Theater & Arts

Artists you should know: the Murray Girls

On her own, Leigh Ratliff Murray has performed with the Good Company Players and been involved with the Fresno Grand Opera.

She has recorded musical styles from bluegrass to jingles.

So recording a Christmas CD wasn't exactly a leap for her -- but it was for her partners.

She rounded up her three daughters -- Killean, 13, and Kenneshae and Kinborough, 10-year-old twins -- to record "Appalachian Christmas."

We talked to Mom to learn more:

Have you recorded together before? We worked together recording commercials while I was the Maximus Studio manager for 10 years. I took the audio engineering course at Fresno City College, and then we recorded "Hail the Blest Morn" (the first song on the CD) as my final.

How did you get the idea for an Appalachian CD? I decided the world did not need another recording of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The American Roots music of the Appalachian Mountains is primitively beautiful but neglected. I wanted my kids to know these tunes. The most familiar song on the CD is "I Wonder as I Wander."

What were the difficulties of working with a 13-year-old and two 10-year-olds? The girls hadn't realized how much work was involved. They were getting tired of giving up their Saturday mornings. Plus, with that many girls, there's a giggle factor involved.

What was the recording process like? I pre-recorded all the instrumental and guide tracks. The novelty of being at a recording studio wore off pretty quickly for the girls. The kids had only about a four-hour stamina window in which they could work. That's only a couple of songs per session.

What has happened since? The girls saw a video in which the vocalist and all the band were performing together in the studio. The twins said, "She's not really singing!" I asked how they knew. They said, "Because she's smiling!" I said, "Maybe her producer is nicer than yours."

What is your favorite thing about the CD? Well, it ain't "Jingle Bells"! My favorite song on the CD is the a capella "When Jesus Wept." The blood harmony blend of all the voices is chilling. The unusual instrumentation of viola da gamba, hurdy gurdy, psaltery, mountain dulcimer, recorders, flute, autoharp, bodhran and tap shoes makes each song unique.

Where can people pick up the CD? Contact us through our Web page, murraygirls.com. Our P.O. Box is 28507, Fresno, CA 93729.

What's next? The Murray Girls will appear at the Rogue Festival.

For music and more: Go to murraygirls.com.

Know a local musician that more people should be familiar with? Send the who and why to Mike Osegueda, mosegueda@fresnobee.com.

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