Next week is shaping up to be a tremendous week for fiddle music in New Orleans, with the Irish House on St Charles Avenue hosting two events that lovers of traditional Celtic music will not want to miss.
On Tuesday, acclaimed Scottish fiddler and bouzouki player Brian McNeill will be playing at the Irish House on his way to the North Texas Irish Festival. A founding member of the Battlefield Band, he brings verve, flair and authenticity to his music along with a wealth of story-telling skills and wry humour. If you haven’t seen him before he is well worth the whirl, and if you have, well, you don’t need me to explain why.
Also at the Irish House, following hard on McNeill’s heels, music lovers can catch fellow fiddler Ed Pearlman, former head of the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club, and his son pianist Neil Pearlman , who on Friday will be offering a not-to-be missed blend of Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle tunes, innovatively backed on piano, and shaded by the jazz, blues and Latin rhythms of Americana music.
The Pearlman duo will bring with them their newest CD, American Scottish. Pay attention to the CD cover - a tongue and cheek take-off of the painting American Gothic.
“The idea behind that is that America is a crossroads of cultures,” explained Ed. “Neill grew up with all these famous players coming to our house, from Cape Breton and Scotland. He has just expanded it, and he makes it fit. A lot of the Gaelic songs went directly to country songs. You can hear the melodies in some of the songs that Dolly Parton sings, you know?”
Ed comes from an orchestral background, where a fiddle is a fiddle, and a violin is a violin, and often ne’er the twain shall meet.
“I notice that if I teach someone who is classically trained there are certain things they have to learn about what fiddle music is,” said Pearlman. “What the bow hand does, and how important rhythm is. I think rhythm is the heart of music, but often in classical training violinists learn tone and pitch first, and fiddlers learn to focus on rhythm. So the fiddler that is great to dance and listen to might not have the best tones and pitches, but that is ok. And you can have a classical violinist who can play well, but might not have the best rhythm.”
“The focus of Irish music is more on warmth. I find the focus of Scottish music is more about the drama. I love the expressiveness of the Scottish fiddle style, and I love the straight forward heartfelt crispness of the Cape Breton playing.”
“Sometimes,” he summed up. “The feeling that you have about music comes from the people, and the places you know.”
A sentiment that all New Orleanians can completely understand.
Brian McNeill will be performing at the Irish House, 1432 St Charles Avenue on Tuesday, February 26, at 7pm. Ed and Neil Pearlman will be performing at the Irish House on Friday, March 1, at 7 pm.