211125ind Fellswater

Boston-based Fellswater will perform at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield tonight.

When the average fan thinks of Celtic music, they’ll probably think of the acoustic based songs they’ve heard while walking into an Irish pub during a session. Turns out that this certain style is a lot more wide-ranging than that. Outside of Ireland, the music also hails from Scotland, Canada, northwestern Spain and the same region of France. Boston’s Fellswater is well versed in the Celtic sounds and they pull it off with a vast array of instruments that include the mandolin, cello, flute and a harp. Tonight, the ensemble will be performing at Pump House Music Works on 1464 Kingstown Road in Wakefield.

Ahead of the gig I had a talk with percussionist Kyle Forsthoff about how he got into Celtic music, his joy of teaching the trade, managing a band with a lot of members and his thoughts on the Pump House.

Rob Duguay: How did you get yourself intertwined with Celtic music? Is this the kind of music you grew up on as a kid? Did you gravitate to it later on in your life?

Kyle Forsthoff: I came to Irish music during my studies in school. I’m a professional percussionist by trade and I came to it in college, my teacher had some experience with it and I learned it as part of the rest of what I was studying with snare drum, keyboard and timpani. We were learning about different drumming styles from around the world and I became interested in trying it out. I sort of gravitated toward it, I started taking it seriously around 2009 and I’ve been playing it ever since.

RD: When it comes to arrangements and syncopation, how does Fellswater make it work as an octet with so many different instruments being played?

KF: Every person in the band plays multiple instruments so usually how we start is that we’ll put together a group of tunes that we want to play or someone will bring in one tune that they really want to do. Then it’s a process of experimentation to figure out which tunes go with that tune or a couple of tunes and we’ll sort of flesh out the general form for a three to five minute piece. From there the melody players will start deciding which instruments they want to play the melodies on so we have a lady who plays flute, whistle and fife who has a decision to make. Our fiddler plays multiple different fiddles so she has a decision to make and the piper will decide which pipes she’s going to use and so on. We’ll fill out the sound of the melody and at the same time the rhythm players, which includes myself, will be working out the genuine rhythmic feel of the piece as it changes from tune to tune.

It’s a process of collaboration and experimentation to figure out what works with the arrangement, which may evolve and take three or four months of rehearsals to become something we can put on stage. It may evolve further with certain changes and new instruments coming into the fold. For the songs that involve our singers, we usually start with a general idea of what type of feel it’s going to have and we’ll flesh out the arrangement and the instrumentation from there to make sure that we highlight the song and stay in the background when we need to be and then step forward when needed.

RD:  You also teach music as the guest artist and teacher in percussion at The University Of Rhode Island along with conducting sessions at The Rhody Center for World Music and Dance. Is there a lot of patience that comes with teaching music? What do you enjoy the most about it?

KF: Yeah, there is a lot of patience involved. What I like best about it is taking the idea of watching students unlock their abilities and becoming successful at tasks they couldn’t do before whether it’s in the classroom or while performing. Over six weeks ago you couldn’t do that and now you can, so it’s watching the students’ own journeys of self-discovery and watching them be successful as they learn new skills and as they learn new ways to think about and interact in the world. Those sorts of things, basically just being able to pass on the knowledge that I’ve been given.

RD: That’s definitely a great thing. What are your thoughts on the upcoming gig at Pump House Music Works?

KF: I think this will be our third gig post-pandemic and our second one this year at the Pump House this year, actually. We performed there back in June but this will be our first gig back inside the venue. We really like playing there and we really like the people. It’s a nice, intimate venue, the acoustics inside sound great and it’s perfect for a band of our style and our size. The audience is very receptive and the staff are very nice to us, we like them a lot and we love playing at the Pump House.

RD: I couldn’t agree more about the place, it’s a beautiful venue. It’s been a few years since Fellswater put out their last album, Skipping Stones, in 2018. Can we expect a new album at some point in the future?

KF: We were supposed to go into the studio last summer and obviously we didn’t get a chance to do that because of COVID-19. We don’t have any particular plans to record anything just yet but the audience at the upcoming show can expect to hear new music that we didn’t play during the summer.

Rob Duguay is a Rhode Island-based music writer. Send him email at rob.c.duguay@gmail.com.

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