th grade and played through college, a 1739 German violin that is now my primary instrument, and a blue electric fiddle.  

 I’m excited to join Belles on Strings as their fiddler and to work on new music with a new group of excellent musicians!


Tracey Maxwell - Cello

I’d like to say I started playing the cello because I was deeply moved by its commanding volume, deep resonance and rich overtones. In reality, I started playing at the age of seven because a cello just happened to be lying around our house (well, leaning in a corner actually). My dad had bought it years before, but had never learned to play. He kept it, I think, to remind him of his dreams…and because cellos are gorgeous to look at.

Encouraged by both parents, I started lessons with an extremely patient teacher, sawing away on a much smaller rented cello (see sawing at right). At first it was just the three of us: me, my little cello and poor Mrs. King. But while in elementary school in Raleigh, NC, I was asked to join the junior high orchestra (cellists being in relatively short supply). I was launched, so to speak, and all my subsequent playing was classically oriented. It was not until my more "advanced" years, when I heard cellist Natalie Haas and pre-eminent Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser play toe-tapping, goose-bump-raising traditional Scottish duets that I realized my cello and I had been missing something—something very powerful and very beautiful: traditional music.

Supported early on by the teaching of Scottish fiddler John Turner and the fine musicians at his Jink and Diddle School of Scottish Fiddling right here in the NC mountains, I discovered I’m deeply drawn to Celtic music, particularly traditional Scottish music. I've subsequently studied at numerous workshops and music camps with Scottish cello pioneer Abby Newton; Silk Road Ensemble cellist Mike Block; rock cellist crazy man Rushad Eggleston; and of course, cellist Natalie Haas, both at Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp in California and at the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. I'm also exploring Scandinavian traditional music and am part of a newly formed Americana band, yet to be named. 

I feel profoundly privileged to lay down the low notes (also referred to as 'the warm bottom,' after a wee dram or two) for Belles on Strings. Thank you for visiting our site and welcome to this Celtic musical journey. It’s a journey for me and the Belles, of course, but music is meant to be shared. We welcome you into its embrace.