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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich January/February 2001

Well, it's 2001 and time for me to do my "Space (filling) Odyssey" for the Jan-Feb program guide.
    A decade ago, most Americans experience with things Celtic was limited to mispronouncing the word as the name of Boston's NBA franchise. Then came Riverdance and the resulting frenzy for all things Irish/Celtic. I think the new Millennium heralds a return to normalcy, and in a way that's a relief. The traditional music has gained some new fans that will stay devoted as it returns to its more comfortable, less glitzy format. Perhaps we can all get back to enjoying the simple pleasures of Celtic folk music. There most certainly have been changes in instrumentation and style, but that's only appropriate. Traditional music always has and always will be in a state of transition as it most properly should be!
    In that light, we've signed up some of today's most skilled performers of this music to continue our series of Celtic benefit concerts. On January 5th, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies will return to the Wilde Auditorium. Patrick Street make their second trip to the University of Hartford's Millard Auditorium on March 1st, a pre-St. Patrick's Day treat for us all. A week after the "big holiday", we present a unique event for your enjoyment, a triple bill of Celtic musicians including Scotland's Old Blind Dogs, the Niamh Parson's Band from Ireland and Irish American fiddler Liz Carroll and her band. On June 1st, we'll present Cherish the Ladies, complete with all their dancers on the larger stage of the Millard Auditorium. You may recall their memorable but scaled down performance in the Wilde Auditorium a few years ago.
    Tickets for all these shows went on sale in early November '00, reserve yours soon by calling the University Box Office at 1-800-274-8587 or 1-860-768-4228.
    Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies are from Northumberland, an area on the Scottish borders. Jez plays guitar, cittern and harmonica while singing in a fine, clear, tenor voice. Band mate Judy Dining chimes in with a lovely pure soprano and plays keyboards and percussion as well. Her fellow Bad Pennies include Billy Surgeoner on fiddle, whistle, keyboards and backing vocals and Simon Haworth on bass and keyboards. Together, they sing and play with a luminous spare ness and emotional directness that rises above the trendiness of Celtic music of the late 1990's and harks back to the wild heart of the tradition.
    Surprisingly, most of their material is not traditional but instead
springs from the fertile mind of Jez Lowe, "the best songwriter to come out of the UK in a long time" according to no less an authority on such matters than the revered Richard Thompson. Jez's songs sound traditional, but it's a new tradition he's making up as he goes along. Often, it's hard to tell when he's stopped singing traditional songs and started on his own self-penned material! It's a skill to be treasured. Like the best of the tradition, these are songs full of ironies, pathos and practical jokes. Perhaps his greatest strength is conveying the reality of ordinary lives.
    He's becoming a grand master of songwriting, his talents recognized by more and more artists eager to cover his material. This growing list includes The Black Family, The McCalmans, The Dubliners, The Tannahill Weavers, Fairport Convention and Gordon Bok.
    I hope you'll come to the Wilde Auditorium on January 5th to hear first hand what all these well known bands have already recognized, the songwriting genius of Jez Lowe.
    We're very fortunate to be able to present Irish "super group" Patrick Street on March 1st. These elder statesmen of the Celtic folk revival have been together long enough that they'll be introducing a "Greatest Hits" album on this tour.
    Andy Irvine, vocalist, bouzouki, mandolin and harmonica player began his folk career with the band Sweeney's Men then became a founding member of Planxty, one of the most famous bands of the early Irish traditional revival. He and band mate Johnny Moynihan, from Sweeney's Men, are credited with introducing the bouzouki to Irish music.
    Other now legendary Irish folk bands sprang up in parallel with Planxty, including the Bothy Band, DeDannan and the Battlefield Band from Scotland. Sadly, the Bothy Band disappeared in the mid 1980's, but DeDannan and the Battlefield Band continue to evolve and are still thrilling audiences all over the world to this day! Founding members of these bands now grace the Patrick Street lineup. From the Bothy Band we have fiddler Kevin Burke. Jackie Daly was the original button accordion player for DeDannan. One of the earliest Battlefield Band lineups included the talents of Ged Foley on guitar, vocals and Northumbrian smallpipes before he moved on to form The House Band.
    With such a wealth of talent and experience on stage at one time, it's no wonder that Patrick Street is still one of the most popular bands on the Irish folk music circuit today. Avail yourself of this unique opportunity to see some of the best, up close and personal, in the Millard Auditorium, March 1st at 7:30 pm.
 There will most certainly be further additions to this schedule of
concerts for the first half of 2001. To stay abreast of what we're offering, add your name to the Celtic Concert Mailing List by returning the coupon on this page. Better yet, tune into Celtic Airs every Tuesday from 6:00- 9:00 am for all the latest developments in our concert series.

Copyright©WWUH: July/August Program Guide, 2000

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