Award Winning Irish Fiddler Kevin Burke to Play in Harrisburg, PA on October 30, 2011

By Jess Hayden

One of the best press quotes that I’ve ever heard describe a
musician is, “precisely as tricky as he needs to be.” This quote, written
several years back in the Village Voice
about veteran Irish fiddler Kevin Burke captures the superb, relaxed style of
this Celtic music icon. His fingers move effortlessly across his violin strings
as he flawlessly plays the jigs, reels and beautiful slow airs from County
Sligo, Ireland where his parents were born. Burke was once a member of the
seminal Irish traditional groups The
Bothy Band
and the legendary quartet called Patrick Street. For the last thirty
years he has made his home in the United States where he currently tours with the
pan-Celtic group Celtic Fiddle Festival
and in a duo with multi-instrumentalist and composer Cal Scott.

Kevin Burke was born in London, England, to Irish parents.
He began playing fiddle at age eight. Frequent trips to visit relatives in
Ireland immersed him in Sligo music and, by the age of 13, he was already
performing with other traditional Irish musicians. In his early teens he
started going to pubs regularly to hear and play traditional music. “Most of
the people at these gatherings were rural Irish people” he said. “They were
typically from families that were large and houses that were small.” Although
many of his English neighbors disapproved of Irish pubs, his parents actively
encouraged him to go to them. “They saw it as a very important part of my education,”
he said. “I met people in pubs whose knowledge of music and dance was
unsurpassed. Their respect for history, tradition and ritual was a great lesson
for a young teenager.”

In fact, it was in a pub that Burke first met American folk
legend Arlo Guthrie. “One day I walked into a pub in County Clare and heard
some great music being played by a few American visitors,” he recalls. After
spotting his fiddle case they asked him to play a tune. “We got talking and it
turned out one of these guys was Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son,” he said. They
ended up spending a few days together and not long afterwards Burke received a
letter inviting him to come to the US and do some recording together. Burke
ended up playing on Arlo’s recording “The Last of The Brooklyn Cowboys”
along with various musicians including slide guitarist Ry Cooder.

In 1979 Burke decided to move to the states and since then
has lived in Portland, Oregon. In 2002 he was awarded a National Heritage
Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. This fellowship, given for
artistic excellence, is this country’s highest honor in the traditional arts.
Burke keeps an active touring schedule and today his name is synonymous with
Irish fiddle music around the world. Hesays that he is  just glad to continue to play the music that
he enjoys. “There are thousands of old tunes, good ones that haven’t been
played in years,” he says. “When I find something I love, I play it.
And when I find something I like, I bend it out of shape until I love it. Good
music is good music. It should be heard.”

Kevin Burke will perform with multi-instrumentalist and
composer Cal Smith on Sunday, October 30th in a concert presented
by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. The concert will be held at 7:30 pm at
the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg. Preceding the concert will be a potluck
dinner at 6 pm. This concert is part of a full season of traditional arts
events that explore folk music and dance. For tickets and information visit

Quotes for this post have been complied from internet sources


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