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celtic fiddle festival

A Night with the Celtic Fiddle Festival

 Celtic Fiddle Festival – 23rd February 2017 – The Sage Gateshead

~a guest blog by Sarah Harrington of Tales From A Geordie Goth

Celtic Fiddle Festival is composed of three violinists and an acoustic guitarist.  All are renowned in their own disciplines and have entertained fans worldwide for over 25 years.  The band is described as “three of the finest fiddlers in the world” by The Washington Post.  They celebrate Celtic culture through renditions of traditional folk tunes and contemporary interpretations.  This tour focuses on songs from their most recent album, Storm in a Teapot, named after their horrific experiences of tumultuous storms while recording.  

I arrived promptly to a great atmosphere emanating from Sage Two, at The Sage Gateshead.  This was my first time seeing the band.  Celtic music is a secret love of mine, so I anticipated an energetic Ceilidh style show, without the dancing.  I overheard the audience commenting on the bands past spirited performances and knew I was in for a treat.

In the first half of the gig, the audience were introduced to the musicians; with each fiddler performing a solo from their favourite pieces reflecting their varied Celtic heritages.  However, the styles were all interrelated and each musician received warm appreciation.  

The lights dimmed.  The two Bretons Christian Lemaître the fiddler and acoustic guitarist Nicolas Quemener entered Christian welcomed everyone and started telling humorous anecdotes which visually described each song, setting the format for the first act.  The Bretons played more up-tempo marches, suiting their relaxed demeanours, used to accompany weddings.

The newest member Charlie McKerron followed Christian and played the more familiar romantic traditional Scottish melodies.  The quietly spoken McKerron seemed the most reserved but played the most expressively.  His rendition of Cluny Castle best captured his beautiful lyrical lamentation.  I also liked the reference to local musician, James Hill’s, Earl Gray.

Irishman Kevin Burke took his place, receiving the most applause of the night.  Sitting next to Quemener, he set the scene in a quiet whimsical way and set about playing a formative piece Lucy’s Fling, a title inspired by his first music tutor.  Kevin throughout the concert linked the performance narrative together with stories and music. 

I was impressed by Burke’s tongue in cheek approach to promoting their CD’s as “Christmas Presents” to purchase during the intermission, had me laughing.

I preferred the second half, as the band played together, which highlighted more of the group’s chemistry, especially their genuine admiration for each other and they extended their friendship to the audience.  The shows dynamic changed, as their techniques merged into a fusion of spirited jaunty melodies.  Burke led, while the others harmonised. However, Kevin never dominated the others, often creating the melody for the other soloists.  My favourite performance was Kas Ha Barh, it had a unique eastern European influence contrasting to the other instrumentals. 

The band seemed used to a more of spirited crowds; I think the mature audience and limited space of Sage Two prevented dancing contribute to this. As the performances continued the crowds became livelier, especially with Lemaître’s encouragement to clap which reverberated through the hall. 

Sadly the night had to end.  It did so with the band finishing with an encore of jigs. Each performance expressed a mastery of vibrant repertoires that froze time creating euphoric sensations with every note.  The band enhanced the experience creating an intimate and relaxing atmosphere, making me feel welcomed as though I was an old friend. I intend on purchasing their album and would recommend this band to folk music enthusiasts.

~a guest blog by Sarah Harrington of Tales From A Geordie Goth




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