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In this Articulate exclusive, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason perform Ungar’s song “Ashokan Farewell,” best known for its inclusion in Ken Burns’ PBS series The Civil War.

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Jay Ungar
Jay Ungar

Jay Ungar is a renowned fiddle player, best known for his collaborations with guitarist and bassist Molly Mason. He was nominated for an Emmy for the song “Ashokan Farewell,” used as the theme for Ken Burns’s popular PBS documentary series The Civil War.

Born in 1946 in New York City and raised in the Bronx, Ungar met Mason in a Hudson Valley music club in the late 1970s. They played together in the folk string band Fiddle Fever, which recorded much of the music for the Grammy-winning soundtrack to The Civil War. Since their marriage in 1991, the pair have released over a dozen albums and contributed music to several other Ken Burns series and to the 1992 film Brother’s Keeper.

Ungar also plays with waltz band Swingology and with his daughter Ruth Ungar and her husband in the Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band. Since the 1980s, he has organized annual Music and Dance camps at the Ashokan Center in the Catskill Mountains.

Molly Mason
Molly Mason

Molly Mason is an acclaimed guitarist and bassist, best known for her work with fiddle player Jay Ungar.

Raised in Washington State, Mason met Ungar in the late 1970s in a music club in rural New York. They played together on occasion until Mason moved to Minnesota to join the house band of Garrison Keillor’s much-loved NPR show A Prairie Home Companion. She returned to New York to join Ungar in folk band Fiddle Fever, whose song “Ashokan Farewell” became the theme for the landmark Ken Burns documentary The Civil War.

Mason and Ungar married in 1991. The same year, they were signed as a duo to Angel Records. They released a series of celebrated albums, including The Lovers’ Waltz (1997) and Harvest Home (1999), which contains a collaboration with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra.

The duo also perform with country blues and swing band Swingology and in the Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band.