Celtic fiddlers in Shoreham

Celtic Fiddle Festival              Credit Ben Costello
Celtic Fiddle Festival Credit Ben Costello
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The Celtic Fiddle Festival band celebrates the violin in all its globe-trotting variations with a date at the Ropetackle, Shoreham on Friday, February 17 at 8pm.

Fiddlers Kevin Burke (Ireland), Christian Lemaître (Brittany) and Charlie McKerron (Scotland) showcase a juxtaposition of international and individual styles, with accompaniment from Nicolas Quemener (Brittany).

Kevin, whose career includes the Irish groups The Bothy Band and Patrick Street, said: “We got together about 25 years ago. I live in America and I play Irish music. I had a really good friend from Scotland called Johnny Cunningham who was also living in the States. We felt it would be good fun to go on tour together.

“Somebody suggested we bring a third fiddler in and we could advertise the show as a demonstration of three different fiddle styles. We chose a Breton fiddler called Christian Lemaître to come with us. They asked what we were going to call ourselves, and we just said our names. We thought we were just going to do it once. But they said we needed a proper name and came up with Celtic Fiddle Festival, which we thought was a bit of a weird name but we would only use it the one time. But we are still using it seven or eight albums and 25 years’ worth of concerts later!

“Sadly Johnny died about ten or 12 years ago, and it was a big shock to us. He died very suddenly, just before a tour. We had lots of other Scottish fiddler friends who volunteered their services, but first of all we thought that was the end of the group. But we were obliged to finish the tour. We debated it a bit, and lots of people, including Johnny’s family, were saying he would have hated to have the tour cancelled. So we got a guy from Quebec to join us, a guy called Andre who is not with us now. He left last year, and we felt it was time to reintroduce the Scottish music that was at the start of the group. We invited Charlie McKerron to join.”

Kevin lives in Portland, Oregon – and has done for the past 36 years: “I was on tour with another guy. I was playing in a duet, and we got stuck there!

“It was a time of gas/petrol shortages in 1979. You could only buy petrol every second day, depending on the number plate of your car. There were odd days and even days. On the west coast, the distances are pretty big, and a tank of petrol would not get you to the next city.

“We found that we could not do the tour. This happened when we were in Portland. The next seven or eight gigs were all messed up. We had to cancel a bunch. A couple of months later, when all the nonsense was finished, we came back to do the concerts we missed, and we did some others as well. But we based ourselves in Portland, Oregon, and we ended up thinking it was a pretty good place. We thought we would stay in Portland and see what turns up. We are still waiting!

“But it is a good place. There are four seasons, just like it says in the schoolbooks, and it is quite temperate. It’s very like the UK, except we get a good summer every year. I still have a lot of family in England and Ireland. I grew up in London. I have a sister in Yorkshire, and a lot of my mother’s family, when they left Ireland, moved to Yorkshire. I have got a brother in Ireland.

“I find that my spiritual home would have to be Ireland, but since I have been living in Portland for 36 years or more, I would have to say that’s where home is. That’s where I have got a key to the front door!”

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