Kimberly Fraser, Brian Conway & Mark Simos
Presented by notloB Music at Unity Somerville
February 17, 2012
Kimberley Fraser was born on Cape Breton Island, and nurtured within its rich musical heritage. She first began to impress audiences at the age of three with her step-dancing talents. Soon after that she took up both the fiddle and the piano. Though still in her 20s, Kimberley’s already has a distinguished career. She has traveled the world, from Victoria to Afghanistan, performing at venues such as The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. bringing Cape Breton music with her wherever she goes. Dan MacDonald of the Cape Breton Post says about Fraser’s versatility, “She has matured to become one of the stellar players of the Cape Breton fiddle tradition, equally at home at a house party, playing for a square dance or on stage for a concert in Bras d'Or or Boston, Scotsville or Scotland.” Kimberley has shared the stage with the finest acts in Celtic music, such as Alasdair Fraser, Martin Hayes and Lunasa. Kimberley is also in demand for her piano skills, accompanying musicians at home and abroad.
Kimberley holds a degree in Violin performance from Berklee College of Music and in Celtic Studies from St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. Education is important to her, reflected in Kimberley’s dedication to teaching Cape Breton music both at home and abroad. A master at the trio of fiddling, step dancing and piano, Kimberley is a much sought after teacher for all three. Her reputation as a teacher has brought her to conduct workshops at many camps and festivals, including Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Fiddle Camp, the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina, and The American Festival of Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington to name a few. Kimberley also has experience giving workshops to string orchestras demonstrating how traditional music can be arranged for classical ensembles.
In 2006, Kimberley released her second studio album, Falling on New Ground, a winner of the East Coast Music Award for best Roots/Traditional Album of the Year. This self-produced album reflects on her experiences and growth as a musician since the release of her first studio album Heart Behind the Bow in 2000. Falling on New Ground demonstrates Kimberley’s many talents and versatility.
New York born fiddler Brian Conway is a leading exponent of the highly ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, Brian's early studies were with his father Jim of Plumbridge County Tyrone and with Limerick born fiddler/teacher Martin Mulvihill. However, it was the legendary fiddler and composer Martin Wynne who taught him the real secrets of the County Sligo style. Later, Brian met and befriended the great Andy McGann of New York a direct student of Michael Coleman, who further shaped his precision and skill on the instrument.
In 1979, Brian recorded a duet album, The Apple In Winter (Green Linnet) with fellow New York fiddler Tony Demarco. He released his debut solo CD, First through the Gate, on the Smithsonian-Folkways label in July 2002. This CD was voted the prestigious Album of the Year by the Irish Echo. Brian is also featured on the CD, My Love is in America, recorded at the Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival, and on the documentary "Shore to Shore" which highlights traditional Irish music in New York. He is considered one of the musical rocks of the New York area.
Brian remains faithful to the rich tradition handed down to him. The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise. He has performed all over North America from San Francisco to New York and places in between such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents have also been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. His current CD, First through the Gate, exemplifies the versatility that characterizes his concert performances and festival appearances. He is also a noted instructor who has mentored many fine fiddle players, including several who have gone on to win All-Ireland championships.
In 2007, Brian released a CD titled A Tribute to Andy McGann on the prestigious Irish Label Cló Iar-Chonnachta. This CD pairs up Irish Music legends Joe Burke and Felix Dolan along with Brian in a CD which has received glowing accolades since it's release in the summer of 2007. Brian followed this CD with a much anticipated new Solo CD titled "Consider the Source" in deference to the rich environment from which Brian learned his music. This CD was released in 2008 on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta Label. This CD features guest appearances by music greats Niamh Parsons, Dan Milner, Billy McComiskey, Joannie Madden, Felix Dolan, and Brendan Dolan. Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo described this CD as "Easily one of the best releases this year".
The musical imagination of Mark Simos weaves a lifetime love of many traditions into innovative musical forms. As songwriter and composer, fiddler, ‘tunesmith,’ and guitar and piano accompanist, Mark draws on long apprenticeship in a wide variety of genres—Irish, Southern old-time, New England, Quebeçois, bluegrass, and Klezmer among others—creating a musical language grounded in traditional forms, yet uniquely his own.
"... a musician's musician, versed in many musical idioms and excelling at all of them. He is one of the few musicians I know equally at home in the often incompatible roles of traditionalist and innovator." —Mick Moloney