Bruce MacGregor
at Swedenborgian Church,
Portland, Maine
(23 June 2004)

Scottish fiddler Bruce MacGregor (of Blazin' Fiddles) came to Portland on a breezy midsummer's eve when a quarter moon was visible above the spire of the Swedenborgian Church. The intimate church setting suited the unamplified performance and allowed for much interaction between the crowd and the performers. Kudos to guitarist Flynn Cohen; despite meeting Bruce a day earlier, just hours before their first gig together (at Johnny D's in Somerville, Mass.) he kept a beat with the faster dance tunes and joined in the melodies on some slower airs.

The pair set the mood with the gentle but lively "Bill & Sandy," followed by a strathspey (a style of dance tune similar to a hornpipe, named for the strathspey region in the Scottish Highlands) and the slow and beautiful "Liza Mulholland," which Bruce wrote for his wife shortly after they were married. The set continued with sets of reels evoking rocking chairs and faerie mounds, the "Highlanders Revenge," and the raucous "Cambridge Caravan Catastrophe," written to commemorate Blazin' Fiddles' first visit to the Cambridge Folk Festival -- and the ensuing hooley!

Throughout the evening, Bruce took the time to explain the styles of music and the stories behind the tunes. He spoke of the beauty and wonders of Inverness, including Loch Ness, and played tunes learned from reknowned fiddlers as well as those inspired by family and even outspoken audience members. We took a musical journey to the faerie mounds, met roadside spirits and shared a dram at his local pub in Holm Burn, the Hootenany, where Bruce is known to encourage dancing on the tables.

After a short break, a lively set of hornpipes and reels kicked off the second set. Toes were tapping and hands clapping as the interplay between Bruce and Flynn became more engaging. The tempo increased with each set of tunes, from the "Hootenany Pub" to the "Old Hag" and "Faerie Dance." We could barely hold onto our seats during a set of jigs, and audience members were quick to leap to their feet to praise the performers when the evening came to a close, all too soon.

Thanks a million to Ed Pearlman of Highland Soles for presenting this brilliant show, and to Bruce MacGregor and Flynn Cohen for playing for us in Portland.

- Rambles
written by Michelle Doyle
published 31 July 2004

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