Halali Calls a Traditional Tune
- Fiddlers Call A Traditional Tune
How do you keep a band going when its members are among the busiest folk
musicians in town? In the case of the young Celtic fiddle trio Halali, the
answer is simple: Keep it fun.
As they show on their eponymous debut CD, Hanneke Cassel, 23, Laura Cortese,
23, and Lissa Schneckenburger, 24, are world-class fiddlers with a blend of
traditional savvy and compositional elegance. Guitarist Flynn Cohen, 32,
provides brisk, spacious guitar accompaniment. Their playing is vibrant and
lilting, yet always marked by a frisky playfulness.
Cassel, who also performs solo and tours with Irish-American singing star
Cathie Ryan, says it can be frustrating trying to get the whole band
together. Schneckenburger has her own band, and plays in the contra dance
bands Spin and Phantom Power. Cortese, who is the band's lead singer, also
has her own band.
"It's good for our personalities, because we all like doing lots of
different things," Cassel says. "But we've played together since we were
teenagers. The band basically formed when we got a gym membership together.
Then we got matching earrings, and were joking about wearing them in a band
together. So it was all about having fun as friends first, and it really
still is. It was like, `Well, we like to have sleepovers, so let's have a
band.' " Brian O'Donovan, host of the Saturday WGBH-FM program "Celtic
Sojourn," has seen Halali perform many times and loves its convivial vibe.
But he also believes this trio marks an important moment in Boston's musical
"Halali," he says, "is indicative of an exciting period in Boston roots
music that I think is going to be well remembered, of these gifted young
American musicians coming into traditional music, often from an academic
background. They bring a fresh approach that is perhaps a little less
serious than people, even of their own age, who are steeped in traditions
from their parentage, ethnic heritage, or geographical origins. These women
are equally comfortable with old-timey music, klezmer, bluegrass, Cape
Breton, and then they can float over into Irish traditional music very
Cassel and Cortese are recent graduates of Berklee College of Music, and
Schneckenburger is a New England Conservatory grad. But they are also
longtime traditional fiddlers who learned to play by ear as children.
Because of their lifetime playing at informal sessiuns and ceilidhs, or
dance parties, they understand that Celtic music is, at its ancient heart, a
"It's like a huge party when we do a show," says Cassel. "We have so many
memories together, and we get really good energy off each other. Halali is
not like full-time active; we've all been so busy with other things. But
we'll probably always be a band. I mean, we're such good friends; why
wouldn't we play together?"
Halali performs a CD release concert at Club Passim Sept. 17 (617-492-7679).
For more on the band, visit www.halalifiddle.com. E-mail
Scott Alarik at folkscene@....
By Scott Alarik, Globe Correspondent, 8/28/2003
(c) Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.