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Celtic music comes to the forefront of many minds as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, but for some it’s more than a once-a-year experience.
Associated with Scottish and Irish culture, Celtic music as a genre is debated by some. Still, many have a concept, both accurate and erroneous, of what Celtic music is.
Lorinda Jones, an Elizabethtown resident who makes up one half of Chattering Magpies, a Celtic musical duo, pointed out one of the misconceptions about the Irish- and Scottish-based music. Some music associated with Irish gatherings, for instance, really is not correct.
“If you go to an Irish festival, ‘O, Danny Boy’ is the one song no one will play,” Jones said, noting the song may be beautiful but is not traditional Irish music and was written by an American.
Jones cited the historical nature of the music as a big draw for fans of Celtic tunes. The songs, she said, always are associated with historical happenings.
The draw for her included another aspect.
“I love the instrumentation,” Jones said.
The fiddle, flute, pipe and Irish harp are some of the traditional Celtic instruments, she said. As part of Chattering Magpies, Jones plays Irish harp and dulcimer. The latter is not a true Celtic instrument, she said.
The Irish harp, on the other hand, was the first harp made in triangular form. It almost went out of existence when its use was not permitted and the concert harp became more popular.
It became popular again when Americans helped revive interest in Celtic music.
“I think Celtic music got a great boost when ‘Riverdance’ happened,” Jones said.
Rachel Marshall is taking Irish harp lessons under Jones. She began taking lessons three years ago after retiring as pastor at Memorial United Methodist Church in Elizabethtown.
“I absolutely love it,” she said.
Not only did Marshall find the lessons a good transition to her retirement, she felt a connection to the music.
“My maiden name is Scott, so we have native roots in Scotland,” she said.
The draw to Celtic music, in general, has to do with the simplicity and beauty of the music, Marshall said.
“It just kind of speaks to the heart,” she said.
Debby Couch, another Irish harpist, made a similar comment.
“I like the sound of the music, I like the sound of the instruments and I like the stories that are behind the music,” Couch said.
Couch cited the story of Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harpist, as a prime example.
Beyond that, the music simply appealed to Couch.
“I just really enjoy listening to the Celtic music on the radio and on my CDs,” she said.
Jones said she believes Celtic music will remain very popular and take its place along other traditional music such as bluegrass and folk.
Some might have the erroneous impression Celtic music is like what is presented by such groups as Celtic Woman, Jones said, but that’s not necessarily the case. Celtic Woman is a “highly theatrical” and orchestrated Broadway show, she said.
Celtic music can include louder instruments, but it doesn’t always. In fact, Chattering Magpies is one example, she said.
“We kind of say we’re the quieter side of Celtic music,” Jones said.
Having produced the CD “Celtic Passages,” Chattering Magpies is considering a Celtic Christmas project, Jones said. The CD likely would include old and new music, she said.
The traditions of Celtic music and its history take a long time to learn, Jones said.
Discovering dances associated with Celtic music might be eye-opening for some, too. Celtic music can be written for reels, polkas and mazurkas, among other dances, Jones said.
“It’s not just the Irish jig,” she said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.