The pure drop

Kevin Burke

There are both advantages and disadvantages when listening to solo Irish fiddle music performed live. The minuses are that you can’t so much as cough without distracting the seriously attentive fiddle fans who have come to hear a master at work. And don’t even think of bringing that Jameson’s. The pluses are much more important: There’s nothing like the feeling of being a few feet away from an Irish fiddler that no one can hold a candle to, to watch his bow dip and his fingers slide and his face grimace at the more beautiful or difficult parts of a tune.

Mix a small venue with an inspired performer, and the results can be breathtaking, as they were Sunday afternoon at the Blue Room, when Kevin Burke stopped by to perform to a small but appreciative crowd.

Burke is a charming and humble man whose fiddle talents are legendary. All his virtues sprang to light from the first notes of the first set of tunes: intonation not only dead-on, but actively contributing to the beauty and joy of the music; double-stops as if there was nothing to them, resulting in a gorgeous, unadulterated tone.

The tunes Burke played, every single one of them, were a joy to listen to. Old favorites like the “Dionne Reel/The Mouth of the Tobique” never cease to astonish me with their tricky changes, deftly handled by Burke. But even though Burke played my all-time favorite, “The Beare Island Reel,” the highlight of the evening for me was Bobby Casey’s “Hornpipe.” Burke managed to unearth the deep longing in this tune’s music, which is often lost when played with cheerful accompaniment.

The afternoon ended with a traditional Yiddish tune, "Itzikel," which proved the perfect end to a perfect Sunday afternoon.