Ungar, Mason, Gutkin & Dolan:|
Not Your Traditional Law Firm
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
with Lisa Gutkin & Brandon Dolan
at Bodles Opera House
Friday, October 23, 1998
Story by Kevin Robinson --
Pictures by Ellie Apuzzo
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
October the 23rd , was a delightful evening of music at
Bodles Opera House in Chester;
and, as it happens, served to prove one
of my most basic observations about Life, the Universe, and
Everything: People, real everyday people, will support live music.
Okay, I feel a digression coming on. Bear with me. I've spent the
last few years working and playing with musicians in the Kansas City
area, and I can take you to any number of venues there that are packed
to the walls Thursday through Sunday nights. Real people come out.
They come out often. And they bring their friends.
Then there's the Hudson Valley. Almost from the day I arrived,
musicians have been telling me that "nobody comes out for live music
around here." And, I have in fact, spent many long evenings up and
down the Hudson Valley listening to great musicians playing to a
handful of late night drinkers. I know how discouraging that can be.
But I'm convinced that it has less to do with a regional disinterest
in live music, and more to do with timing, demographics, packaging,
and promotion. Most area clubs don't put musicians on stage until
10:00 p.m. or after. In KC, music usually starts around 8:30 p.m.
Here it's common for a band to take a 40-minute break at 1:00 a.m.
And, surprise, most of the already small crowd gives up and goes home.
Even if it's not a work day, most real people have something to
do the next morning. There's nothing wrong with clubs catering to
late night drinkers, but late night drinkers don't always know (or
care) if it's live or if it's Memorex! And, to be perfectly blunt,
it's real people, not late night drinkers, who are more willing to pay
a cover or buy a ticket.
But there are the places here that cater to real people. The Unison
group in New Paltz, the Maverick Theater productions in Woodstock,
Cafe Noir in New Paltz, and
The Towne Crier Cafe
in Pawling, for
example. Almost every time Ellie and I have gone to hear live music
at any of the above venues, the places have been well attended. But
they all start and end at a reasonable hour. That brings me to
Bodles. This is a great venue for real people...and their families.
On Friday night, a nearly full house enjoyed a great dinner menu (at
very reasonable prices!), and then experienced some of the finest
traditional and folk music to be heard anywhere in America.
The opening act was
a Celtic fiddle player known for her
work with the band
She was accompanied on flute and piano
by a tall but impish musician named Brandon Dolan, and the selection
of reels, jigs, and other traditional pieces they performed were
lively, emotional, and, well, fun. And, a great part of the fun for
the audience came from the fact that Lisa and Brandon were having fun.
That's what makes live music of any genre such magic for the soul. I
suspect that there might have been folks at Bodles Friday night who've
heard traditional Celtic music before, on the radio or on TV, but
never really thought it was their "thing. And maybe that's the truth.
But Lisa Gutkin had them smiling and tapping their feet. (And more
than a few of them bought a Whirligig CD at the break!) Rumor has it
that Whirligig will be coming to Bodles, so keep an eye out for that.
The headliners Friday night, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, have become
household names on the American folk scene. I became a fan after
hearing them numerous times on Garrison Keillor's Saturday night
public radio show: "A Prairie Home Companion." When Ken Burns became
a fan, he hired them to create music for his various PBS television
epics. "People come up and ask us," Jay Ungar told the crowd at
Bodles, "Didn't you write the music for the Civil War?" We were
already laughing when Molly chimed in: "What a gig that would
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
Ungar is a fiddle player. Just writing those simple and truthful
words makes me laugh. It's like saying Christopher Parkening is a
guitar player. Or Yoyo Ma plays cello. There are two fiddle players
who just blow me away every time I hear them. One is the Canadian
neo-traditional Celtic wizard, Ashley MacIsaak. The other is Jay
Ungar. MacIsaak will sweep you away with his exuberance. Jay Ungar
will alternately break your heart and raise your spirit to new
heights...such is the depth of his ability to emote with his violin.
He is, in my humble opinion, one of the most expressive players alive
But it is the team here that makes the magic happen. Molly Mason has
a beautifully compelling voice, and she plays guitar, banjo, piano,
and Lord knows how many other instruments with practiced ease and
evident enthusiasm; but it is Ungar and Mason, man and wife, that
bring together hearts, souls, and music. And, because the audience
senses this (two very real people who believe in the magic of their
music and the magic of their love), when they are asked to sing along,
they do. Enthusiastically. Without embarrassment. Watching the
"generation gap" disappear when families joined Jay and Molly (And
me!) on You Low Down Dirty Dog or Home Grown Tomatoes
just made me feel great. After all, "There's only two things that
money can't buy, and that's true love and home grown tomatoes!"
Jay and Molly's new compilation album, The Catskill
Collection, is a beautiful ode to the region, a collection
including seventeen tunes and a dozen or more talented musicians.
Their own contributions to that project, Ashokan Farewell and
The Mountain House, are, in and of themselves, worth the price
of the otherwise delightful CD. To find out about their performance
schedule, their summer camp, their local radio show ("Dancing On the
Air"), and their available CD's, check out their website at:
Jay, Molly, Lisa, and Brendon jam
is a freelance writer/photographer, and
the author of three "Stick Foster" hardback mystery novels.
A former syndicated columnist for
the Detroit Free Press, his byline has appeared over 100 times in
national and regional periodicals. Kevin is a partner at
No Bull Productions,
and his PR credits include promotion and
booking work for several of Kansas City's top blues bands. Kevin can
be reached at nobull@NoBullProductions.com.
Ellie Apuzzo owns and operates
Ellie's Consider It Done.
"on-site oversight for absentee owners" here in the Florida
Keys; and so far, this lifelong New Yorker just can't seem to
get into "Keys time!" Ellie can be reached at
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