CLARKS SUMMIT — One week before Saint Patrick’s Day, the Irish group Poor Man’s Gambit performed at the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit as part of the Arts at First Presbyterian Concert Series.
Maureen McGuigan, deputy director of arts and culture for Lackawanna County, opened the evening by saying that Irish music “speaks to our emotion and being human on a visceral level.”
Poor Man’s Gambit, comprised of Corey Purcell, Deirdre Lockman and Frederico Betti, were well received at their first appearance as part of the concert series. The group is based in the Lehigh Valley area. Although Purcell and Lockman are from Pennsylvania, Betti was raised in Milan, Italy and spent time in Ireland.
The group performed a variety of pieces. Playing everything from an original waltz, and spirited jigs and reels, to popular Irish tunes like “Rocky Road to Dublin,” Poor Man’s Gambit entertained the audience. Beautiful harmonies elevated modern folk song, “Bees Wing,” and the sweet sound and lyrics of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ wooed listeners:
Oh the summertime is coming And the trees are sweetly blooming And the wild mountain thyme Grows around the blooming heather Will ye go, Lassie go? And we’ll all go together To pluck wild mountain thyme All around the blooming heather Will ye go, Lassie go?
Based on the poem, ‘The Braes o’ Balquhither’ by Scottish poet, Robert Tannahill, the song became a traditional tune in the 19th century and was adapted and recorded by Francis McPeake, an Irish performer, in the 1950s.
Upbeat percussive tunes such as Poor Man’s Gambit original, “The Nickel Plated Shoe,” chased away the winter blues at the March 10 concert and soon feet were tapping and hands were clapping along.
Jim Parks drove from Plymouth to hear the group perform.
“I enjoyed the quality of musicianship,” Parks said. “They are all very good instrumentalists. I especially enjoyed the Cape Breton piece.”
“I thought they were fantastic,” said Linda Orcutt of Clarks Summit. “It makes you want to get up and dance.”
The performers used various instruments interchangeably, showing their mastery of the button accordion, guitar, cittern, bodhran and fiddle. The audience was delighted as each piece held layers of sound and surprise. Purcell switched it up a bit and performed an Irish dance, with high step foot action that had the crowd clapping along.
“They were lively. We loved their selections and reels,” said Terry Elechko. “I enjoyed the dancing.”
“It was a bonnie good time,” said Linda Mennicucci. “It was perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day. I really enjoyed it. It was like a warm cup of coffee.”
“I’m really grateful for the arts program here and the concerts they bring in,” said Margie Kauffman. “When I saw that this concert was Celtic music, I had to be here. It was delightful. I looked around and people were smiling ear to ear.”
Larry Kauffman agreed, “This kind of music, and this group especially, reminds you what it means to be a human being.”
Poor Man’s Gambit ended the evening with “Mormond Braes” and a standing ovation.
The concert series will continue with “Finger Painting: Jazz of Herbie Hancock” performed by Bill Carter and the Presbybop Sextet on April 7. An afternoon classical violin concert by John Michael Vaida scheduled on May 19 will close the season.
Admission to the concerts is free, supported by individual donations and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Lackawanna County Community Arts and Culture Department.
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