First Night preview: Brian Conway, champion Irish fiddler

Irish fiddler Brian Conway is coming to First Night Morris 2019.
Irish fiddler Brian Conway is coming to First Night Morris 2019.
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By Marion Filler

His name may not be familiar outside a circle of aficionados, but to those in the know about Irish music, Brian Conway is a rock star.

He plays the violin, and although he has a classical foundation, his “Sligo-style” fiddle is best associated with the traditional music of Ireland.

First Night 2019 logo

You can discover Conway for yourself on New Year’s Eve in Morristown. He will play two shows at First Night Morris 2019, at St. Peter’s Parish House, 70 Maple Ave., at 7:15 pm and 8:15pm.

Organized by Morris Arts, First Night Morris presents more than 100 top artists and 81 events at 23 venues, all within an easy walk or free shuttle bus ride in Morristown. This festive evening, which includes fireworks at 9:15 pm and midnight, is celebrating its 27th year.

Conway’s violin is essentially the same instrument with the same number of strings as every other. But the sound of his fiddle playing is distinctive.

“There’s more emphasis on playing by ear and creating your own music within the music – it’s the variations,” says Conway.

The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise.

He has performed all over North America, from San Francisco to New York and places in between, such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents also have been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe.

The Conways came from Ireland, but Brian was born in New York.

“Can’t you tell from my Bronx accent?” he asks. “I was the Assistant D.A. for 30 years, but now I am retired.”

Music always has been a part of his life, and buoyed by his reputation as the preeminent Sligo fiddle instructor in New York, he spends his time teaching, appearing in concert, making CDs, and yes, and winning more awards for his music.

For his program at First Night, visitors can look forward to an array of traditional Irish music, interspersed with a few contemporary songs. He will be accompanied by John Walsh, with whom he has recorded several times.

“Now John has lived in Ireland for a time and he has a real Irish accent,” says Conway, who lets his fiddle do the talking.

Close your eyes, and it will transport you to the Emerald Isle.

First Night Morris starts at 4:45 pm on New Year’s Eve and concludes with midnight fireworks over the Morristown Green. One admission badge gets you into as many performances as you can manage. Badges are $25, or $90 for a four-pack. They may be purchased online line or at the Mayo Performing Arts Center box office at 100 South St., (973) 539-8008. Parking will be free at municipal lots in Morristown. MorristownGreen.com is a proud supporter of First Night Morris.

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