It all started on Whidbey Island 25 years ago to benefit a local music program.
Now, with a Grammy award-winning music career, the instrumental dynamic duo of Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel celebrate their silver anniversary in music among the community where it all began at the “Twelfth Night” concert at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
The 25-year-old benefit for the Langley United Methodist Church music program is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2.
Archives of a Dec. 13, 1985 Whidbey Today edition reveal the story of how Coupeville High School graduate and guitarist Tingstad had an idea for an acoustic Christmas album, eventually entitled “The Gift,” on which he convinced Langley resident and world-class musician Rumbel to add her signature sounds of English horn, oboe, double ocarina, piano and chimes.
The debut album for the newly formed duo went on to become a bestselling holiday classic and a successful musical group was born.
“The Gift” release concert was held in the Little Theater of South Whidbey High School and was the start of a collaboration that went on to produce 19 albums with tours throughout the U.S. and abroad and that has had Tingstad and Rumbel performing at about 50 concert venues per year.
They won a Grammy in 2003, but never left their roots behind, having kept up the beloved long-standing tradition of the “Twelfth Night Concert” in Langley.
It’s a homecoming show of sorts for the two former Whidbey Islanders. Organizer Bill Humphreys, director of music at Langley United Methodist Church, remembers the early days when the concert was held in the church’s Fellowship Hall with only makeshift lighting and folding chairs.
“But they were sensational,” Humphreys said. “People raved about their beautiful music and their casual, personal and entertaining interaction with each other and the audience.”
The popularity of the act forced the church to move the benefit to the larger venue of WICA where “Twelfth Night” has been held for the past 15 years.
Besides the success that Tingstad and Rumbel have had as live performers, their acoustic records have given them worldwide recognition.
This year, they released “Leap of Faith,” which has been called the perfect blend of Americana fingerstyle guitar, oboe, English horn and ocarina.
Theirs is an American homestyle music with eclectic flavors that includes a bit of a world-music sound. Tingstad and Rumbel seem to be able to play just about any style of music instrumentally, from traditional Asian folk tunes, Tex-Mex stylings and Caribbean rhythms to American songbook covers and Americana roots. “Leap of Faith” includes the songs “Medicine Tree,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Sweet Potato,” and “San Antonio Rose.”
This band has the kind of across-the-lines appeal that not only is heard frequently on the radio and on television, but is even used in American shopping malls.
Tingstad and Rumbel created a new genre of music that saw the rise of similar guitar plus oboe or flute recordings following the early years of their success.
But, it is not so surprising that a musical group from Whidbey Island has been single-handedly responsible for a rare movement in the musical world and for coining a unique style and sound. That’s exactly the kind of people that hail from, live and work on this island — the talented kind.
Recently Tingstad and Rumbel have welcomed bassist Gary Shelton to play with them and who will join them for “Twelfth Night.” A special celebratory reception will follow the concert.
Tickets for the 2010 “Twelfth Night Concert” are available at the WICA box office, open 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. All seats cost $25. Call 221-8268 or visit for more info, click here.