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Hanneke Cassel - Live at One Longfellow Square

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME ~ April 8, 2015 ~
with Mike Block and Christopher Lewis
Special appearances by Lauren Rioux and her students
Joe Walsh, Ed Pearlman, and Lily Pearlman

Apr 11, 2015
Kimmy Sophia Brown

A big crowd showed up Wednesday evening to hear Hanneke Cassel. Hanneke, who looks like a Nordic goddess, took the stage flanked by the hardy looking Christopher Lewis on guitar, and the extraordinary Mike Block on cello, who is by the way, Hanneke’s husband.

Mike began with a growling sustained underbelly sound on the cello and Hanneke took off with a bouncy reel (or was it a jig?) on her violin. The music was intense and joyous, and the audience began to unconsciously stomp in unison—it couldn’t be helped, we were carried away. She later quizzed us on the differences between a jig and a reel. It’s in the time signatures. Turns out, a reel is 4/4 time and a jig is 6/8. So, see? You do learn something every day!

It’s such an honor to be in the presence of people who play so well. The fact is, we’re being invited to witness a kind of real, intimate passion—it's almost embarrassing. I loved watching their faces—they looked so blissed out and beautiful, as they soared through each piece. There was also a lot of playfulness. Mike does not play the cello sitting, he wears it. Hanneke urged him to tell us about his ‘Block strap.’ And not to leave Chris unscathed, she mentioned his ‘Chris Strap,’ but it doesn’t have the same ring to it somehow.

Later in the show, Mike sang a tune he wrote called “The Important Thing Is,” accompanying himself with a very complex cello part. A little later,  Chris, who used to be a rock’n’roller, played a gorgeous tune, for which he confessed stealing the lyrics from a friend, called “All I See Is You.” Both guys got to showcase their other talents.

Hanneke explained that most of what she plays is ‘Scottish-ish’ music, either from Scotland, the Cape Breton area, or original tunes written in those styles. They performed pieces dedicated to friends, events in life, and one written to benefit a charity in Kenya for orphaned girls. The tunes had intriguing titles: “Scandalous,” “Natasha McCoy’s Reel/Lianne Mclean’s Revenge,” “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky?” (not about ice cream!) “The Captain,” and “Dot the Eyes of the Dragon,” which she explained is a colloquial term in China that means ‘to finish something,’ which I thought was a cool thing to pass on.

Lauren Rioux brought out about a dozen of her fiddle students to join Hanneke and the others for a song. It was wonderful to see this crop of sincere and serious kids accompany them on stage. One young man named Finn played an impressive solo.

Beloved local mandolin player Joe Walsh, came up for a tune as well. His quiet collaboration added another dimension of gorgeousness.

Ed Pearlman, another well-known Highland champion, joined Hanneke also. They played another superb, foot-stomping piece (what is it about jigs and reels and their foot stomping side-effects?) joined suddenly by an adorable young woman who bounded up, adding a splash of joy with a third fiddle. She was Ed’s daughter, Lily.

This is the kind of event that people leave asking themselves, why didn’t I learn to play the fiddle, or the cello, or the guitar? Well folks, it’s not too late to learn. They all teach at various fiddle camps and workshops and music schools. I believe the zeitgeist of their community is that there are never too many musicians. You can find out more about Hanneke Cassel at

Photo from

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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