ELKINS - Elkins native Patrick McKay Jr. recently performed at Symphony Space theater in New York City in conjunction with a screening of the documentary "In the High Country."
McKay, a 15-year-old musician and composer, contributed three original songs for the film, which was written and directed by Belington resident Joel Wolpert.
McKay and Wolpert were first introduced via music when Wolpert was looking for songs to accompany his short film "Horses+Fire" about a Barboursville track star.
Submitted photo by Porcupine Products
Patrick McKay Jr. on stage.
Wolpert said, "In the spring of 2013, I was looking for locally produced, West Virginia-based music for a film soundtrack. The state has a rich tradition in old-time and bluegrass music. However, I needed a different kind of music: more ambient and nostalgic.
"I found the perfect songs from a band named CUSIQUE. The songs were rich in emotion, rhythm, and soul. It was only after I secured permission to use them, that I learned that CUSIQUE was the product of only one young man: Patrick McKay Jr."
McKay said that he was surprised and pleased when the movie producer approached him. "When I put the album out, this was the last thing I expected. He asked to use three songs from the album, and I was very eager to give permission. I knew that it was a win-win for the both of us as artists."
By summer, Wolpert contacted McKay again, this time to collaborate on original songs for another film he was working on.
"I saw trailers for his film ("In the High Country") online, and I was really interested in it. When he contacted me to collaborate with him on original music for the film, I was pleasantly surprised and accepting of the challenge," McKay said.
"He came over to discuss what I would be contributing. He asked for three songs, one being a score for the film. I had never written a score, but once he gave me the concepts and emotions he wanted this song to reflect, I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do.
"I had a lot of trouble getting this track, titled "Anton," to where I felt comfortable, due to equipment issues and whatnot. I ended up putting together another composition when I was having trouble with my original idea. Eventually I finished the original song I had in mind. I was really surprised when he ended up using both. He also used a single I put out earlier this year, in June," McKay said.
The film "In the High Country" is the result of a year-long collaboration between filmmaker Joel Wolpert and mountain-runner Anton Krupicka.
Krupicka is an internationally known ultra-runner, and the film garnered worldwide attention, with screenings across the United States and abroad. The film was screened in Buckhannon in the fall, and McKay performed before each showing, as well as before the screening at the Shepherdstown Opera House in Shepherdstown.
"I loved playing at the screenings," McKay said. "Runners make the best audience; they're so lively and supportive. I liked playing these screenings because I was able to expose myself as an artist to large, diverse groups of people without having to play a full hour or two-hour set.
"All it took was two or three songs, and it was probably more beneficial to me than anything else I've ever done as a musician."
Then, in December, Wolpert once again asked McKay to perform this time on the Upper West Side of New York City at Symphony Space theater on Broadway at 95th Street.
"I was in the midst of setting up a separate engagement with Joel when he asked me to play this show, and I was very quick to say yes," McKay said, "especially when he told me about the Steinway grand piano at the theater."
McKay, who performs many of his songs on his great-grandfather's guitar, said that family members and the community rallied behind him to make his dream of performing in New York City come true.
"I've always had people in my life that have supported me in whatever I do. My parents, friends and other family members all wished me well; a few even helped us financially for our trip up and back. It was really great to have that kind of support while doing something this important to me."
Wolpert said it was a pleasure to include McKay in the project. "'In the High Country' is an impressionistic mountain running film: a visual essay about a life in the mountains," according to Wolpert.
"It looks at running from a new perspective, both visually and in the style of running. The film has gone on to play worldwide. Patrick's anthem receives praise everywhere it plays."
"Patrick's music added a lot to the film, and I was thrilled to find a local artist to work with. Patrick is a kind and humble person with a tremendous talent for music," Wolpert said. "He really impressed the crowd in New York, and I think that his music can take him wherever he wants to go in life."
McKay plays a variety of instruments, including guitar, bass, drums and percussion, ukulele, piano, and many more. He records and performs under the name "CUSIQUE" and has released one album and one single.
His music can be found and purchased at cusique.bandcamp.com. "In the High Country" can be viewed at vimeo.com or purchased at thewolpertinger.com/blog/.