Last night I went to a BCMFest concert at Club Passim in Cambridge. It was truly magnificent. Club Passim is a tiny little intimate venue, and the event last night featured two bands of amazing virtuosity.
Opening was a new trio composed of Bronwyn Bird on nyckelharpa & accordion, Julie Metcalf on viola, and Mariel Vandersteel on fiddle. These three young roommates from Jamaica Plain dazzled the crowd with tunes from Sweden and the British Isles, songs filled with close harmony, and general silliness climaxing in a whoop-filled polka. Their playing was impressive, and Bird’s homemade nyckelharpa was a fantastic instrument that much of the audience was newly introduced to.
The second act completely blew me away. The band was Matching Orange, a contradance band who, apparently, is also phenomenal in concert. The band is composed of Eric McDonald on guitar and vocals (though I believe he may occasionally play mandolin as well), Brendan Carey Block on fiddle, and Julie Vallimont sitting in for Eric Eid-Reiner on piano. They played jigs and reels with both attack and finesse, and McDonald’s traditional songs added a dimension to the band not normally seen in their normal contradance style. I had noticed McDonald, Vallimont, and Eid-Reiner at contradances before for their talent beyond their years, but this was my first introduction to Carey Block. He uses the fiddle as any skilled craftsman uses a tool to produce a superior product, in a seemingly effortless fashion. According to the band’s website, Carey Block “has performed with countless notable artists, including Natalie MacMaster, Jerry Holland, The Battlefield Band, John Whelan, Alasdair Fraser, Cherish the Ladies, Brenda Stubbert, Gaelic Storm and Jay Ungar.” That is an impressive list. I look forward to bathing in this band’s ecstatic energy again, and encourage you to take any opportunities you have to do the same.