Music festival brings back old times

The old-time music of Bruce Molsky was not at all out of place in the Billings North Lounge, where the sconces and chandeliers seemed more fit to hold candles than light bulbs. Molsky, a Grammy-nominated musician who plays fiddle, guitar and banjo, was one of the main performers at UVM’s Old-Time Music Festival, which took place on April 3 and 4. Old-time music is traditional folk music, usually played on banjo, guitar or fiddle, often passed down through teaching and performance — much like folk tales. The second-annual festival included performances and workshops by internationally known old-time musicians as well as open jam sessions after each night’s events in the Billing’s North Lounge. Sam Sherwood, a UVM senior and the president of the Old-Time Music Club, said that the group was pleased to bring some of the “most important names in old-time music” to UVM. Along with Molsky, the festival featured the duo of Alan Jabbour, a fiddler, and Ken Perlman, who plays the banjo. Molsky’s set on the night of April 3  lasted only about an hour, but the experience seemed to last much longer as he produced a sound that transported listeners to a different place in time. Before he began, Molsky said that he would play an entirely instrumental set because of a rough voice brought on by “the blooming cherry trees” in his hometown of Washington, D.C. But while his allergies may have prevented him from singing, they did not inhibit his fast-paced playing of old-time tunes, both the well known and the obscure.Every few songs, Molsky switched between his guitar, his banjo and his fiddle, allowing him time to tell stories — often humorous — about the songs or about his life.   Although he spent time on all three instruments, the fiddle was where Molsky seemed most at home.While fiddling, his head remained still, with eyes focused on the floor or audience, although his arms and fingers were fast at work.  There was such intensity in Molsky’s playing, producing a complex sound, filled with a multitude of pitches and timbres. It was easy to imagine two, or even three fiddlers on stage.”He is a very animated performer,” member of the Old Time Music Club on campus, UVM sophomore Michael Verla, said.The room’s floor trembled as if a hundred pairs of feet tapped along, brought into motion by Molsky’s renditions of old-time songs from around the world — from Scandinavia to Africa to Canada and America.The songs’ backgrounds were diverse, but they all seemed to appeal to a basic instinct in the listeners, creating a feeling that the music had not only filled their ears, but their hearts and minds as well.