By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT — Discovering a four leaf clover and leprechauns perched upon pots of gold might be a challenge this weekend but discovering authentic Celtic music, jigs and reels — that’s easy.
Tonight and Saturday night, the Bullfrog Brewery will celebrate all things Irish with two rollicking and reeling bands that capture the lively essence and mystic beauty of Celtic music and folklore from the British Isles.
Tonight, a quintet of musical lassies, Callanish, will get the St. Patty’s weekend off to a rousing start as they weave together Irish and Scottish music and merriment. On Saturday evening, the Lewisburg area trio Celtica will continue its tradition of welcoming St. Patrick’s Day to the Bullfrog Brewery.
“It will be an evening filled with a mix of rousing jigs and reels played in a very authentic way. We’re very excited to make our debut performance at the Bullfrog during St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” said Callanish band member Holly Foy. “We’ll be playing a lot of old tunes and music that captures the history and beauty of the British Isles.”
A Celtic group with a lively sound, Callanish is the weaving together of five distinct musical styles and personalities to create a sound that pays homage to the tunes and folklore in the traditional style.
“I love the synergy of this type of music and how it can capture both the rich culture and difficult history of this land,” Foy said. “I also love how all of us in the band will get together and each one of us will bring something unexpected to a song. A way of playing it we never thought about ... or adding a different instrument.... making music is a very rewarding process.”
Although the group, founded nearly 13 years ago in the State College area, has undergone several changes over the years, including new members, the group has always held a strong passion for the music and culture of the Emerald Isles.
Joining Foy are fellow musicians Patty Lambert on wooden flute, silver flute, whistle and concertina; percussionist Carol Lindsay playing bodhran, spoons, and tambourine while Gretchen Lee provides fiddle and vocalist Louise Smith lends strong singing skills.
Although Foy adds common known instruments — the guitar and banjo — to the group’s sound, she also adds a dash of Greek color by playing a bouzouki.
The Isle of Lewis is responsible for the band’s name. The Callanish Stones are a circle of standing stones on the Isle of Lewis, located in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The stones have been standing since around 2900 B.C. and are featured on the cover of the group’s self-titled CD.
Legend has it the stones were originally giants, who were turned to stone when they refused to be converted to Christianity by Saint Kieran.
Since a rolling stone gathers no moss, the band is always busy with new projects and performances, which have included performing at numerous public and private functions around the area, most notably, serving as the opening act for “Women of Ireland” when they performed at the Community Arts Center last year.
“Instead of spending a lot of money to see ‘Women of Ireland’ at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, you can head over to the Bullfrog Brewery and hear the women of Centre County for free, play some rousing music, partake in some good beer and the Bullfrog’s great sweet potato fries.”
Check them out: www.callanishband.com.
A night with Celtica
“We love the Bullfrog patrons. They come every year and enjoy both the setting and the chance to delve into a real holiday with all the acoustics, stories, sounds all presented lovingly,” said band member Flora Eyster. “Anyone who likes good Irish jokes, full blown ballads and jigs presented with a flair of folk and jam should definitely come.”
For the past nine years Celtica has been mixing Irish melodies that encompass everything from rambunctious reels and jovial jigs to sea songs and old country and folk reveries.
“Celtic music carries a depth that makes you laugh and cry much more than any folk, country or blues song,” Eyster said. “It is deeper music to explore.”
A few of the many tunes and reels in their playlist include “Girl of the North Country,” “Black is the Color” and the rousing “Whiskey Before Breakfast.”
Working to bring that music to life are the multi-talented Rich Grace, providing vocals, banjo, guitar and harmonica while musician and music craftsman Steve Catania can be heard on mandolin, the dulcimer and bohdron. Esyter alternates between the wooden and silver flutes with a dash of recorders, penny whistles and percussion thrown into the mix.
Celtica will be joined by vocalist Abby Parker. “I believe my natural vocal style is strongly influenced by this particular genre. My heart and soul lies in the secrets these songs reveal, my love for the culture can be heard in my voice,” Parker said. “Having a female vocalist also helps add variety.
“Irish music is the roots of country. Country music derives from mountain folk music, which was carried from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales to our country in the hearts of the immigrants who came through our doors.”
According to Eyster, Parker helps give the music depth and feeling. “Abby adds a sweet sound of a female voice added to male vocals to create a sense of identity in the music,” Eyster said. “Most of the music are stories of love and loss, so the female and male voices take on the characters of the tunes and stories. Plus, Abby studied these songs in Ireland, so she brings some authenticity to our interpretations.”