Bowfire draws heat from violin strings


For Bowfire, the string is the thing.

The ensemble of virtuosic string musicians has been dazzling concert-hall audiences for more than a decade with a repertoire of sizzling songs. The act comes to Youngstown on Saturday for a performance at Powers Auditorium.

As its name suggests, Bowfire is about speed and style. About a dozen fiddlers, backed by a rhythm section, shifts through a variety of styles, from jazz to classical, bluegrass to Celtic and everything in between.

The stage show also features a vocalist and choreography, including some Irish stepdancing.

But at the center of it all is the violin, played fiddle style.

Lenny Solomon, artistic director of Bowfire, founded the Canadian act in 2000. The act has since played countless concerts on several continents, released numerous CDs and appeared in a cinematic special.

The versatile violin is the thing that holds it together.

“Among all of the instruments that man has created, the violin is one that’s closest to the human voice — an extremely expressive instrument and incredibly flexible,” Solomon told The Vindicator. “It’s a truly universal idea, to pull a bow across strings to create music, and Bowfire covers many different styles of fiddle and violin music from around the world.”

Solomon said the group has experts in every style it touches on, from the happy tunes of Irish fiddle music, to the haunting strains of the Slavic klezmer style, plus improvisational jazz and the timeless classical field.

Although audience members often express their appreciation upon hearing their favorite style of violin music, many delight in hearing something new.

“Time and again, people tell us how excited they were to discover something completely new to them,” said Solomon. A typical Bowfire show includes a mix of original works and traditional songs. As Solomon pointed out: “Where else will you find Johannes Brahms, Astor Piazzolla and Led Zeppelin on the same program?”

A few members break into step-dancing during their segment. “Bowfire is proud to have the best Ottawa Valley-style step-dancers — and yes, they can fiddle and dance at the same time with incredible accuracy,” said Solomon.

“All of the Bowfire players are tops in their fields,” he continued. “For example, our fiddle player, Shane Cook, was the youngest winner of the American Fiddle Championship. Everyone has thriving solo careers, but there’s such respect for one another that it’s a pleasure to come together and make music,” Solomon said.

“Bowfire has an amazingly talented rhythm section behind the violins, a cellist for depth, and there’s also sweet vocals. It’s a pretty packed show.”

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