Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Music to These Irish Ears.....

Cutthroat Shamrocks
I inherited my love of music from my mother and grandmother. My grandmother was an accomplished banjo player and was known county-wide for her talent. She would often take her 11 children (my mother included) to county fairs to sing and play.  

My earliest musical memories come from trips our family used to take on the weekends when I was a small girl. We would jump in the family station wagon, and along with aunts, uncles and numerous cousins, we would trek the 20 or so miles to a magical place called "Frontier Ranch." (I can hear my siblings groaning now ...)

Even though Frontier Ranch was nothing more than an old wooden stage in the middle of a huge field, the icon's of country music showed up for amazing outdoor jam sessions. We were entertained  by such greats as Marty Robbins, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., and on and was in the 60's, so it was easy to bump shoulders afterward with all of these amazing artists. 

During those concerts I was clueless that what I was experiencing was a genre called "country music."  And I had no idea that the singers and musicians in all those sequined outfits would become mega-stars in the industry. I just knew it was always a fun time and I never wanted to leave. The seeds of my love for music were planted in that old field. And now the roots are strong and deep.

But, in keeping with the theme of this blog, it's Celtic music that I want to highlight today. And hopefully you won't stop reading here because you've no clue or curiosity about Celtic me, this is a genre worth looking at and listening to. And it doesn't matter if your musical tastes run towards country or rock...there is Celtic music for just about every taste. Celtic music has many different faces.  

So "What is Celtic Music?" ....  I'm so glad you asked.

For the sake of this post, when I say "Celtic" I'm referring to music that is influenced by Celtic heritage, history, lore, etc. And geographically speaking, most readers will understand that we are talking about Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the history and culture that exists there. Not that the music has to come out of those fact Enter The Haggis, one of my favorite groups, comes out of Canada, which is rich with Celtic influence.

My introduction to Celtic music happened quite by accident about 4 years ago, when my friend Kelli Barry introduced me to the Drop Kick Murphys. (Not to be confused with the Murphy's of Ohio, my relatives, who haven't drop-kicked anything or anyone lately that I'm aware of or want to know about).

The Drop Kick Murphys are somewhat of a hard-rock type of Celtic, so they aren't my favorite (sorry Kel). But from there my curiousity (and google) led me to the fun, lively music of Gaelic Storm and Enter The Haggis.  

Na Fianna, out of Ireland

When I visited Ireland last year, I had a chance meeting with one of my favorite Irish bands - Na Fianna - four young guys who we stumbled upon quite by accident in a very cool pub in Kilkenney. I bought their CD, brought it back and passed around to all my friends. I call this "happy" Celtic music. The energy this band puts off makes it impossible not to clap, tap a foot and sing along. 

Another authentic Celtic musical group I've come to really appreciate for their passion for Scottish history through song, is a duo called Whiterose. Dougie and Kevin visited our local pub from Scotland a year ago and it was through them and their music that I became curious about Scottish history. Which led to several blog posts, which led to friendships and an eventual trip to Scotland and Culloden Moor. Music is a wonderful teacher sometimes. 

If you are a fan of tribal drums and pipe music (as in bag pipes) then checkout Albannach, a highly energetic group of Scots who truly fit the phrase "beat of a different drummer." You absolutely cannot sit down when this group is on stage. And they aren't hard to look at either.
I'm barely scratching the surface with these groups, I know. Celtic music can also mean a very entertaining and talented Pipe and Drum Band, as in our own local City of Dunedin Pipe and Drum Band, who recently participated in the World Championships in Glascow, Scotland. They represented very well and came home with awards and honors. Well done, lads and lassies.

Now many towns can say they have their very own Pipe and Drum Band?

Music is a universal language that speaks to our minds and our moods. I cannot think of anyone who doesn't enjoy music in some form or fashion. And diversity in musical tastes is healthy and keeps things interesting, don't ya think?

But for this Irish lass, Celtic music represents and illustrates my rich Irish heritage and the cantankerous and fun-loving people from which I sprang.