Red Knot
Reviews from the Atlanta Celtic Quarterly
Red Knot

All reviews by David Marcus unless otherwise noted.
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In Brief: Alasdair Fraser
and W. B. Yeats
Renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser put on a blockbuster concert in Cannon Chapel on April 19, 1997. Sponsored by Theatre Gael and English Country Dance Atlanta, the concert showed us a relaxed and humorous Fraser at the height of his mastery: powerful, exciting, rhythmic, expressive, wonderful. As he played, I kept being reminded of the rhythmic beating of the wings of a large seabird as it soars and swoops over sunlit ocean and shore. He was accompanied by 'cellist Abby Newton, who has almost single-handedly revived the pre-20th century tradition of using viols (and similar instruments) instead of pianos for accompaniment to Scottish dance music. She matched Alasdair Fraser well and the performance made last year's concert by Fraser (with pianist Jackie Schwab) seem a weak and drab thing. The two have an album, Crossing to Scotland, coming out this month; if like the concert, it will be a "must have".

The following day, Joseph Sobol led Kiltartan Road in a performance of "In the Deep Hearts Core--A Mystic Cabaret from the Works of W. B. Yeats" in a half-empty Spivey Hall. A more accurate title might have been "W. B. Yeats: The Musical" and might have inspired better attendance. (On the other hand, the original production ran for 7 months in Chicago with this title.) Those of us who braved the New Age-sounding title found musical theater at its best.

The recipe for the evening might have been: "Take poetry, add music--tie together with some excerpts from letters--stage simply and effectively with superb musicians/singers/actors --don't forget a dash of dance, romance and humour."

The poetry of Yeats does not seem to fit music as naturally as that of the oft-sung Burns, and there were occasional problems with the balance of instrument and voice, but these issues were far outweighed by the wonder of enhancing poetry with music and theatre.

Those who chose to skip this performance may have thought they had better things to do. They were wrong, but luckily may get a second chance--the Yeats Foundation is considering bringing the program back. I'll be there if they do. Although the Yeats Foundation is associated with Emory, I hope future performances will be at Spivey. Spivey deserves the payback (as well as the credit for first bringing this program), and Celtic audiences need to discover this fine hall.

(Click here for a review of the CD of this performance.)

David Marcus  
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