Folk music string band plays special Celtic set for St. Patrick’s Day

BW professors joined Celtic fiddle player to perform Irish music in honor of St. Patrick’s Day


Kelly Coyne

Front Porch performs at Front Street Social on St. Patrick’s Day.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, Front Porch, a folk music string band including various BW professors, provided the entertainment at the local bar Front St Social. 

The professors usually involved in Front Porch are political science professor Mark Mattern, philosophy professor Kelly Coble, a former professor of German Steve Hollender and the Interim Associate Dean of the Conservatory of Music Beth Hiser. For Saint Patrick’s Day, Hiser could not attend, and instead, Leon Kratz, a Celtic fiddle player, joined them.  

While Front Porch has played at Front St Social in the past, Mattern said they were specifically asked to play for Saint Patrick’s Day. They invited Leon Kratz, a renowned Celtic fiddle player and Mattern’s son to join them.  

“The owner of Front Street Social may have thought that because we do some Irish adjacent music that we can easily come in and do a whole bunch of Irish music, which we don’t,” Mattern said. “But we resolved that problem since Beth, our bass player, is unable to make the gig, so what we’ve done is invited an Irish fiddler who’s quite good to sit in with us.”  

Mattern said that Front Porch, who usually rehearses together weekly, learned around 45 minutes of new material just for Saint Patrick’s Day. In an interview with The Exponent before their performance, Coble said that for Irish music, the members were mostly playing accompaniment with the fiddle.  

“The Irish stuff is a pretty straightforward style of music, but there’s a real art to it if you really want to dive into it,” Coble said. “We’re pretty much just doing straightforward accompaniment, so the real highlight is going to be the fiddle,”  

The four professors in Front Porch have been playing music together for about 15 years. However, Coble said that the group originally started with just Mattern and Hollender. Then, despite having a different musical background, Coble joined them a few months later after hearing some of their music.  

“I had experience playing electric lead guitar in metal bands,” Coble said. “At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the folk music, but Steve and Mark sounded amazing together, and that inspired me to learn the songs they were playing and listen to music in that genre. Now I love the stuff!”  

Coble said that when he joined, Hiser was not yet working at BW, but as she has a high degree of music knowledge and skill, she added in her voice, bass guitar and her fiddle playing.  

Mattern said that Front Porch did not advertise the event much themselves other than through their email list. Still, there was a large local showing which included some BW students.  

Coble said that they enjoy when students and alumni come out to their gigs.  

“We always like it when students come in and have a good time,” Coble said. “And some students are also musicians and stuff too.”