St. Patty's Day draws attention to area Celtic bands.
by JJudy Brady
Regardless of color, creed or clan, St. Patrick’s Day is a
day to rejoice. Why? Who knows. Don a kilt, grab a corned beef sandwich,
and join the fun. Green beer flows freely, and the music–the
music–comes bursting through the ruddy Irish woodwork from
pubs to parades nationwide.
Colorado is no exception. Lucky Joe’s, Nallen’s and
Conor O’Neill’s thrive. Browse through almost twenty
Colorado Irish organizations at www.shamrocker.com. We even boast
a number of talented representatives keeping Celtic music alive.
But two bands in particular, The Indulgers and Bedlam Abbey, sit
on opposite sides of the Blarney Stone.
While most of us can identify Celtic music, why does it sound the
way it does?
Bedlam Abbey’s fiddle and mandolin player Mark Brissendon
offers an explanation. "It’s the folk music of the Celtic
parts of Europe–that is, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany.
The people who live in those places are an ethnic group that once
populated most of Europe but were pushed back by other groups into
the small areas they inhabit today."
Brissendon explains that during the Age of Enlightenment (circa
1680 until the French Revolution) musical elements changed throughout
Europe that led, in many ways, to what we now refer to as classical
music (Haydn, Mozart, etc). "But somehow those changes missed
the folk players in the Celtic world," Brissendon says, "so
their sound retained a lot of those medieval-sounding features.
To me, there’s kind of a mysterious quality to it that is
a little bit like traveling back in time to a long-gone age when
the world was a wilder and more chaotic place."
Bedlam Abbey began as a six-piece combination of "minstrels,"
who performed mostly traditional medieval and renaissance folk tunes.
Guitarist Michael Engberg says the growth into Celtic music came
naturally. "It has a lot of roots in common with the material
we were already working with," he says, "and it’s
just a lot of fun to play! Some of the Celtic stuff allows us to
really take off."
Even though Bedlam Abbey skillfully uncovers the Old World sound
and charm, the band decided to use "modern" acoustic instruments
and write original arrangements of the songs. The debut CD, Under
Loch and Quay contains beauties like "Wind That Shakes the
Barley," "Blow the Candle Out" and "Banish Misfortune/Dinny
Delaney’s Jig," displaying innovative instrumentation
and the players obvious talent.
"I would say that one mission for us is to take a lot of this
music that has survived the ages and sort of show why it survives,"
Engberg says. "We want to show the innate beauty and excitement
in this music, and that it can be played in a very alive and exciting
On that "note," pour me a pint!