at Longwood Gardens,
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
(16 August 2001)
Greenfire, a Baltimore-based Celtic group featuring Ken Kolodner on hammered dulcimer and Laura Risk on fiddle, played an inspiring set of tunes on Thursday, Aug. 16, at beautiful Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. The perfect summer evening was a fine complement to the musicianship of these two, which, as always, was first-rate. Opening with two Kerry polkas, "Salmon Tails Up the Water" and "Knocknaboul," they moved seamlessly through French-Canadian, old-timey, Scottish and Cape Breton styles, as well as an original tune by Kolodner, "Summer's End," which, the author solemnly explained to the audience, was "written at the end of last summer."
The interplay between the hammered dulcimer's precise percussive qualities and the graceful fluidity of Risk's fiddling was a real treat for this reviewer, who has always been a big fan of both instruments. Missing from the sound, however, was something which I have always been accustomed to hearing with Greenfire -- the guitar and cittern accompaniment of Robin Bullock, who is no longer with the group. His absence left quite a void to fill, but Kolodner and Risk proved up to the task, as they backed one another up as fully as their instruments would allow.
Risk has a light yet sure-footed approach to every tune she plays, but her style really comes to the forefront when she plays a hornpipe. The slower bounciness of that particular tune style seems to be made for her fiddling, as she and Kolodner displayed on "The Hangman's Rope/Home Ruler." And when Kolodner uses the dampers built on to his two dulcimers (yes, the poor guy has to transport and tune about 186 strings!), the muted sound is an effect you might not expect from a hammered dulcimer. Risk also is amassing an impressive collection of French-Canadian tunes (one of my favorite styles), which is not surprising, as she has recently relocated from Boston to Montreal. Kolodner picked up a fiddle to join Risk in a lively pair of old-timey tunes before the two finished up the evening with one of my favorite Greenfire medleys -- "Concertina Reel/Glen Burnie Rant/Cape Breton Fiddler's Welcome to Shetland/Barrowburn Reel."
All in all, and especially considering the absence of such a formidable instrumentalist as Bullock, this was a fine performance by two veterans who obviously enjoy working together.
[ by Henry Cohen ]