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2013 Yulegrass is a Musical Christmas Present

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME ~ December 14, 2013 ~

Jan 9, 2014
Kimmy Sophia Brown

We arrived at One Longfellow Square feeling a bit worried because a huge blizzard was on its way – but who cares about that when you’re going to hear live music? The place was packed with people of all shapes and sizes, young and old. We grabbed a seat in the front row. The beautiful and talented Portland fiddle player and vocalist, Lauren Rioux, gathered a marvelous cadre of musicians for this year’s Yulegrass lineup. Included were world-famous banjo master, Tony Trischka; award winning, flatpicking guitarist and singer, Scott Law; the bouncy and joyous Amanda Kowalski on stand-up bass; and the incomparable Mike Block on cello and vocals.

Yulegrass 2013The performance was high-spirited, beautiful and atypical. We heard an adapted Woody Guthrie tune called “Christmasy Night” and Merle Haggard's “If We Make it Through December.”

Lauren’s young student, Claire Scott, came up on stage to sing moving, musical renditions of two poems set to music. The first was the Longfellow poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and the second was “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rosetti. She played fiddle, and joined the others for a few more tunes such as John Lennon's song, “Happy Christmas – War is Over.”

Mike Block’s cello hung from a shoulder strap which allowed him incredible mobility. He is a world class musician with a great singing voice and a hilarious sense of humor. Scott Law’s face was bright with warmth, and his flatpicking was mesmerizing. Of note was his solo guitar performance of “The Christmas Song.” Lauren has an elegant presence and Amanda was pure energy. The whole ensemble did a wonderful acoustic version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

We could see why Tony is called the godfather of the modern banjo – he's incredible. There was a high-spirited feeling of love and warmth between audience and performers all afternoon. The show ended with a sweet ol’ timey tune that Tony learned by way of Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Mike Seeger of the New City Ramblers – “Tell 'em I’m a Child of God.” We all sung along and left feeling fed in heart, and ready to face the rest of the Christmas season. Ho ho ho!

Image used by permission, Lauren Rioux

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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