Celtic Fiddle Festival

At the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Thursday, November

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

As we heard from Gilles Apap, our area’s resident style-hopping
virtuoso and increasingly world-renowned fiddler/violinist, the
promotion for last Thursday’s Celtic fiddling feast was a bit
misleading. Apap figured heavily in the picture, but he was, in
fact, just a special guest for a pre-existing project, the all-star
Celtic Fiddle Festival. At the heart of the project was veteran
Irish fiddler Kevin Burke, joined by fiddlers Christian Lemaître
from Brittany (west of the Eiffel Tower) and André Brunet from
Epiphany, Quebec, and trusty guitarist Ged Foley.

Into this Celtic/folk-style fiddling trust entered Apap, who got
the call to join the tour from Burke — one of his fiddling heroes.
Apap showed, as is his wont, that he can blend in virtually
anywhere he feels and hears the music. By the time Apap showed up,
opening the second set of this fascinating three-hour fiddle
encounter, he offered a refreshing palate-cleanser with doses of
stylized — even Celtic-flavored — classical works by Bach and
Ysaye, with an old-time jig for good folky measure.

Before and after Apap’s interlude, each fiddler demonstrated
musical flavors from his own corner of the Celtic Diaspora, and
proved his musical mettle. Brunet added extra musical firepower
with his pumping, percussive footwork. But Burke seemed like the
true anchor here, with a solid playing and rhythmic impetus from
the bones and heart.

In honor of the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, a
former member of the group who died of a heart attack, the crew
played a pair of his tunes, including the tipsy “Pernod Waltz.”
During a final, furious medley, each fiddler took a turn strutting
his personal stuff in between having goes at the main melody. For
Apap’s solo bit, he dove into the skittering, dizzy depths of that
classic Irish favorite, “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Beyond the musical kinship, Apap’s impish humor and loose-cannon
charisma — which has set him apart in classical circles — fit right
in with these winkingly witty chaps. Between songs, they joked,
spun yarns, and spoke of people and places from whence the music
came. Those aspects of the loam and the lineage are important to
Celtic tradition. This music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Nor does it
create one, as Thursday’s warm, infectious evening proved in ample


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