Friday, May 2, 2014

South Coast Celtic Festival in Coos Bay

The South Coast Celtic Fest is May 3, 2014 at the Hales Center at Southwestern Oregon Community College 1988 Newmark St. in Coos Bay. The event is a collaborative effort of the South Coast Folk Society, the Coastal Celtic Society, and Soroptimist International of the Coos Bay Area.
The festival starts at 10 a.m. and includes 24 hands-on workshops, vendors and two performance stages featuring shows by Hillcrest Kids, Steven McVay, John MacRae, Contra Swings, Mary Grace Brogdon, Wee Willie& the Auld Cuifs, Sharon Rodgers, Nick Metcalf & Candace Kreitlow, Ric Morrisonn, Stacy Rose, Joe Ross, and Oregon Coast Pipes & Drums. Enjoy music from 10:00 – 6:30 pm at no charge!

Music workshops include fiddle, Irish whistle, guitar, bagpipes, Ceili dancing, Irish Pub Songs, dissecting the concertina, waulking songs, bodhran, and Maypole dancing. Participants are encouraged to bring their instrument and recording device. 

Cultural workshops include basic genealogy, intro to Irish language, Stories of The Sidhe, Carving a Welsh Love Spoon, Tales of Growing Up in Ireland, Making a Celtic Knot Journal, and more. A track of workshops will be available to kids aged 6 and above.

An Irish session for all acoustic musicians runs from 4 -6:30 p.m., and a bonny knees contest round out the afternoon activities. 

Vendors of handcrafted jewelry, musical instruments, baked goods, and other merchandise will have booths displaying their goods.

Oregon Coast Culinary Institute
The Oregon Coast Culinary Institute will offer a Celtic foods buffet dinner in the Hales Center starting at 5:00 pm. The dinner is $7 at the door.

Molly's Revenge
The evening concert begins at 7 p.m. with a grand entry from the Oregon Coast Pipes& Drums Band. Then taking the stage will be Kitchen Ceilidh, a women’s a cappella group singing traditional and current songs in Scottish Gaelic, as well as sharing Scots Gaelic Cultural traditions. The headliner is Molly’s Revenge, a dynamic, acoustic Celtic band known for its unique and infectious enthusiasm. The classic combination of bagpipes, whistle, and fiddle, with a backdrop of guitar, mandola, and bodhran guarantees an enjoyable experience for all fans of Scottish and Irish music. 
Kitchen Ceilidh
Evening concert tickets are $20. An all-workshop day pass is $15. A discounted pass of $5 is available for children 12 and under, thanks to a generous grant from Coos County Cultural Coalition.

Tickets are available at Off the Record (2227B Newmark, North Bend), Books by the Bay (1875 Sherman, North Bend), Coos Bay Visitors’ Center (Hwy 101, Coos Bay), and  Bandon Mercantile (535 S. 2nd St., Bandon).

The festival is generously sponsored by the following local businesses and organizations: Sol Coast Companies, Gold Coast Security, E.L. Edwards Realty, O’Bryan Advanced Dentistry, Edward Jones of Coos Bay & North Bend, Hough, MacAdam & Wartnik, Farr’s True Value Hardware, Kerbo Engineering, Oregon Garden Art, MacDuff Design, Coos County Cultural Coalition, The Mill Casino, and the Coastal Celtic Society. For additional information, contact Stacy Rose 541.808.1002

For a full description of all workshops, schedule and more, go to this festival link. For updates on Facebook, link here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hints and Diagrams for Playing the English Concertina

Some folks have asked me how to play the English concertina. When I first started back in the 1970s, I put small labels (to identify the musical notes) on every single one of my 48 buttons. I'd find straying, errant notes which had escaped only to find their new homes on my refrigerator, shoes, books or LPs. Eventually, everything on the instrument began to make sense.

I also highly encourage the use of diagrams like these to identify the location of notes, as well as how to make chords with your right and left hand fingerings.


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Concertina's Revival

The concertina is a small instrument, simply known as the “box” around other Irish session players. I play a 48-button treble English concertina. On each side of the instrument are four rows of buttons (or keys) that run vertically up the instrument. These “keyboards” are connected by a hand-operated bellows. In the early 1970s, I heard a concertina player from Port Townsend, Wa. by the name of Bertram Levy playing with fiddler Frank Farrell. I decided to take up the treble English concertina because it has the same range as a violin, the lowest note being the “g” below middle “c.” English concertinas are also made in other ranges. Tenor, baritone, bass and even double bass instruments were made and played during the concertina’s heyday. I also took up the English concertina because it’s fully chromatic (music in any key can be played on it) unlike the Anglo concertina which is generally limited to two keys (C and G) although some feature more accidentals (notes not found in these keys). To initially get oriented and learn the instrument, I put little stickers on each of the 48 buttons to identify the notes. I’d occasionally find fugitive “G#” or “Eb” stickers in strange places around home.

