BANSHEE IN THE KITCHEN

PETER STRAUSS RANCH

JUNE 14, 2009

BY KATHY BAWN AND ANYA STURM

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Celtic trio Banshee in the Kitchen came out from their homebase in Bakersfield to kick off  this summer's series of free concerts at the Peter Strauss Ranch. Sponsored by the Topanga Banjo Fiddle contest, these concerts are family events, great fun for grown-ups and kids alike. So this review is brought to you by one grown-up and one kid.

A GROWN-UP PERPECTIVE (by Kathy)

There are only three Banshees: Jill Egland, Brenda Hunter and Mary Tulin. It seems like there should be more of them, though, from the number of instruments you see on stage. Between them, the Banshees play hammer dulcimer (Brenda), fiddle (Brenda), piano accordion (Jill), flute (Jill), bodhran (Jill), bouzouki (Mary) and guitars of various types and tunings (Mary). They all sing, too. These three women put on a show of  amazing versatility and charm, showcasing a variety of  approaches to (mostly) traditional Irish music.  They played a delightful mix of  classic session tunes (Banish Misfortune, Gravel Walk, A Fig for a Kiss),  multi-voice arrangements of  traditional songs (like Robbie Burns' The Weavers), new compositions in the Celtic style (a beautiful guitar tune by Daithi Sproule), with  a few wildcards from other genres thrown in (like Greek-influenced Beth Cohen's Reel in the aptly-named "Beth Gamish" set.).

The Banshees' friendly manner and relaxed good humor spread quickly through the audience of about 260 folks, sitting in the stone amphitheatre under the big oaks and eucalyptus trees. Hawks circled, a gentle breeze blew, the tunes kept coming. The last set of the afternoon featured a happy little kid dancing in the grass behind the stage until he was hauled off by an embarassed older sibling. That kid wasn't the only one who felt like dancing!

   A KID PERSPECTIVE  (by Anya)

Banshee in the Kitchen is a small group, but has a full sound. They also have a sound that  reminds me of Martin Hayes, because they play some tunes energetically, and some tunes they play softly. They really concentrate. I can tell that they put a lot of thinking into their playing, because they are very good, and look like they know how without practicing! They're a very fun band. When we saw them, a little kid ran up behind them, and began dancing.

Some of their tunes I know too. Some we play the same, and some we play differently. They cooperate with each other, and have interesting combinations of tunes.

   THAT'S THE KIDS POINT OF VIEW.

So there you have it:  two perspectives, one bottom line: great band, great venue, great concert. Hope to see you at future Peter Strauss Ranch concerts (second Sunday of each month, June-September) and future Banshee in the Kitchen shows!

Free Concert Series

Anya Sturm is a fiddler, soccer player, and student at Will Rogers Elementary School in Santa Monica.

Kathy Bawn, mom of fiddlers Obin and Anya, plays banjo and guitar and teaches political science at UCLA.

Photo by Anya Sturm