January in Juneau: Piles of slush. Longer days. And bagpipes.
Since the 1970s, a dedicated group of musicians has been celebrating Burns night in January on the even-numbered years. A couple years ago, they recently gave in to their itch to make something happen on the odd years as well, establishing the broader Celtic Music festival to encompass not just the Scots, but the rest of the Celts. Organizer Mike Barnhill said the first odd-year festival was held four years ago in response to community demand.
“It was pretty low key but people definitely wanted to come to a Celtic type party in January. It’s sort of hard-wired into the town’s culture.”
This year’s event, scheduled for Saturday at the JACC, is by far the biggest one yet, with a morning of arts workshops, an afternoon of dancing and music, and an evening of beer and whiskey tasting. Two out of town musicians will be featured throughout the day: Jori Chisholm from Seattle and Philip M. Price of Anchorage.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Alaska Youth Choir’s participation in the production of King Island Christmas in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2013.
Barnhill said excitement about the youth choir’s opportunity to travel to Scotland pushed organizers to plan a bigger festival in the hopes of raising enough funds to make the trip possible.
The morning’s Celtic Arts Academy workshops, covering everything from bagpipe instruction to the Irish language, are part of this year’s expansion.
“There’s so many folks in town that have interesting skills to offer and teach,” Barnhill said. “So I started calling around and asking people if they would show up and teach a class and everybody said yes.”
Among the instructors are the guest musicians Chisholm and Price.
“We have the guest artists teaching in the morning and performing in the afternoon,” he said. “We basically have them solid for the entire day.”
Dublin-born Price, an Irish singer and folk artist, will lead a workshop on Irish Songs of Rebellion. Price is also a professor at UAA.
Guest artist Chisholm, who plays with the highly regarded Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from British Columbia, will teach three piping classes in the JACC gallery, a beginners class, a master class and a piobaireachd class. (Piobaireachd refers to a very old, highly stylized form of playing that’s been passed down from musician to musician by word of mouth.) Barnhill said he hopes people who are curious about the pipes will come to the first class, and maybe stay for the other two as well.
“In the first session you’ll just get the very first taste of what it means to pipe and hopefully it will provoke some interest and people will start to get excited about it. The chance to have that introduction from one of the very best pipers in the world is tremendous.”
Other instructors are Chuck Tripp, Ciara Rear, Lisa Miles, Henry Hopkins, Kris Fulton, Nieve Stargus, Jim Kohler, Dave Leonard and Rhonda Gardinier.
After the workshops, a contra dance will be held, with traditional dancing hosted by caller Tom Paul and music by local musicians Henry Hopkins and Andy Ferguson.
Next up is the Celtic Music Fest, with performances from Chisholm and Price, Kari Groven, the City of Juneau Pipe Band, the New family, Fire on McGinnis, Liquid Genius (performing their rendition of AC/DC’s “Long Way to the Top”) and more.
The last event is the evening’s whisky and beer tasting, where participants 21 and over may sample an array of whiskeys, Celtic brews, and hors d’oeuvres while listening to more music.
Throughout the day, vendor booths will be set up along the sides of the room, offering food and other items.
Barnhill said his vision in planning the event was to create a busy festival atmosphere like the one he remembers from music festivals in his home town in Pennsylvania.
“That festival atmosphere with lots of food vendors and lots of dancing... that’s something I hope we can replicate a bit, that very bustling atmosphere with lots of things going on at once,” he said.
The Céilidh! Celtic Arts Festival (“céilidh,” pronounced kay-lee, is the Gaelic word for “party”) will run from 9 a.m. through 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, JAN. 19 AT THE JACC
Celtic Arts Academy (workshops), 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Tickets $10
Great Hall, Area A:
9 a.m.: Intro to Gaelic, Chuck Tripp
10 a.m.: Intro to Irish, Ciara Rear
11 a.m.: Irish Songs of Rebellion, Philip M. Price
9 a.m.: Intro to Celtic fiddle, Lisa Miles
10 a.m.: Intro to Penny Whistle, Henry Hopkins
11 a.m.: Intro to Highland dancing, Kris Fulton
12 p.m.: Intro to Irish step dancing, Nieve Stargus
Area C (kids):
9 a.m.: Legends and tales, presenter TBA
10 a.m.: Legends and tales, Rhonda Gardinier
11 a.m.: Celtic art for wee and young folk, Ciara Rear
Great Hall, Area D
10 a.m.: Intro to Scottish ale making, Jim Kohler
11 a.m.: Intro to Whisky Lore, Dave Leonard
9 a.m.: Intro to Pipe band drumming, TBA
10 a.m.: Intro to Gr. Highland Bagpipes, Jori Chisholm
11 a.m.: Bagpipes Master Class, Jori Chisholm
12 p.m.: Piobaireachd Master Class, Jori Chisholm
House Céilidh! (Contra Dance), 1-2 p.m.
Free. With caller Tom Paul and house band Henry Hopkins and Andy Ferguson
Celtic Music Fest, 2-6 p.m.
Tickets $20 (Students $10), with MC Mark Calvert
2 p.m.: City of Juneau Pipe Band & Highland Dancers
2:45 p.m.: Kari Groven, celtic songs
3 p.m.: New family, pipes and drum
3:20 p.m.: Philip M. Price, Guest Artist, Irish folk
4 p.m.: Liquid Genius, rock
4:30 p.m.: Fire on McGinnis, celtic rock
5:10 p.m.: Jori Chisholm, Guest Artist, Highland bagpipes
5:50 p.m.: Alaska Youth Choir, King Island Christmas cast and friends
Whisky and Beer Tasting, 7-9 p.m.
Tickets $30m, 21 and over. With MCs Jen and Jamie Karnik and guest artists Philip M. Price and Jori Chisholm