Sunday, January 22, 2017

COATESVILLE: Keeping it "reel"

As my readers know, I attend a lot of concerts, but the one on Jan. 20 was really special. Three very personable young men -- Joey Abarta on the uilleann pipes, Nathan Gourley on the fiddle and Owen Powell on the bouzouki -- visited the Coatesville Cultural Society as part of the Coatesville Traditional Irish Music Series.
The room where the concert was held was small and simple, with no stage or sound system separating the performers from the audience. It actually had the feel of a house concert: the audience members felt comfortable asking the musicians questions about their instruments, their travels and even their personal life, and they were happy to answer.
Joey demonstrated how his uilleann pipes work: he uses one elbow to pump air into the bladder and the other to force air through the chanter. He plays the melody with his fingers, and he uses his wrist to work the drones. "Basically a one-man band," he quipped.
He had to tune the instrument repeatedly during the show, and he said he always brings along a repair kit.
One man in the audience asked if the uilleann pipes are sensitive to humidity.
"Yes," he answered immediately.
"Substitute any word for humidity, and the answer is still yes," laughed Nathan (the two share what must be a very musical house in Boston with their girlfriends).
Owen, who lives in Portland, Maine, explained that his bouzouki, a Greek stringed instrument, is somewhat awkward to play for two reasons: first, its deep, full, lute-like back slides around on his lap, and second, "the battle of the bulge," as he said, ruefully indicating his belly.
The organizers of the long-running music series, Frank Dalton and Emily Fine of Embreeville, deserve great credit for bringing such consistently talented musicians to our area.

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