Thursday, December 11, 2003
Gaeltacht is not just a band, it's an experience, said mandolin player and Gaeltacht member Gary Burman.
Gaeltacht is a five-member band -- Burman, Bob Shaffer on bass, Randy Kelley on fiddle, Larry Gulley on concertina and Heather Reedy with vocals and Bodhran (Celtic drum) -- that has partnered with a group of traditional Celtic dancers headed by Nora Parker.
Each time the group performs, it adds elements, chances to learn about Celtic culture and opportunities for audience members to get out of their seats and become part of the Gaeltacht "experience."
On Saturday, the doors of the Depot Art Center will open onto a traditional Celtic scene called a ceili -- Gaelic for "dance party" -- the first ever in Steamboat Springs.
A ceili (pronounced Kaylee) is organized much like a square dance, with a caller at the microphone and the entire crowd dancing set steps with a partner around and through a circle. Only the steps are different.
Dancers follow the traditional arms-down style associated with Irish dancing. It's a style, Parker said, that originates from the confined spaces where ceilis usually are held -- kitchens, living rooms and pubs.
"A ceili is a community get-together. It's a social event," Parker said.
Celtic is an oral folk tradition, Burman said, passed down from generation to generation.
"There's no telling how far back this goes," he said. "Because the music is passed down orally, there are many different versions of the same tune spread all over the world."
Because this is the first time that Gaeltacht has hosted a ceili in Steamboat, members see it as a way to test the audience for interest in this kind of event.
"This is an experiment," Burman said. "We've performed private ceilis in Steamboat, but this is the first public one."
If Saturday night's event is popular, Gaeltacht would like to hold regular ceilis.
Ceilis are held regularly in homes and pubs and on the street in Ireland and Scotland but have gained popularity in the United States in places as close as Denver.
Saturday's ceili will begin with a traditional Celtic concert at 7:30 p.m. Dancing begins at 9 p.m.
Molly Bennett, owner of the nationally competitive Bennett School of Irish Dance, will be the caller.
"Molly is the premiere caller of ceilis in this region," Parker said.
Parker has been taking dance lessons at the Bennett School in Denver for six months.
Each dance will begin with a short lesson and the guidance of the Bennett School's experienced dancers, Parker said.
"Even if you don't get the steps, you can just stumble along and keep up," she said. "And if you don't want to do that, you can still sit and listen to some nice music."