Barrie Concerts & Georgian Music

Barrie Concert Review

Beyond The Pale

February 23rd, 2019

submitted by Alyssa Wright Alyssa Wright is a cellist, singer-songwriter, music educator and write

Beyond the Pale

Despite the weather warnings, Saturday night’s audience was full for roots/fusion band Beyond The Pale. I have been a fan of this group since their early beginnings as a trio — with founding members Eric Stein (mandolin) and Bret Higgins (bass) now joined by Martin van de Ven (clarinets), Milos Popovic (accordion) and Aleksandar Gajic (violin). Describing their musical genre as “Eurofolk Fusion”, Beyond The Pale’s music is inspired by Klezmer and Balkan styles, with elements of classical, jazz, bluegrass and reggae inventively thrown into the mix.

Now in their 21st year, Beyond The Pale has been nominated for seven Canadian Folk Music Awards, and won three of them. The band has also toured internationally, including performances at Carnegie Hall, and the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland. The individual members are some of Toronto’s top instrumentalists, and when they come together, the tightness of their ensemble work is amazing, as are their arrangements.

The program included traditional music, with their innovative arrangements putting the band’s signature on each work — including “Oy I Like She”, sung by Stein, with the band joining in on the chorus. These folk pieces were balanced out with original tunes by the band members, standing easily alongside the time-tested works, and giving a nod to the band members’ strengths and personalities. Higgins contributed the Kelzmer-based “Atlas Revolt” (featuring the bass clarinet, as well as some funky bass grooves) and “Ruckus in Ralija” (inspired, we were told, by an alcohol-infused evening the band spent in this village just south of Belgrade). Gajic’s Serbian-inspired “Ispravnost Licne Vizije” (translated as “the righteousness of the personal vision”) was a fun rhythmic romp, and his “Andale” featured a lovely melodic line. Band leader Stein’s “The Whole Thing” seemed to represent the musical approach of the group — hinting at many different Eastern European influences, without pigeon-holing itself into just one, underpinned by a more Western kind of groove, a true east-meets-west blend. And van de Ven’s “Myla’s Dance” highlighted each musician in a playful yet virtuosic swirl, tricking the audience into applause in a false ending, then again after the real one.

A few “party tricks” were added to their final “Postcards” medley (the violinist helping the clarinettist with a trill, for instance), without undermining the band’s musicianship in any way. A well-deserved standing ovation was rewarded with a rousing performance of the traditional Jewish wedding dance, “A Glezele Vayn”.

Early in the evening, Stein told the audience it was the band’s first time performing in Barrie in ten to twelve years — let’s hope it doesn’t take them that long to return!

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Barrie Concerts & Georgian Music
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