Two banjoists took center stage Friday night at the historic G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula, Ohio. They were angled toward each other, although this was no dueling banjos, but rather DUETING banjos. Mark Olitsky and Cary Moskovitz presented music from their 2017 album, Duets, to a packed crowd, seated at tables inside the 167-year-old building.
Olitsky & Moskovitz paired their seemingly disparate styles with equally contrasting instruments through dazzling interplay of melody, rhythm and harmony. Their playing intertwined and darted off in magical ways throughout the night. Moments when the sound of the two banjos landed upon unison notes, before twisting off again, were especially exciting.
A handful of standouts for the evening were their presentation of “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” “Falls of Richmond” and “Farewell Trion.” The G.A.R. Hall’s pristine acoustics were a perfect complement to the banjo duo.
Each appeared to be playing two banjos. Olitsky provided the bassier tones, as he mostly played a low-tuned, large-rimmed five-string banjo in his grooving clawhammer style. He occasionally switched off to a smaller-rimmed banjo tuned to a more standard pitch, but still darker in tone to his counterpart. Moskovitz brought the brighter and trebly tones, as he switched between a pair of four-string plectrum banjos, including (I believe) his 1928 Trujo, masterfully picking along.
Presented by the Peninsula Foundation as part of its Voices in the Valley series, the Olitsky & Moskovitz concert was the first of four gigs they’re playing in May. Next, they head south to North Carolina to play a trio of shows this Thursday through Saturday in Pittsboro, Mount Pleasant and Concord. For more information about these performances, visit https://olitskymoskovitz.com/live-shows.