The 4th Annual World Fiddle Day will take place on Saturday, May 21st at Historic Fort York, in Toronto. The event will feature 100 fiddlers, playing 40 tunes from 25 different countries. Accompanying them is an excellent back-up band consisting of world percussion, clarinet, and keyboards, all celebrating world music.
Special guest artists Dan MacDonald, Mark Marczyk, Rosalyn Dennett, and Yosvani Castaneda will lead morning workshops, play an afternoon concert, followed by the giant community “Around-the-World” Fiddle Jam. All activities from noon on free.
World Fiddle Day celebrates world music traditions with a mission to provide opportunities for string players of all backgrounds to come together and create great music with some of Toronto’s best professional musicians.
Each year there are special guests for the workshop and performance portions of the event and then the high point, led by fiddler Anne Lederman, is the “Around-the-World Jam.”
Tunes from Canadian folk traditions take their place alongside superb music from the Caribbean, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This year’s theme, in honor of the Syrian refugees, will showcase the beautiful Arabic song, “Alhamdoulillah,” as sung by the Ottawa children’s choir, adapted for World Fiddle Day Toronto.
American fiddler Trevor Stuart passed away suddenly at his home on March 2, 2016 at the age of forty-seven. Trevor Stuart was a member of the celebrated Stuart Brothers, performers of traditional Appalachian fiddle and banjo music.
Trevor Stuart was born and raised in Bethel, a rural farming community in Haywood County, in western North Carolina.
Trevor ad his brother Travis toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, performing at major festivals and teaching workshops and master classes at music camps.
For over ten years, the Stuart Brothers led the Haywood County JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) an after-school program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Stuart brothers released two albums: Pretty Little Widow, (Yodel-Ay-Hee), and Mountaineer (Old 97 Wrecords) and appeared on numerous recordings.
The Gloaming, a contemporary Celtic music band, is set to perform at Baldwin Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
The quintet includes some of the world’s greatest Celtic musicians, including vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird (Afro Celt Sound System), fiddle master Martin Hayes, hardanger fiddler Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill; and Brooklyn-based pianist and producer Thomas Bartlett, also known as Doveman (The National, Grizzly Bear, and Nico Muhly).
The Gloaming released a self-titled 2014 debut album, The Gloaming . The ensemble’s second recording, 2 is scheduled for release later this month.
The Celtic Connections 2016 festival will present a tribute to Aly Bain at 70. Le Grand Anniversaire will see the legendary performer join once more with his long standing musical colleague Phil Cunningham to celebrate 30 years of performing together. The concert takes place at the City Halls on Wednesday, January 20.
I really wanted to be in New Orleans this past weekend. The Jazz & Heritage Festival was calling to me like troubadour calling for his chorus. But I’ve got fires at home to tend, so I stayed in Minnesota. To mollify my plight, I bought advance tickets to a couple of concerts at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis to occupy my time and distract me from where I’d rather be. As he always has, Bruce Molsky came through for me.
The last Friday evening in April saw Dr. John, BeauSoleil, and Ani DiFranco playing down in the Crescent City. Up here in Flour City, Molsky heaped a helping of old-time music on our plates with plenty of side dishes. I left the venue that night completely satisfied and truly no longer yearning for the Big Easy.
Bruce Molsky plays old-time music, staying true to the rural Appalachian Mountain folks who changed their Scottish and Irish tunes into an American mixture, granddaddy-ing both Country Music and Bluegrass. He’s thorough, knowing the details of every song he plays, despite his words to the contrary. “I’m kinda lyrically impaired,” Molsky tells us during his show, “I can’t remember the name of this piece (thinking it might be The Johnson City Rag).” But he does recount the tune’s history, providing us with dates and locations from its originator to the names of those who’ve played variations. Molsky doesn’t cut corners.
He believes in honesty, singing the songs the way they were played hundreds of years ago. And he also spends time on stage tuning his fiddle or banjo. “It’s not that I carry around crummy instruments that won’t stay in tune. It’s that I’m actually changing the tuning to these old-fashioned tunings,” Molsky says.
His eight o’clock show starts up showcasing some of the numbers on his new album, Soon Be Time. His voice singing Lazy John turns his four-stringed violin into a five-string instrument, the timbre of the two boxes, voice and fiddle, so closely match, I can hardly tell them apart.
Many of his songs are heel kicking, frolicsome pieces, but as much as I adore dancing, I never want to dance while Molsky plays. There’s something about his precise fingering and penetrating voice that nails me right to my seat. I don’t dare get up. Move, yes, as Molsky picks his guitar playing Fair Thee Well Blues, a mean an sassy number by Mississippi bluesman, Joe Callicott, I definitely tap my toes, bang my heel, sway my shoulders, but I am paralyzed to get out of my chair, so mesmerizing do I find Molsky’s performance.
When we hear Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie by Fields Ward, the glue that holds me together comes undone. It’s a cowboy song, says Molsky, but I can’t imagine a cowboy riding the dusty trails having such a rich, dead-on, in-tune voice as Molsky’s. This song wraps around me, rocking as the winds on the prairie blow, warm and embracing, yet also heartbreaking.
His first set ends with his old-time version of Cotton Eyed Joe. As of late, I’d been listening to BooZoo Chavis’ Zydeco-answer to that tune, Uncle Bud, which I liked even more than Cotton Eyed Joe, until I heard Molsky perform. When Molsky started rapping his fiddle in the style of Tommy Jarrell, under my breath I cheered, “Go Brucie, you rappin’ dude!”
