by Craig Marshall
Excitement! Energy! Virtuosity! Versatility! Wildness! FUN!
Uncommon Ground once again showed why it is one of the most incredibly skilled groups around when it performed recently at Christ Church in Poughkeepsie to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience that couldn’t get enough. The chemistry that binds them together to create such great sounds and interaction is so apparent and unusual, it is a treat to sit back and watch magic in motion. Motion? The lightning picking of guitar and mandolin, the zinging bow of the fiddle, the quick hands of the percussion, and the wild bow of the bass that if it were a saw on a tree, the tree would be felled in 30 seconds! “Wonderful” is the word that sums it all up! Bluegrass, and a WHOLE lot more.
Yes, it’s a group, but a group of especially talented individuals. As in:
Rachel Handman, who blew the audience away with a classical violin/fiddle intro to a bluegrass piece. A performer who moves with the music and has an absolutely infectious smile that lights up the room! Such a great voice! We’re fortunate to steal her away from the Hudson Valley Philharmonic for these special performances.
Wayne Fugate, fingers-on-fire on the mandolin, creative passages, and always the “jokes” to add fun to the session. Repeating the line from one of his best (“The end is near!”), does that refer to your puns, Wayne? (ha!)
Mike Kobetitsch, a guy who when he sings, you just want to lean back in your chair and enjoy his great voice and lyrics. The fingers move with dizzying speed…just how does he do it?
Phil “Wild Bow” Helm, another Hudson Valley Philharmonic transplant that displays such skill and creativity and driving force – you’re just mesmerized watching and listening to a bass performance the likes of which you’ve never seen or heard before.
Craig Bitterman, newest member of the group, a full-time musician, invited by Phil when they met 2 years ago as members of the West Point Concert Band (still are) to sit in and see what transpires. Well, as Craig puts it “This is a fun group that I really feel so comfortable with. We have fun doing together what we love to do. The talent is just amazing!” Craig plays percussion, but not what that usually means, at least to me. He plays (meaning “slaps”) a drum-type instrument called a Djembe which is from Africa/Senegal. He sits on his other instrument which looks like a box and is called a Cajon from Peru & Argentina which he also slaps with fascinating rhythm. His versatility really shows in the Latin-style numbers the band does so well. These instruments were both “firsts” for me and I’m sure others, and just demonstrates again that the learning never stops.
Another feature that made the night special was the venue. Instead of the large church interior of Christ Church, the group performed in a smaller chapel room that gave a great feeling of intimacy. I just love being 8 feet from the performers. It’s like having your own private performance! No surprise, several encores were demanded and played to (can I say it?) an ADORING audience. I left feeling happy, exhilarated, and wanting to hear them soon again. Parting thought: I’d hate to be the group that follows them on stage. Uncommon Ground set the performance bar WAY HIGH!! Thank you Uncommon Ground!! And thank you HVBA for a continuing series of great performances!