Karen Ballew - Vocals, Harp
Karen Ballew is a singer, composer, and Celtic harpist whose ethereal voice and poetry invites her listeners into a space of awe and wonder. From her beginnings singing choral music with her hometown’s Classical Youth Chorus, Karen’s musical taste and expertise expanded to encompass traditional music from a diverse array of cultures and time periods. With experience performing songs in Italian, French, German, and Spanish, she studied early church music and performed in the chamber choir at Furman University.
Karen found her greatest passion in Irish music after college, when she and her husband moved to Dallas, Texas and discovered a thriving Irish music scene there. She began learning Gaelic and Irish harp at the annual O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, developing her own unique voice along the way. Her skill with the harp grew as well, under the instruction of Rebekah Passmore. In 2013, Karen was presented the opportunity to create and direct a youth chorus for The North Texas School of Irish Music. Together, she and the kids learned more about the old style (sean nós) singing and enjoyed sharing songs in the Irish language with audiences throughout the DFW area.
Through Karen’s love of folk music, hymns, and worship music, God led her to a global Christian worship group which combined all these things. This ensemble, called ISHQ, sings and plays Biblical songs from around the world, leading worship for events, conferences, and ESL banquets. Karen also had the pleasure to lead worship with her friends at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Frisco, Texas. This group along with Karen’s former students from the Gaelic Youth Chorus are featured on The Deer's Cry album, Rise with the Dawn!
In 2015, Karen had the privilege of traveling to Dublin, Ireland to attend a singing summer school led by Irish choral composer Michael McGlynn. She was later invited to record an EP with his world-renowned vocal ensemble, ANÚNA. The ancient texts, medieval, Irish traditional, and classical music influences combined with Michael’s unique harmonic language have all inspired Karen’s own songwriting journey!
Karen and her husband moved to Nashville in 2017 and have found many like-minded people in the Nashville music scene. She has released two albums with her band The Deer’s Cry: Rise with the Dawn produced by Ren Renfree and Heal the Heart produced by Nick Bullock—Karen is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to record and collaborate with band mates Patrick Atwater, Bryan Brock, and Will MacLean! She also enjoys singing choral music with the Portara Ensemble in Nashville, Tennessee. In June of 2021, Karen began learning a beautiful Central Asian dance style from the Pamirs in Tajikistan from professional dancer and choreographer Natalie Nayun. She looks forward to dancing in upcoming performances with The Deer's Cry!
Bryan Brock - Percussion
Bryan Brock is a seasoned percussionist specializing in creative applications of traditional rhythms, instruments, and techniques from all over the globe. His diverse musical background and experience results in a unique blend of creativity, versatility, and skill that enhances a profusion of musical styles.
Bryan’s live performance and touring credits include Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Anjani and Leonard Cohen, classical crossover artist Nathan Pacheco, hybrid pop artist Margo Rey, jazz songstress Melody Gardot, the Grammy Award winning Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, Persian American vocalist Shahrzad Sepanlou, the Estrada Brothers Latin Jazz band, the country/rockabilly sounds of Eric Heatherly, and the world fusion of Incendio.
His highly intuitive and meticulous studio sensibilities have played an integral role in numerous recording situations including sessions for Dr. Dre, India.Arie, Sara Bereilles, Macy Gray, Truth Hurts, Drew Simpson, Jim Stubblefield, and HuDost as well as jingles for Ford, Jack-in-the-Box, KIA, McDonald's, Pepsi, and 7-Up.
Bryan's formal training began at an early age with classical piano instruction that opened the door to the world of percussion. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas where he immersed himself in jazz and ethnic styles. His love of music and culture has inspired travels throughout America, Cuba, and Ghana to study with percussion masters from African, Arabic, Brazilian, Cuban, and European musical traditions.
Bryan plays Meinl percussion instruments and Remo drum heads. He lives, works, and plays in Nashville, Tennessee.
Patrick Atwater- Double Bass
American double bassist and composer Patrick Atwater brings a unique blend of lyrical melodies, infectious grooves, and Jazz harmonies to any musical situation. An experienced performer in a variety of musical settings, Patrick always retains his own musical voice.
Patrick has been a member of the vibrant music scenes in both Athens, Georgia and Denver, Colorado. After moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2015, Patrick now calls Music City home and makes a living as a music educator, freelance bassist, and composer. Although he performs music in many genres, Patrick is most drawn to Jazz. This led him to earn a master’s degree in Jazz studies from Middle Tennessee State University in 2017. As a jazz bassist, Patrick cites influences from jazz masters such as Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Larry Grenadier, & Charlie Haden. As a composer Patrick draws on many different influences: Brad Mehldau, Snarky Puppy, Avishai Cohen, Brian Blade, & Herbie Hancock to name a few.
Whether performing as a bassist or composing, Patrick always strives for communication, both amongst the musicians on stage and between the band and audience. For Patrick, music is the best way to connect emotionally with others. This aesthetic is evident in his recordings and live performances.
Notable people Patrick has had the privilege to perform with: Howard Levy, Jeff Coffin, Keb’ Mo’, Wycliffe Gordon, Don Aliquo, and many others.
Will MacLean - Banjo
Will MacLean has pursued a career as a banjo player and roots musician since returning to Nashville in 2014. His longstanding love of music was probably sparked by hearing the Riders in the Sky as a 3-year-old.
After his family left Tennessee for Wyoming, Will found the inspiration to learn the guitar, the banjo and eventually move back to Music City.
He has performed with the bluegrass/comedy group the Cleverlys since 2017 and can be heard on their most recent album “Blue”. Will plays his own instrumental music and performs as the Will MacLean Band with some of the finest players in Nashville.
Madison Thames - Visual Artist
A lifelong artist, Madison graduated from Auburn University in 2018 with a BFA degree concentrating in painting. Working both traditionally and digitally, she creates a wide variety of commissions for clients and sells her work at comic book conventions. A year ago, she decided to share her enthusiasm for film with others by watching and reviewing movies on her YouTube channel. To date, her audience has grown to over 17,000 subscribers. Madison currently lives in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama with her three horses.