Molsky pulls in the flavors of many, many countries. I’ve heard him play with Swedish violist, Ellika Frisell, and their music was so lovely, I just didn’t want it to end. It’s like that tonight when Molsky fiddles a series of Scandinavian tunes. Like being served a bottomless cup of java, the songs are not flashy, but absolutely essential with a quality of endlessness.
He’d like you to think he’s even-tempered, unflappable. But underneath his steady exterior resides a passionate, intense man. He reveals his hand when he talks about politics. “Foreign musicians visiting the States are at an all-time low because we’re so damn unfriendly to them,” Molsky says after playing the songs from several musicians such as Hoven Droven and Väsen.
Molsky plays favorite after favorite in the second set. As comforting as watching rain lightly fall on a thirsty earth, is his music to my ears. The audience is small enough at almost 100 people to be intimate and close up. Molsky shines in this setting with his warm demeanor, ready smile, and crinkly eyes. I leave that evening feeling very pampered.
Scandinavia is a land of excellent fiddlers. In the past months, a new batch of recordings featuring top folk violinists from the Nordic countries ha appeared in record stores.
Frigg’s latest offering is Oasis. The Finnish band specializes in the folk songs of Finland and Norway, with a bit of bluegrass added for spice. Even though the fiddles play the leading role, Frigg also uses wind instruments, bagpipes and other elements. The song selection ranges from lively dance pieces to delightful melodic compositions.
Swedish band Swåp presents a captivating combination of Celtic music with Swedish folk on Du Da. The Swedish and British musicians that form the band explore these sounds with the help of accordion, fiddles and guitars.
One of the stars of contemporary Nordic folk music is Swedish group Väsen. The virtuoso instrumentalists perform their new brand of Swedish folk music throughout Europe, North America and Japan. It is in Japan where the brilliant trio recorded its most recent offering, a live album.
Live in Japan portrays three excellent musicians playing smoking live versions of Swedish polskas, bluegrass-influenced tunes and other folk styles using fiddle, nyckelharpa (Swedish hurdy-gurdy) and fiddle. The double set includes a DVD with a documentary about the group.
From Norway comes Rusk II, featuring the vocals of Unni Lovlid, the accordion of Frode Haltli and the hardanger fiddle of Vegar Vardal.
The song selection includes folk songs from Sweden and Norway, ranging from pols dances and hymns to drinking songs and even a tribute to Johnny Cash. Nevertheless, the ambiance is not merry, but rather evocative and melancholic, with a chamber music ensemble feel.
Two tunes on Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster’s latest recording, Blueprint succinctly describe the power behind the 30-year old musician’s feisty gift. They are “Touch of the Master’s Hand,” based on a poem by Myra Brooks Welch; and the love song, “My Love, Cape Breton and Me,” which ends the recording. The first tune cites, “From the room far back a fair-haired girl came forward and took the bow. Then she wiped dust from the old violin and tightened up the strings. She played a tune so pure and sweet you could hear the angels sing.” I would bet that Natalie could also transform a tired old instrument into the stuff of angels.
Natalie’s cousin Bob Quinn wrote the second tune for MacMaster’s marriage to fiddler Donnell Leahy that took place on October 5, 2002. Quinn’s 18-year old daughter handled vocal duties at the wedding and on the recording. The song which was recorded in Halifax and produced by Natalie and her husband, speaks of the simple things in life and also about returning to one’s roots.
Natalie’s roots go deep into the heart of Canada’s Cape Breton. She was born into a fiddling community and is related to fiddling royalty, yet she relocated to Ontario after her wedding, giving the song a lasting poignancy.
The remaining 12 tracks were recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with “new acoustic” producer Darol Anger at the helm and embellished by an array of stellar bluegrass talent. MacMaster teams up with Bela Fleck (banjo), Jerry Douglas (dobra), Victor Wooten (bass), Alison Brown (banjo), John Cowen (vocals), Sam Bush (mandolin), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Edgar Meyer (Arco & Pizz bass) and her regular band mates to create a masterful marriage between traditional Cape Breton repertoire and new grass. They even toss in a few bluesy chops and jazzy bits here and there. However, besides this rich line up of musicians, what strikes me the most is being able to hear joy welling up in Natalie’s heart when she performs.
Her musicianship boasts both technical brilliance and absolute soul fullness that shouts integrity. If only there were more Natalie MacMaster’s in the world, I believe we would live in peace.
The tracks on Blueprint range from the pastoral “Eternal Friendship” to the tricky “Devil and The Dirk” with its alternating fiddle textures (staccato and sweet lyrical) and everything in between. Natalie’s fiddle kicks into gear on Gravel Shore then the musicians take turns at solos while building off of each others’ creative impulses. I am surprised to find Swedish guitarist Roger Tallroth’s (Vasen) “Josefin’s Waltz” on this recording, yet a few similarities between Swedish traditional music and fiddle music of the Americas do exist. Bela Fleck chips in Bela’s Tune and Natalie pays homage to her parents with the romp, Minnie & Alex’s Reel.
The musicianship is extraordinary on this spirited disc. Natalie plays straight from the heart and expertly turns musical phrases. She has toured the world and shared stages with such luminaries as Carlos Santana, Luciano Pavarotti, Alison Krauss and The Chieftains. And now she stars in her own show, accompanied by some of the hottest bluegrass musicians. Certainly her latest recording is a blueprint for success, but it also a CD filled with longing for one’s home. Whether or not you make your home in Cape Breton or elsewhere, finding your way home will be less complicated after listening to this heart-felt recording.
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