A slice of musical heaven in my life has been the experience of Willie Clancy Summer School held in County Clare on the West coast of Ireland. Each year around the first week of July thousands of people stream into Miltown Malbay, (once home to uilleann piper Willie Clancy) and surrounding towns to enjoy classes, concerts, and ceilis celebrating traditional music and dance. People road bikes or hitched rides from Miltown, Spanish Point and Quilty to share a tune, song, or dance. There was an organic high to the whole experience ” simple but powerful. Stop, I know what you”re thinking ” but I was drinking a lot more pints of water then porter. Were those uplifting endorphins I read about kicking in from the aerobic pace of the ceilis ” I don”t know ” surely the simple beauty of the area had something to do with the feeling. Back in the school and disco days it was about dancing with the pretty girl ” this was different ” it was more like connecting to the magic of the music and dance and just being content with the moment. When I returned to Colorado (with sore feet and baggy pants from dancing 6 hours a day!) I wondered if a “Willie Week” type of event could be successful in the Rockies? Thanks to Barbara Yule and friends, the ingredients for such an event are in the mix for September 27 through September 30 when they present the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival hosted by Walsenburg, La Veta/Cuchara and Gardner in Huerfano County in the scenic mountains of Southern Colorado. Barbara and husband Jack moved to Huerfano County from Scotland over 6 years ago and have been homesteading on their 30 acres outside of Gardner. They lived in a trailer, then cabin, as they steadily built their home (and it”s almost finished). Throughout the construction they have had many music sessions at their place with Jack starting things up on his button accordion. But as Jack continued to build their home during the day, Barbara began to build a festival. Now, in only its 3rd year, and with limited funding, it would not be fair to compare it to Willie Week which has been going since 1973 ” However, they have made some great strides bringing in some top international talent and developing community support for the fest. They even involve the Huerfano County youth with special K through 12 in-school programs that run the whole week prior the Fest ” Brilliant! Below are some highlights that Barbara sent us in a press release. There are detailed event and class descriptions, performer bios, and other helpful information at www.celticmusicfest.com This year”s festival includes five individual concerts featuring Irish and Scottish international artists. Thursday”s opening in Gardner is ceilidh style and includes sets from all the artists performing over the weekend ($12). Friday night at the Fox Theater in Walsenburg, is hosted by famed Irish fiddler Seamus Connolly with premier uilleann piper Jerry O”Sullivan, Irish harper Lynn Saoirse, cellist Abby Newton and others. Saturday night at the Fox is an all-Scottish concert with Scottish popular singers Margaret Bennett, Alison Bell and Ed Miller and an ensemble of musicians and storytellers ($20 and $16 for children and students). Bring your cool sunglasses for a little genre cross-pollination Saturday afternoon when world renowned jazz harpist Park Stickney and special guests (jazz musicians) fuse Celtic with jazz for an up-tempo performance. The concert”s finale presents the dynamite duo of Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Irish harper with guitarist Chris Newman. Afternoon concerts are $16 and $13 for children and students. Check out the discount weekend concert ticket to save money. There are also two free Ceilidhs ” a Dance Ceilidh in La Veta Park Saturday afternoon and a final Ceilidh at La Veta Inn Sunday evening. On offer for children are Saturday morning activities, $5 per child, free for parents, and a special Sunday concert at $5 per ticket. The festival not only boasts excellent and unique concerts performed by top international artists, but a full program of courses, workshops and demonstration talks presented by these same artists. Here is a chance for musicians to sharpen their own skills in classes and workshop settings. Instruments include harp, Highland pipes, uilleann pipes, Irish fiddle, Celtic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bodhran, as well as singing workshops in both Irish and Scottish songs and even ceilidh dancing for everyone. A full harp retreat course of 15+ hours with Irish harpers Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Lynn Saoirse and other workshop leaders costs $235 for pre-festival registration. Each intermediate/advanced piping course consists of 7 hours with Jerry O”Sullivan and added sessions with other artists ($110). Irish fiddle with Seamus Connolly, Celtic guitar with Chris Newman, both intermediate /advanced, and elementary harp with Scottish teacher Heather Yule are each four hours long and cost $60. There are shorter one to two hour workshops costing between $10 and $15 an hour. Free beginning classes in harp, bodhran and whistle. For a full schedule of events, fees and lodging suggestions see www.celticmusicfest.com or telephone the festival office at 719 742-5410. So there you are ” if you have an interest in the traditional music and dance from across the foam, plan your trip to Southern Colorado now. It is very easy to get to ” just east of I-25 ” come on, you can do it! (and maybe you”ll feel your own organic endorphin propelled Rocky Mountain high! Or just have a pint of 333 whatever!) by Pat McCullough e

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