What a great way to celebrate the Summer Solstice!

By Tom Harbold

Jun. 22nd, 2007 at 10:55 AM
Well, last night was the long-awaited Wherligig concert at the Carroll County Arts Center in Westminster, MD. I posted out invitations to everybody I could think of (either individually or on group/list), so if I missed you, please accept my apologies! And if you missed the concert, you missed a heckuva show.
An all-acoustic band, Wherligig doesn't "bring down the house" with extravagant displays or high volume; "big" sound for its own sake is not their hallmark, like it is with some bands. That's not to say they don't present some serious foot-stomping music! They do. There were several occasions during the concert when I found myself itching for a drum or some other percussive instrument to join with the primal Celtic beat, and I was not alone in that. At one point, one woman took her young daughter to the back of the hall, and danced with her there: the lack of a dance floor in the front of the stage being one serious lack in this particular venue (a restored/converted theatre). And despite the fairly conservative, almost painfully polite, largely Arts Council audience, many other people, including my companions and myself, frequently found ourselves nodding, tapping, or otherwise moving our bodies to the rhythm of these ancient yet timeless sounds.
Where Wherligig really shines, though, is in the sheer quality of the music they play -- both tonal quality of the instruments, and the quality of the performance -- as well as the variety of both the music and the instrumentation (including a Scandinavian nykelharpa and a reproduction of a 13th-century French hurdy-gurdy, along with hammered dulcimer, guitar, fiddle, pennywhistle, and bodhran, among others -- all of which are made or restored by Ken, personally), and the wonderfully intimate connection both among the band members (who are a family: Ken and Stephanie Koons, and their son Ryan), and between the members and the audience. The verbal "liner notes" they provide between songs are a great deal of fun, too, a mix of good-natured banter and fascinating musical and historical information.
Their music is presented with passion and emotion, as well as great technical skill, and is a mix of traditional tunes passed down through (sometimes many) centuries, and newer selections in the traditional style. Many have been adapted or arranged to suit Wherligig's style and instrumentation, and include a number of vocal selections. You can hear the love each member of the band bears for this genre in every note they play. I can't recommend them highly enough (I'm not at all sure I'd be able to marry a woman who wasn't willing to have Wherligig play the reception...), and I am excited that they will be at Spoutwood for the Mother Earth Harvest Fair this September. If you missed them last night, try to catch them then!
What a great way to celebrate the Summer Solstice!