Kevin Burke brings Irish repertoire to Tucson

2013-04-18T00:00:00Z Kevin Burke brings Irish repertoire to TucsonGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For decades, Kevin Burke has traveled the world with his Irish fiddle repertoire, exposing thousands to the musical traditions of his family's homeland.

These days, the world comes to him.

For the last three years, Burke has given fiddle lessons from the comfort of his Portland, Ore. home using the Internet chat platform Skype.

The online program, which provides both video and audio feeds, has allowed him to teach aspiring players from Italy to Japan.

"If you are in Chicago or Barcelona, it is a lot easier to set up a Skype appointment than it is to fly to Portland," Burke said in a phone interview last week.

Tucson's Burke fans won't need to download the latest Web updates to see the famed Irish musician perform.

Burke will be in town next Thursday to play a set with John Carty, his colleague from the band Patrick Street, at Plaza Palomino.

Burke said he and Carty, who is flying in from Ireland, share a common interest in different types of Irish music, particularly the early-20th-century tunes from County Sligo on the west end of the country.

Both Burke and Carty were born and raised in London, but Burke's parents were from Sligo, as was Carty's father.

"One of the things we often talk about is how you don't hear the older music from that part of the world much anymore," Burke said.

He describes the Sligo sound as having a brisk, ornate tempo with an excited dance rhythm, and says it often served as the primary entertainment for residents of the area.

"It is the music of the poorer people in the west of Ireland," Burke said. "Some people had radios at the time, but there was still very little outside entertainment.

"This is the music that John and I like so much. It's the music that our grandparents and great-grandparents listened to."

On this first tour out as a duo, Burke says he and Carty might sprinkle in musical styles from other parts of Ireland into their set.

Burke is also well versed in other traditional genres. He says he enjoys dabbling in fiddle music from many corners of the world with Yiddish, bluegrass and Scandinavian material all well within his capabilities.

Burke's old school preferences are in sharp contrast to the modern technology that he has employed to pass along his knowledge.

He estimates he has taught at least 30 students via Skype since starting the online venture.

"I wouldn't claim it is as good as a face-to-face lesson or conversation," he said. "But it can be very useful."

if you go

• What: Kevin Burke and John Carty in concert.

• When: 7:30 p.m. next Thursday.

• Where: Suite 147 at Plaza Palomino, 2970 N. Swan Road.

• Tickets: $20 in advance through or $23 at the door.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.

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