Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bodhrán, Flutes, Fiddle, Whistles, Bagpipes, Bones and More at The Edge in Bigfork

The Northern Gael trio provides an enchanting blend of Irish and Scottish music with singing and dancing wherever they perform.  Laura MacKenzie, Danielle Enblom and Ross Sutter bring audiences heart-pounding traditional Celtic pipe and fiddle music, dance, as well as soothing ballads to (hopefully) usher in spring! The Edge Center for The Arts in Bigfork will be the venue for an evening of fun and entertainment with these talented performers on Saturday March 8th at 7PM. Price $10 adults. Children $5.

The performance will provide audiences with entertainment and education as we enjoy the month of St. Patrick’s Day.  Laura MacKenzie says, “Our performance at The Edge will be a concert, however, we do enjoy describing our instruments and certain interesting cultural elements of the songs, tunes and dances as we go along, and this will be a part of our evening’s performance. Expect arrangements of songs from both Ireland and Scotland, and dance tunes from Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  It is all traditional music, covering a broad spectrum of sound, tempo and atmosphere. We will also offer songs and tunes from our repertoire of Scottish music, including songs of the poet Robert Burns, and traditional Scottish style step dancing.”

Northern Gael performs at folk festivals, performing arts centers, schools, community centers and libraries around the Upper Midwest. Ross Sutter and Laura MacKenzie have performed together for many years as Ross & MacKenzie. The trio became Northern Gael with the addition of fiddler and sean-nós dancer (traditional solo Irish dance) Danielle Enblom,

The Performers

Laura MacKenzie sings and plays wooden mid-nineteenth century style flutes, whistles, English system concertina, Scottish smallpipes, and border greatpipes. She learned from many noted musicians on both sides of the Atlantic and has been recognized as a master folk artist.  She has received numerous honors and performing arts awards for her participation and dedication to this music, including selection for the original Cherish The Ladies series, featuring noted women in Irish music in America.  More recently, Laura was awarded a Bush Foundation Fellowship in Traditional and Ethnic Performing Arts, and a McKnight Performing Arts Fellowship.

Laura performs and teaches on an array of wind-powered instruments including wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, Scottish smallpipes, border greatpipes, French cornemuse, medieval greatpipes, gemshorn and voice. Laura performed and recorded with various ensembles, worked with theatrical productions and for public radio, and performed at festivals across the United States. Laura currently performs solo with Gary Rue, Laura MacKenzie & the Lads, Ross & MacKenzie, Willow Brae (harp and winds), Northern Gael, and with Dáithí Sproule.

Danielle Enblom plays fiddle and dances. Her interest as a dancer includes modern dance, salsa, hip hop, ballet, contact improvisational dance, Appalachian clogging and most recently, American vernacular and swing dancing. Throughout the years Irish dance has been her central focus. Dancing competitively for many years, she perfected the techniques necessary for modern Irish step dancing. She has a strong sense of tradition, community, and the soul behind the culture. In her teenage years, Danielle spent time studying Irish music at University College Cork, in Ireland, where she earned a Diploma in Traditional Irish Music.  It was during this time she was introduced to Irish dancing in the form of old style step dancing, set dancing and sean nós dancing. In Cork, Danielle had the pleasure of learning to dance the polka and slide sets.

An interest was sparked, and Danielle’s focus moved away from the modern step dancing and towards set dancing and sean nós dancing, and then on to other percussive forms of dance such as Cape Breton step dancing, American tap, Appalachian clogging and Quebecois step dancing. Danielle was recently honored with a major post-graduate fellowship grant to research and teach traditional dance and dance history in County Cork, Ireland.

In addition to singing, Ross Sutter plays guitar, dulcimer, button accordion, bodhran  (an Irish traditional goat skin frame drum) and bones. He is best known as a singer of Scottish, Irish and Scandinavian songs, and for American traditional and popular songs. Ross has played in concert halls, libraries, schools, outdoor festival and senior centers either as a solo performer or with additional musicians or dancers. Ross was honored in 2012 with a Sally Award which “…honor individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich our entire state with their commitment to the arts and arts education.”

Ross shows his passion for the arts in schools and cultural organizations with long-term residencies, performances on radio, television, and at festivals. He works regularly in schools teaching the songs and folk dances that he has collected over the years. Ross' work is featured on the recordings Walking on Air, Up the Raw, Crossing the Shannon, Hunger No More, Songs By Heart, Over the Water, Ye Banks and Braes (with Laura MacKenzie) and on his highly popular children's CD, Mama Will You Buy Me a Banana?

The Music

The music played by Northern Gael has its history in the Celtic Traditions of Ireland and Scotland. Laura says that “All members of Northern Gael have learned the arts of Irish and Scottish music and dance from noted tradition-bearers on both sides of the Atlantic, and continue to build their skills, repertoire and collaborations. In concert, Northern Gael weaves together the vibrant traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. From lovely trio performances of beautiful ballads to vigorous sets of dance tunes and nimble steps, Northern Gael presents a lively, genuine and delightfully well-informed concert program.”

From Wikipedia, “Often, the term Celtic music is applied to the music of Ireland and Scotland because both lands have produced well-known distinctive styles which actually have genuine commonality and clear mutual influences”. Above woodcut from  John Derricke's Image of Ireland 1500s. Because Irish and Scottish immigration was so important to North America, the music was and is important to the continent’s music traditions, particularly in bluegrass and country music. There are still Celtic music festivals in parts of the Europe that keep the genre alive and well. In Canada, the Eastern Seaboard finds such music traditions, festivals and concerts that take place throughout the year. Of particular important to “Northern Gael” are these traditions on Cape Breton Island. “Much of the music of this region is Celtic in nature, but originates in the local area and celebrates the sea, seafaring, fishing and other primary industries.” For more see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_music

We hope to see you at the Edge for a lilting evening of traditional singing and dancing as well as an opportunity to experience unique instruments and fascinating musicians.  Come and be apart of the celebration on March 8 at 7PM. Price $10 adults. Children $5. Laura says, “We hope our audience in Bigfork will be moved and uplifted (as well as entertained and informed!) by the lovely airs and the lively dance tunes, as we communicate our great love for these traditions through the songs, dances and their presentation!”