Steamboat Springs Six years ago, in a pub in Kilkenny, Ireland, Steamboat resident Gary Burman squeezed his Uilleann bagpipes for an eager crowd of Irish men and women, who fed him pints of Guinness and kept the pub open late to watch an American play their home country’s national instrument.
“You have to love music and everything about it,” Burman said about picking up the pipes 10 years ago.
“For the first few years, it was like pulling wisdom teeth.
“I love the challenge, the depth of the culture, the people I’ve met over the years.”
Burman, a carpenter by trade and a city bus driver, plays music with his wife, Nora Parker, as the Pipedance duo.
The pair plays a multitude of string and percussion instruments, re-creating classic folk songs and lively jigs through music and dance.
They play a standing gig at McKnight’s Irish Pub & Loft at 8 p.m. Fridays.
Although they’ve played as a couple for almost 10 years, Steamboat appearances were rare until the emergence of the Irish pub in Wildhorse Marketplace.
The pair has traveled to Irish folk festivals and bagpipe gatherings across the country and has enjoyed a long trip to Ireland in which Burman made appearances at several pubs, sporting the homemade wooden pipe reeds he has spent hundreds of hours constructing.
The couple has been together for a decade and married for three years, and they share in their devoted interest of studying their Irish heritage.
The more they learned, the more the artistic hobbies snowballed.
“This is all kind of accidental for me,” Parker said. “I wasn’t a musician until my husband started playing the pipes. No one else would play with him.”
So Parker picked up an Irish drum, a hand-held instrument called a bodhrán. She was familiar with the rhythms through her competitive Irish dance, a hobby she had picked up several years prior.
“This stuff does take over your life,” she said with a smile.
Parker also discovered singing accidentally. About six years ago, she signed up for a Sean-Nós singing workshop at a festival because one of the dance options was full.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said.
During their eclectic set, Parker dances, sings and beats the drum. The couple sings together and apart. Often, members of the Steamboat chapter of the Bennett School of Irish Dance, which Parker runs, will drop in for a jig or a reel.
“It’s such a complementary thing,” Burman said. “The dance, the drum, the pipes. There’s a meshing of art. When we come together, the complement is so great; we both feel so satisfied in our individual art as well as our art together.”