Cello player Jeff Faragher does not need an introduction. He is probably the best known professional musician in the Kootenays. He is the musical director and conductor of the Symphony of the Kootenays. He is a classical cello soloist and teacher of the first order as well as a performer in number of classical chamber music configurations. And, if that is not enough he the driving force behind a “celtic mish-mash” called Breakwater. This group plays in a somewhat Celtic style but, in Jeff’s own words, it is “a mish-mash” of everything from traditional fiddle music, classical, jazz, pop, film music and pretty well anything musical that comes to hand. Over the past two years the group has toured the region extensively. First in a configuration that included Aurora Smith on violin; Jeff Faragher on cello; Ben Johnson on drums and percussion and Rob Fahie on double bass. This was a tight, exciting and well balanced performing unit. That was last year and, of course, as always, things move on. Aurora moved to Victoria; rehearsal travel became an issue for Ben (he lives on the remote east shore of Kootenay Lake); Jeff is now splitting his time between Nelson and Calgary, and Rob, although still available, has a number of other projects on the go. To keep the “mish-mash” mix bubbling Jeff has enlisted the aid of two top flight Calgary musicians. James Desautels has taken over the fiddle chair. James is a full time professional musician and teacher with many, many years experience in a multitude of circumstances and geographical locations including residency in Austin, Texas. Similarly, Rob Maciak is also a full time professional musicians and is best known as a percussionist and teacher. He is currently on the faculty of Mount Royal College in Calgary. Although, in Breakwater Rob plays drums and percussion, he is also an outstanding classical performer on tuned percussion (tympani, chimes, marimba and the like). He performs as a marimba soloist in classical symphony orchestras. He will be the featured soloist with the Symphony of Kootenays this fall performing Neg Rosaaro’s Concerto #1 for Marimba and Strings.
There is an old notion that classical musicians cannot play outside the box. That may have been true sixty or more years ago but now that is no longer the case. Often a sound formal music education is a basis to move onto the exploration of a whole plethora of musical options. A quick research of the resume any number of of top flight musicians will reveal an extra ordinary number who have formal academic and performance credentials out the ying-yang. All musicians in this ensemble would fall into that category. This new incarnation of Breakwater is different from the first edition. For a starter it is a trio rather than a quartet and while it does not have the mellow polish of the first edition it does have more of an edge and a higher entertainment quotient. The current repertoire draws from the same arrangements and sources but with a few more entertainment motifs thrown in for good measure. The “mish-mash” of Bach’s Jesu of Man’s Desire overlaid on top of the the old classical soprano tear jerker Ave Marie is still there to give new life to a couple of classical staples as the trio seamlessly slides into the old fiddle tune The Ash Plant. Other songs and tunes during the evening included Jeff Faragher’s version of the maritime ballad Song of the Mira coupled with the fiddle tune Stolen Apples; Jeff’s version of this ballad is probably one of the best around. James Desautels did more than justice to the old American fiddle show pieces The Orange Blossom Special, The Arkansas Traveler and The Soldiers Joy and a series of waltzes that included the Tennessee Waltz and the Shannon Waltz. As promised, the evening’s “mish-mash” contained a little bit of everything from Beethoven through some fiddle tunes in 7/8; Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind and Running Through Tall Grass; Natalie McMaster’s Volcanic Jig; the traditional Southern Song There is more Love and my all time favorite fiddle tune The Pelican Reel. It was quite a night of good food, good cheer and great entertainment and one that I hope will be repeated at some time in the not too distant future. Here are some images from the night.