The local Celtic quartet Piper's Crow has quietly emerged as an outstanding traditional ensemble, distinguished by a wide-ranging repertoire, a rich understanding of roots, and a willingness to venture far afield with spirited innovations. There's brilliant play all around: Laura MacKenzie's wondrous voice and various pipes and flutes, Karen Mueller's guitar and bouzouki, Zack Kline's fiddle, and Dick Hensold's pipes and assorted curiosities. This show is event enough as a relatively rare Piper's Crow sighting. But it's all the more significant for marking the release of Hensold's great new CD Big Music for Northumbrian Smallpipes (Ten Thousand Lakes). Hensold is such a virtuoso on the instrument of the title that he does workshops in Northumberland. But the album is far more than academic exercise (although Hensold could wow you there, too). A labor of love recorded over the past six years, Big Music rambles across the English-Scottish border region, to Cape Breton and even Cambodia, with sprightly, head-twisting arrangements of traditional fare plus lots of intriguing Hensold originals. And it's littered with maverick touches: expansive ensemble play led by the lithe smallpipes, a jig as fugue, the pipes' interplay with the late Bun Loeung's Cambodian dulcimer—stuff that'll knock your socks off if you're a musicologist and charm them off if you're not.
Fri., Nov. 23, 8 p.m., 2007