Saturday March 12, 2016, 7:30 pm at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook performing on the small stage in the foyer.
To the purists this may not really be “Celtic” music but to the rest of us it turned out to be a really interesting “mash up” (Jeff Faragher’s words) of what is a really fascinating mix of musicians, tunes and styles. Breakwater is a quartet of musicians from the West Kootenays that includes Jeff Faragher on Cello, guitar and vocals, Aurora Smith on vocals and Fiddle, Rob Fahie on Double Bass and Ben Johnson on Drums and Percussion. These musicians come from varied backgrounds with impeccable credentials. Jeff is an outstanding classical celloist who has played in a number of local solo and chamber group situations as well being the conductor and soloist with the Symphony of the Kootenays; Rob is originally from the Montreal jazz scene and is also one of the principal bass players in the Symphony of the Kootenays; Aurora is a fiddle player who teaches in Nelson and also performs as a classical violinist in a number of orchestras, including the Symphony of the Kootenays. Ben Johnson is a drummer and percussionist whose primary interest is in Balkan, Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern music. Apart from percussion he plays a number of instruments from that part of the world including Greek Bouzouki, Oud, Saz and many other instruments with unpronounceable names. With that as the kick off point it is hard to imagine the music being anything other than interesting. The central core of the repertoire is Celtic, specifically, fiddle music, to which the group adds music from the classical masters (J.S. Bach, Dvorak), film music (Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean), pop music(Coldplay), Canadian (Song of the Mira, Log Drivers Waltz), folk music (Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind), Bluegrass and just about anything else that tickles their imagination. The front line of fiddle, cello and double bass is a combination that fits well with the repertoire. To prove the point they kicked off the evening with a J.S. Bach minuet that morphed into the fiddle tune The Ash Plant. This they followed up with a rousing set of Aurora’s fiddle tunes (The Roaring Barmaid / The New Reel / The Tamlin Reel). After that whirlwind performance Aurora knocked it back a notch by singing The Banks of Loch Lomond followed by the band’s exploration of Jay Ungar’s classic tune The Ashokan Farewell (from Ken Burns PBS Documentary on the American Civil War). For the rest of the evening it was more of the same. Lots of fiddle tunes, including two that I noted for later research when I got home. They were The Pelican Reel (by Gordon Stobbe) and Catharsis (by Amy Cann). There were lots of songs including Jeff Faragher’s outstanding version of Song of the Mira with the tag fiddle tune Stolen Apples (another tune I will have to research). All in all it was an evening of fine music in a performance space, the foyer of the Key City, that has lots of promise. It is a more intimate arena than the performance area in the main theatre. It had good sight lines and sound. However, the lighting was really poor, and I do mean poor. It was dim and marred by undesirable tints from the overhead LEDs. They will have to work on that. A black backdrop curtain would also improve the visuals.
Sunday March 13, 2016, 7:30 pm at the Studio 64 (Centre 64) in Kimberley.
The concept of the “Small Stage” at the Key City and Studio 64 in Centre 64 is much the same. The idea is to create a small performance area with a cabaret like atmosphere with available refreshments and snacks. By and large they have both succeeded, albeit with 5 year head start Studio 64 is closer to finalization. Within the past few years Studio 64 has manged to improve the performance area with a large black back drop curtain and a sophisticated lighting system. The lighting and sound are managed by Ray’s music and the results are first class. All that remains to be improved are the sight lines by the installation of a slightly raised stage for the performers. That is in the works. On the other hand the Key City “Small Stage” is only in the first year of development. On the positive side, with the raised stage the sight lines are good but there is real need for a black backdrop curtain and an improved or better managed lighting system. The sound is good but the lighting is very, very poor.
Breakwater performed the same program at both venues and with the better lighting the Studio 64 performance had more appeal. Below are images from the latter concert. You be the judge of the visuals.
Breakwater – two fabulous concerts with great visuals and great music. I’m looking forward to their return to this area. When they do make sure to mark it on it is on your calendar.