A San Francisco native, Marla is one of the prominent voices of the mandolin in Irish music. She brings a deep and distinctive sensibility to the tradition on one of its lesser-heard instruments. She is a dynamic performer and a sought after teacher. Her playing is featured on her 2020 release The Bright Hollow Fog, on the 2017 Noctambule release A Sweetish Tune, on the eponymous Three Mile Stone recording with San Francisco favorites, fiddler Erin Shrader and guitarist Richard Mandel, and on The Morning Star, a duo CD with legendary Irish singer and bouzouki player Jimmy Crowley released in 2011 — an all instrumental project that features Irish music on an array of mandolin-family instruments: mandolin, mandola, mandocello, bouzouki, and dordan. She has performed and taught nationally and in Ireland, and was a featured performer at the 2018 Masters of Tradition festival in Bantry, Co. Cork.
In addition to the mandolin, Marla plays mandola, tenor guitar, and button accordion. (She had the singular honor to be featured as Miss March in the 2011 Accordion Babes Pin-up Calendar.) She also sings and writes music, and is known for her musical settings of works from a variety of poets. In addition to playing and writing music, Marla is a textile artist. For a look at her work please click here.
Marla's main musical endeavor is a collaboration with her husband, guitarist Bruce Victor, under the name Noctambule. Bruce and Marla released their debut CD together, Travel in the Shadows, in 2013, and followed it up in 2015 with The Waking. Both recordings feature poetry that they have set to music and arranged for their bevy of strings, as well as original instrumentals. In July of 2017, Noctambule released A Sweetish Tune. This album is largely traditional Irish music, with some newer tunes written in the tradition, by Marla and by others, along with a few songs - a traditional Irish ballad, a new ballad, and a poem set to music by Marla and Bruce. In September 2021, they released Every Migrant is My Fellow, an album of songs reflecting on life transitions of many sorts, set against the isolation of the times.
Marla teaches privately, and in group classes, online with Peghead Nation, and has taught at many music camps, including The Swannanoa Gathering, Lark Camp, California Coast Music Camp, The Mandolin Symposium, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Portal Irish Music Week and O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat.
2022 will see her return to Fiddle Hell Online, The Gulf Coast Cruinniu, Portal Irish Music Week, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and Southwest Mandolin Camp, She'll also join the teaching staff of Mad Week for the first time! Details on these events and more on the events page.
Marla currently serves as Board President of Healing Muses. Healing Muses provides high-quality, live music to support patient care in hospitals, hospices
and other types of care centers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The work they do is hugely important. Please visit their website and support their work if you find yourself so moved.
There is a singular sound that results from the unique combination of a musician, their music and their instrument. We take that for granted with a singer, whose instrument cannot be separated from the musician, nor from the music that they make with their body. I feel it no less true for an instrumentalist, if they are fortunate to find and bond with an instrument that can become their voice.
This incredible mandolin came to me through my grandfather. I remember him playing it for me, my brother and sister, and my cousins when we were children. It was after he died that I picked it up and began to learn to play it, learning to play music at the same time. I have always played this mandolin -- its voice is part and parcel of the thing that is my music - its sound is my sound.
Thirty-five years ago I got bit by the Irish music bug. I like to think I was exposed to it at a particularly vulnerable moment. I did not have the good fortune to grow up with the music; I knew nothing about the music. It caught me off guard and took over! I wanted to play it. My grandfather's mandolin was in my aunt's attic. I knew just what to do...
I had no idea at the time that the mandolin is a relative newcomer to the Irish music tradition, still very much developing its voice and finding its place at the session table. My combination of ignorance and enthusiasm led me to find my own way of playing the music with enough lift to be a part of the session, part of the thing that is Irish music. Marla Fibish
What people say about Marla...
"Some of the best mandolin playing in Irish music.”
—Dennis Cahill, Guitarist
"Marla is a wonder on the mandolin; rhythmic beyond imagination, clear as a bell tone, great invention, lovely ornaments at just the right times and places, and a sureness and ease that allows the listener to relax and be carried away."
—Kevin Carr, Folkworks
"Marla’s amazing mandolin playing sets the bar for all others"
—Stuart Mason, Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog