Calling all Celtic Enthusiasts

Laura with one of her Celtic harps.

Spoken word on Thursdays, Fiber Arts classes on Wednesdays, Locally Grown Summer Music Series on Saturdays, Creativity Workshops on Tuesdays, 2nd Sunday Writers Circles each month… Just when I thought our summer schedule on the farm was booked as solid as possible, I’m adding one more thing.

Yes, I know, that might sound slightly crazy, but hey, sleep is for wintertime! The new event that kicks off at Farmstead this week, though, is something I’ve wanted to start for years, and now it’s finally happening—Celtic music sessions. You can always make some time for music, so why wait?

The idea began growing legs a couple of months ago when fiddler Beth Allison started calling. A recent addition to the Clam Lake area, Beth was eager to connect with the music scene of the Northwoods, especially with those who shared a love of the Celtic genre. Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Breton—even some German and Norse music has Celtic influence. Lively or haunting, lilting or thoughtful, Celtic music is both ancient and contemporary.

“Your name keeps coming up, Laura,” Beth offered over the phone. “Everyone says I need to meet you.”

So, one quieter afternoon I grabbed one of my harps and she brought over the fiddle, and we played around with a few tunes. This turned into pulling out our books of well-loved sheet music and scribbled chord charts and making plans for the next meeting. It turned out that we both were classically trained musicians and multi-instrumentalists and had interests in engendering area music sessions. It felt like a great co-hosting fit.

What is a Celtic Music Session, you may be wondering? It’s not really a concert, though everyone and anyone is welcome to sit in and listen. It’s not a music lesson, though we learn and share tunes together. It’s a gathering, a process, an encouragement amongst fellow musicians of all skill levels. Beth and I both have our hands into the process, planning set lists for part of the session as well as encouraging those attending to share tunes and songs they love mid-way through the event.

The gatherings will be right here at Farmstead up in the Fiber Loft on 4th Sundays of the month, 2-4 pm (July 22 is the first one!). Here are the guiding principles for the sessions:

• Bring good listening ears. Remember you are playing WITH others.

• Be ready to learn new material or new ways to play familiar material. There is no one “right” way to play a tune in folk music.

• Leave competition at the door. This is about encouraging musicianship and having a good time.

• There’s no need to play at lightning speed. A session is a different animal from a concert.

• Share. Share a tune. Share time. Share tips. Share the story behind a piece. Take turns.

Some of the tunes picked out for the first gathering are pieces I’ve wanted to learn for years, but sometimes it can be hard to carve out the time it takes to master a new tune. Having a monthly session, with new material to both learn and teach is a great way to start the momentum and get motivated. “King of the Fairies” and “Rights of Man” are now on my practice list, getting ready for Sunday!

Musicians of all skill levels are welcome. Bring your whistle, guitar, flute, drum, fiddle, banjo, accordion, or whatever it is you enjoy playing. Or clap along! Evening music gatherings used to be a critical social function in farming communities the world over. After a major harvest, bone weary, they would call in all the local musicians and have a dance! This would bring the energy back as well as celebrate the group’s accomplishment.

These days it might be a nice way to take a break from the summer heat, the family reunion, or the yard work. Catch a cup of gelato, a cool drink, or a tasty treat, and tap your toes along with the rhythm. Music has that magical way of speaking to us all, no matter if it’s from a culture other than our own. Even if you’re not familiar with the genre, you might be surprised how fun it is!

So, if you’re not otherwise occupied this Sunday evening, bring your instrument or best listening ears, and join us for a 4th Sunday Celtic Music Session. I’ll be dusting off several of my favorite instruments for the occasion. See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453

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