By Ken DeLaat
Two shows in three days.
The Dogwood Center outdid itself last week with a pair of preeminent performances one on the sumptuous Main Stage and two days later in the cozy club-like atmosphere of the Black Box.
Thursday brought Dublin Irish Dance a talented troupe who delivered a creative and compelling story through dance and song entitled “Stepping Out”. The dancing was nothing short of phenomenal. It was as if a féile had broken out in Fremont as the skills of the steppers proved to be provide a festive atmosphere.
The accompaniment of instrumental play and well-placed songsmanship worked to weave the classic ‘boy gets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl back’ narrative into the show but the real story played out on stage was the tale of immigration. Of leaving your homeland and starting over in a new world.
The dances deftly displayed how the Celtic culture immigrated with its people to become part of the ever evolving experiment known as America.
A refreshing retelling of a time honored tale that the audience embraced wholeheartedly.
Two days later the 12th annual exhibition of instrument ingenuity known to many as simple ‘The Luthiers” filled the Black Box with a celebration of these artisans of sound.
Isaac Smith who first performed at the concert as a pre-teen opened the show with the talented Ms. Katie Springer a North Carolina native he met at a festival a few years back. They’ve been playing together ever since and tonight they tore it up using the extraordinary violins created by Elon Howe. Their version of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” nearly started a revival with the sweetness and clarity it was performed with.
Keith Caldwell’s instruments were next on stage and played by Keith along with the trio of Gene Calkins Jack Schipper and Jerry Roberts. Their selections brought smiles of recognition from the crowd as they wandered past some country classics and spun a bit of gospel in as well. They were also joined by the aforementioned Smith/Springer duo for one of their numbers
Don Benson took the stage next and was joined by fellow Luthier (and granddaughter) Cyanne Schuitema. Ukeleles were on the docket for this set and the highlight was a version of “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” that saw Megan Wirts and Raven Wirts join the pair for a powerful presentation. Raven and Cyanne closed with a nicely played version of “Build Me Up Buttercup” a selection that brought a bit of surprise since the song made its debut the year I graduated from high school and the singers have yet to begin their secondary careers.
Chester Winoweicki is always a personal favorite. He possesses an intriguing stage presence as he intros his songs with a little historical backdrop as an appetizer and projects an obvious affection for the tunes when he serves them up.
His specialty of repurposed instruments is easily forgotten given the richness of sound they produce and his version of Tiptoe Through The Tulips included a little reminder of how Tiny Tim, a.k.a. Herbert Buckingham Khaury (as Chester opined “No wonder he called himself Tiny Tim”) took the early 20th century song to the top of the charts.
We were then introduced to Jim Spalink who was joined on stage by two of his hand crafted harps. These visions of beauty became radiant when he took to the strings for an all too short set of tunes. His performance was a magical musical journey and betrayed both his virtuosity and versatility on this seemingly enchanted instrument.
The evening was brought to a close by the inimitable Ralston Bowles whose candor and wit has charmed audiences in West Michigan and beyond for decades. Playing a guitar from the workshop of Bryan Galloup his musical stories and improvisational style provided a fitting final chapter to the latest Luthiers Concert.
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