Steve Schuch &
the Night Heron Consort,
Crossing the Waters
(North Star, 1997)

Steve Schuch is a classically trained violinist. With the help of The Night Heron Consort, formed in 1993, he brings to life music, mostly of his own composition, that is a fascinating blend of Celtic, baroque and Gypsy sounds. Among the instruments -- ranging from ancient to very modern -- represented here are violin, guitar, bouzouki, piano, flute, cello, various percussion and synth. The Night Heron Consort consists of Steve Schuch, David Surette, Kent Allyn, Ken Laroche, Vernon David, Jean Benson, John Faggiano and Gerry Putnam.

Of the dozen tracks on Crossing the Waters, only two were not composed by Schuch. These are "Ruthenian Song & Pillow Dance," a Bartok medley, and "Return From Fingal," a traditional Irish lament, composed to mourn the fall of Brian Boru. The former showcases Schuch's classical violin training, with a leisurely beginning which rapidly increases in tempo. It is the sort of tune that you can imagine whirling and whirling to until you fall over in giddy laughter. "Return From Fingal" is interpreted on guitar and piano rather than, say, harp, which lends it an unexpected sound.

"Entering Erdenheim," composed in honor of Schuch's family farm, clearly evokes the love of home, while on "Swallow's Flight/Black Flies' Delight," the violin captures the darting flight of barn swallows. On "Zephyr's Fancy," it is the meandering of the gentle West Wind that we hear.

"Fiddle Bagpipes" is a most interesting piece; the sound of bagpipes is imitated by string instruments, with the drone being played by the bass. The fiddle has a cleaner, more precise sound, making the music seem lighter than if it were being played on pipes. "The Phantom Gypsy" -- in my opinion, the best track on the CD -- once again showcases Schuch's violin, and makes one think of fiddlers playing in the moonlight before brightly painted wagons.

An old Scottish fiddler is quoted in the liner notes as saying, "This music goes around and around and it never ends. It's not for listening to, it's for getting lost in." Sit back with a cup of tea, and you too can get lost in Crossing the Waters.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]



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