The Hills are Alive
at St. Peter's Parish, Ingonish, Cape Breton
(17 October 2013)

After a drive through mist and fog, I arrived in my absolute most favorite town in Cape Breton: Ingonish. It's beauty is breathtaking with the highlands, the cliffs along the water and the fresh sea air. Set in all of this is the lovely church, St. Peter's Parish, where I've seen a few concerts now. With its altar and high ceiling, it is perfect for a concert venue.

Kicking the show off this evening was the Snowflake Trio, a lovely blend of Irish and Norwegian instruments and music. The group includes Nuala Kennedy on flute and vocals, Frode Haitl on accordion and Vegar Vardel on fiddle and Hardanger fiddle. They started with a slow, haunting tune, and then a song that was an Irish poem, which led into an interesting Norwegian waltz that I loved because it never went where I expected it to go. They followed it with a fun, playful Oliver Schroer tune, then an Irish song of a poem that was written from a teacher to a student. They finished with Kennedy's beautiful tune, "The Green Lady," which once I again loved. The arrangement is a marvelous blend of the trio's instruments, from the bass accompaniment of the accordion to the treble melodies and harmonies of the flute and fiddle.

Coig (Gaelic for "five") was the next group to take the stage. I had the opportunity to hear this group in Milwaukee a couple of years ago and the totally blew me away, so I was really happy to hear them, again. This group consists of Darren McMullen on banjo, mandolin and guitar, Rachel Davis, Chrissy Crowley and Colin Grant on fiddles, and Jason Roach on piano. The group came together because of this festival. They were originally a promotional band and, as Crowley put it, they loved each other so much, they're still together. They began with foot-stomping, head-bopping jigs. Then, they played a reel by McMullen that he wrote for his puppies. Following this was Davis and Crowley singing "Spanish Bay." I loved this because I've never heard this group do a song before; I've only heard them play tunes, but they are equally as talented in both. After the song, the stage was turned over to Roach, who played his tune, "Sleepless." They topped off their set with thanks and a song and a blast of tunes with Kennedy, who joined them onstage.

Swedish trio Vasen took the stage after the intermission and draw for door prizes. They are currently the No. 1 Swedish folk group. "Vasen" has many meanings, all of which fit this band: spirit, noise, a living being, essence. The group will celebrate their 25th year as a band next year. They began with lively, newly composed polskas by their nyckelharpa player, Olov Johansson. This was followed by a tune by their fiddle player, Mikael Marin, written for his dog (seems to be a theme, tonight) and then another polska that guitar player Roger Tallroth wrote for his daughter. Then, they played a slower waltz, with all three plucking the strings of their instruments.

After this, they said that, since they were performing in a church, they decided to play some menuets. They reminded me of the baroque minuets I played growing up -- slow, but lilting. This trio is very good at their style of music, and it's neat to see them carrying on the traditional music of their country by performing and writing new tunes. It's easy to hear why they are No. 1.

Once again, I loved everything I heard this evening. It was all a nice treat to my ears. I am looking forward to what is to come at the Festival Club tonight.

review by
Kaitlin Hahn

22 February 2014

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