The concertina is considered a free-reed instrument because the unattached ends of the reeds (small metal tongues) vibrate freely. With an English concertina, I get the same note on the “push” or “pull” of the bellows. Working on the same principle as a harmonica, the Anglo concertina gives a different note with the “push” or “pull.” With fewer keys (and thus less expensive too), the Anglo concertina became especially popular to accompany English Morris dances, performed traditionally only by men to ensure crop growth. It was quite effective for Morris dancing because its volume is greater than that of the fiddle, pipe (whistle) or tabor (drum).

While the Anglos concertina provides a nice rhythmic and lilting effect for dance music, I’m very happy playing the English style and not having to think about whether to “push” or “pull” my bellows for a certain note. I’ve found it very suitable and fun for the jig, reel, hornpipe, mazurka, strathspey, polka, march and waltz. It’s also great for accompanying sea chanteys, folk ballads and Irish pub songs. Someday I’d like to learn more Latin, jazz or classical music on it. I’ve even heard the instrument in some pop recordings from the likes of Bette Midler, Judy Collins and other pop vocalists.

In the late 1700s, a European traveler brought an instrument from China called the sheng (a mouth-organ with many tiny brass free reeds). A German inventor named Buschmann used free reeds in his mund-organ or harmonica. Grenie, a Frenchman, used the same reeds in his accordeon (prototype of the modern button accordion). The concertina was invented by Charles Wheatstone in England about 1827. His first customers were lords and ladies who performed light classical and operatic music. In 1844, Wheatstone improved the instrument by providing two reeds for each button, allowing it to produce the same note when either drawing or pressing the bellows (“double action”).

The concertina craze was in the 1850s during the Victorian era, but when the era ended it seemed that the concertina died with it. Around the turn of the century, the instrument and music filtered down to the working class men and women, English coal miners, industrial workers and even sailors. The instrument’s popularity dropped steadily after the World War, but a revival movement (begun in the fifties) was primarily inspired by the playing of Alf Edwards who accompanied folksingers Ewan MacColl and A. L. Lloyd. The revival continues to contribute to the instrument’s resurgence and popularity. Concertinas can be a tad spendy so I recommend the Italian-made instruments for their quality and cost.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Introducing Irish Creme

The Irish Creme Band, with its clan of acoustic musicians, has plenty of energy; enough to move a small fleet of motor vehicles. It’s a fuel that burns steadily, ignited by the rhythms of jigs, reels, sea chanties, and hornpipes and readily powered by the passion and power of vocals of Celtic and folk ballads. From the traditional to the obscure, you sing along and tap your foot even if you haven't heard the tune before.

Since hitting the Oregon music scene, the group has continually expanded its repertoire, which also includes a whole “Pickin' on Christmas” series. In 2011, the band released its first album entitled "Poor Man's Cow."

Aleta McGee, lead vocalist, sings with clarity and packs along a guitar and bodhran.
Joe Ross swings a mean mandolin, English concertina and often mesmerizes with his hammered dulcimer.
Carla Rutter pulls out the stops between five flutes, the favorite being the bass flute (“the giant paper clip”).
Al Foster picks a solid banjo, mandolin and Anglo concertina (when he's not teaching junior high geography or coaching track).
Bill Ilari drives the beat home with “Twiggy” his electric double bass (aka "the electric pogo stick").

From Roseburg, Or., Irish Creme plays in the casual “pub style.” The group’s collection of Celtic and folk music naturally entices the audience to laugh, join in on the choruses, talk and banter. The band also finds it just as easy to serve up a music meal in a “concert style setting” where the listener will be captivated by melodic stories of distant lands, lovers and travels, both traditional and contemporary.

The band always serves up a rousing, fun and entertaining musical experience, especially when they get to dress up in some sort of costume for a special holiday or Scottish event. For example, the band's been honored to appear at the Eugene Scottish Festival in Eugene, Or. Check out more of their shows at You Tube.
Irish Creme seems to have a particular fondness for Halloween every year when that day rolls around. Find the Irish Creme Band on Facebook or visit their group's website here. The band members also keep busy in other ensembles, or appearing in solo, duo or trio configurations. When playing as a trio, the band is sometimes affectionately referred to simply as "The Cremelings."