Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads
at the Captain Charles Leonard House (Agawam)

Event Summary

2009 May 16 (Saturday)
Private house concert at the Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam, Massachusetts
Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads.
$14.00 by advance reservation via e-mail to Meg Sullivan at
or by phone at +1 (413) 789-9267; $18.00 at the door

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2009 May 20)

This past Saturday evening, Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads (Zoë Darrow on fiddle, Tom Coburn on piano, and Phil Darrow on guitar) presented a concert of traditional fiddle music, much of it Scottish traditional music played in the style of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island. The concert was sold out and the room was full of enthusiastic admirers of Zoë and her accompanists. This was the last of Meg and Dan Sullivan’s concert series at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam (Massachusetts) for this season; the concerts will resume in the fall on September 19 with a down-home fiddling party featuring Nikki Maranchie Engstrom and Janine Randall.

Zoë opened the concert with the jigs The Black Rogue, Rocking the Baby, and Calliope House, followed by the reels Rorie’s Reel, Shetland Fiddler, and The Clumsy Lover. She then gave us a fine version of the slow air Over the Moor Among the Heather and followed it with King George’s Strathspey, Dinky Dorian’s, and The King’s Reel; as I was very often throughout the evening, I was again struck by Tom’s fine piano accompaniment, which fit the music very well, but is distinctly his own. Next, we heard Dan R. MacDonald’s Moxham Castle, Sandy MacLean’s Dismissal Reel. and the traditional West Mabou Reel; the distinctive rhythmic base Tom gave this music on the piano was splendid. A mixed jig/reel set consisting of Kevin Chaisson’s Darla’s Jig, Morrison’s Jig, Down the Broom, and John Morris Rankin’s Hull’s Reel followed. I didn’t get the names of the tunes in the fifth set, but it was a dandy blast of tunes. Next, slowing things down a bit, we heard James Scott Skinner and Peter Milne’s Shakin’s ’o the Pocky, the interesting story behind which can be found here. Then came Jean’s Reel and MacArthur Road. The next set was of reels, whose names I did not get; the piano accompaniment was again remarkable. A beautifully played Norman’s Reel by Donald Angus Beaton followed. Then came another set of reels, including Jackie Coleman’s Reel. They finished off the first half of the show with the traditional jig Northside Kitchen and Jerry Holland’s Brenda Stubbert’s Reel.

After a pause for refreshments and conversation, the concert resumed with Zoë performing a bodhràn solo. Phil then took up his mandolin and gave us a beautifully played tune, whose name I do not have, which Zoë accompanied on bodhràn; Tom then came in on piano and Zoë switched to fiddle, ending the number with a fiddle solo. The next set began with a slow air I know well but cannot name to which Phil’s guitar accompaniment was especially fine; the set continued with several more tunes. Then came Skinner’s haunting Dargai, Sleepy Maggie, and two Hamish Moore tunes, Malt on the Optics and Farewell to Decorum. The next set was a great blast of tunes, including Pigeon on the Gate and Catharsis, with some amazing playing by all three musicians. Taking things slower, Tom and Phil opened with an introduction to a slowish plaintive air, which Zoë played beautifully, extracting lovely tones from the fiddle; applause greeted the end of the air, but they continued playing on through it to give us several more tunes, including Liz Carroll’s Lost in the Loop. Next, Zoë gave us If Ever You Were Mine, an air she played as a waltz. To close out the second half, they gave us a high octane set including Ryan P. MacNeil’s Brucie and the Troopers, during which Zoë step-danced and then simultaneously step-danced and fiddled to a brilliant conclusion. Greeted by a standing ovation, the three musicians left the stage; when the applause continued without pause, Zoë returned to the stage and played solo with marvellous tone The Cuckoo, which always sounds like a hymn to me; Tom and Phil then came out and joined in on a final blast of tunes including the riotous The Night We Had the Goats.

Zoë has all the energy, vim, and vigour of a nineteen year old fiddler very comfortable in her own skin; her vibrant playing is backed up by two fine musicians on piano and guitar. The three find interesting arrangements to the music that always make it a joy to listen to. Zoë is now finished with her university classes for the semester, so they should be playing more frequently this summer in New England; keep an eye on their web site for dates and events (nothing is yet posted there as of this writing). If you haven’t heard the Fiddleheads play, you’re in for a treat! And if you have, you’ll want to hear them again!

As always, my thanks go to Meg and Dan Sullivan for their hard work in putting on these concerts. That they run like clockwork and have such a consistently high quality is a tribute both to their organizational skills and to their passion for the music. This has certainly been a season of which they can be very proud and the fall season is starting out with no less than five fiddlers! The schedule is posted on this web page—you will have to page down to see the artists and the dates along the right hand side of the page. The shows featuring the Cape Breton musicians are almost certain to sell out quickly—the capacity is 75 seats–so reserve early! You can reach Meg by e-mail before July or after August at msullgreen@gmail.com or by calling her at +1 (413) 789-9267.


From where I was seated in the front row, I could not get a photo of all three musicians playing together and most of my photos of Tom show him from behind where he was seated at the piano.

Meg Sullivan opens the concert

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Phil Darrow on guitar

Tom Coburn on piano

Zoë Darrow on fiddle accompanied by Phil Darrow on guitar

Tom Coburn on piano

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Phil Darrow on guitar

Tom Coburn on piano

Zoë Darrow on bodhràn

Phil Darrow on mandolin accompanied by Zoë Darrow on bodhràn

Zoë Darrow on fiddle accompanied by Phil Darrow on mandolin

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Phil Darrow on guitar

Tom Coburn on piano

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Phil Darrow on guitar

Dan Sullivan works the sound board

Zoë Darrow step-dancing

Zoë Darrow step-dancing

Zoë Darrow step-dancing while fiddling

Zoë Darrow step-dancing while fiddling accompanied by Phil Darrow on guitar

Zoë Darrow step-dancing while fiddling accompanied by Phil Darrow on guitar

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Zoë Darrow and Tom Coburn just after the end of the concert