(from December 08 Celtic Connection newspaper) For our 3rd installment of “Celtic Airwaves of the Rockies” we travel down to south central Colorado to the town of Westcliffe, home of KWMV 95.9 FM “Voice of the Wet Mountain Valley”, and Jim Remington, the stations host of Celtic and Beyond which airs 7-9PM every Monday. Jim had just returned home from trout fishing on the Grape creek that runs through his ranch where he has lived with his wife Loretta for the past 12 years. As we spoke, he was watching the sunset over the Sangre De Cristos (Spanish for “Blood of Christ”) as it cast the rays of colors across the valley toward the Wet Mountains. Our conversation was to be an interview. But I only had to ask one question. An entertaining hour of stories later, I knew that I had just touched the surface of the wealth of knowledge of a man who has listened, played, and loved Celtic Music for the past 30 years ” and had that I had enough material to fill half the paper! PM “Hi Jim ” tell us about yourself, Celtic music, and your radio show?” Prior to calling Westcliffe home, Jim lived outside Boulder Colorado where he lived since 1987. You could not be involved in the Colorado Celtic scene without seeing Jim at a music session playing the fiddle, or more recently the tin whistle. And you would be hard pressed to find a traditional music concert come to Colorado and not see Jim in the seats. His musical journey began where he grew up in the New England area. It was around 1976-77 that Jim realized that he was in a real need of a vacation. While recording an album in Miami Florida at the same studio that Eric Clapton did “Layla”, the songs chorus echoed his situation, “Let’s make the best of the situation - Before I finally go insane -Please don’t say we’ll never find a way-And tell me all my love’s in vain.” He was in the middle of a contract dispute and disillusioned with his profession of choice. “I was totally sick of the music business. I had been doing a lot of singer-songwriter bar playing in New England area ” the Newport area ” Providence ” all around southern New England and Boston area. Then a friend told me that he was going to Ireland to listen to Irish music and asked me to come along. I was thinking like the Clancy Brothers, because that was my experience with Irish music in 1978. I was in a totally different music genera and never the twain shall meet” They did go to Ireland in the summer of 78 were Jim would come face to face with his destiny. Arriving at a music festival in Wexford they entered a big tent were he saw a band that he had never heard of before, playing music like nothing he had ever known. The conversion happened in seconds. “Hearing the Bothy Band was truly a musical epiphany – I had studied jazz in school at Berkeley up in Boston so I had a jazz background and also studied classical guitar, to me they had rolled it all into one and added the energy of rock-n-roll.” They spent the following three weeks in Ireland traveling to were the traditional music was, starting in Kerry than up through Clare and Sligo. “When I came back I was the biggest nut, just so enthusiastic. Got myself a fiddle and Tony DeMarco”s “Trip to Sligo” book and went at it.” Jim sought out the limited Celtic music scene in the New England area and found that Seamus Connoly was doing a session outside of Boston about 1979. That same year he formed the Greencastle Band. “I formed a band with some friends who kind”a got into Irish music the way I had ” we were really the blind leading the blind ” we ended up getting the Planxty and DeDannon records and learning tunes.” Ironically, in time the band opened for DeDannon, Kevin Burke & M”che”l “‘Domhnaill and others musical hero”s. “We actually got to be one of the better bands in the area”, as he recalled with joy seeing people getting connected to the music. “I would watch people in the audience, people who really weren”t sure what we were going to do, and when we were right-on people just absolutely took it in, and loved it and wanted to know where to get the music – We sold lots of records at concerts because there were no record stores that carried Celtic music other then in New York and Boston.” The band went on the New England Council for the Arts Touring Program. For eight years they did a lot of demonstration at schools, showing the history and function of the different instruments. In 1986 Greencastle disbanded, having left their legacy with the release of two albums. A retrospect was release just last year by the Arts council of music that the band recorded back in the 80″s when they were one of the very few east coast Irish bands playing. The passion never waned as Jim continued to play and took every opportunity to learn Irish fiddle and guitar styles from master players. He also studied fiddle and tin whistle at the Willy Clancy School of Traditional Music in County Clare, Ireland. “When I was in Ireland for Willie Week, one of my fiddle teachers told the class, 7 years of listening, 7 years of practicing, 7 years of playing, then you are a musician.” The more Jim learned the more nuances he discovered. “When I started playing I didn”t realize what I was getting into, it”s just one of those forms of music where the more you scratch it the more there is.” He recalled one of the first lessons that he had with famous Irish fiddler Kevin Burke. “He had taught me rolls and ornamentation, and I asked him how do you know when to put them in and his reply was, “the tune will tell you”. That was the most mystifying thing that anyone has told me about music ” at Berkeley and jazz school you learn scales and it”s pretty straight forward, so I just didn”t have a clue. Four or five years later I finally understood it – until you know the tune you don”t know where to put the ornaments, now it is second nature.” After 20 years playing fiddle, Jim put the fiddle away in 1998 because of a wrist injury and inflammation of the carpal tunnel. “I went a couple of years and it was driving me nuts not being able to play and forgetting all of these hundreds of tunes. Finally my wife gave me a penny whistle and I thought “god, the pennywhistle, I don”t know ” you know after playing the fiddle you think of the pennywhistle as a kids instrument. But it has allowed me to get back playing the tunes but doesn”t bother my wrists.” Musicians in the traditional music genre share an accessibility and common philosophy of openness and support that Jim has often appreciated. “You know how they are, once you meet Kevin Burke than you meet Andy Irvine than you meet Donal Lunny – its this inner circle and once you meet a couple of them then you meet an become friends with all of them.” He did not just meet new friends, but mentors who are always willing to help. “It is certainly one of the things that I love about this music – as a general rule, people are so encouraging when you find out that you play.” He gave an example about a time when Liam O”Flynn, famed Planxty piper, learned that Jim was taking up the penny whistle and launched into a dissertation about the different brands of penny whistles. “He wanted to make sure that I was playing a good brand,” Chuckled Jim, “Here is Liam O”Flynn, a true legend in this whole thing, other then Willy Clancy and Seamus Ennis ” Liam O”Flynn, Paddy Keenan, Cillian Vallely and a couple of those guys are at the hierarchy of this thing – and here is Liam making sure that I have a good whistle!” Jim has collected between 750 ” 800 tunes and songs over the years and archived them in a computer base. For the past 1 years the titles have been at the heart of his Celtic and Beyond show. The soul of the show comes from years of hearing the legends play and soaking up their stories and history connected by the music. “When I do my radio show I play a couple of instrumental sets and a couple of vocal sets, than I”ll talk about the music or about the performers and try to provide some insight and personal stories, that”s something I can bring in as a player and fan – If I”ve been a fan of any music it”s been Irish music.” His knowledge of the music and the musicians help Jim customize shows for his listeners. He knows first hand that some of the traditional music needs a developed ear. “The first time I heard uilleann pipes I thought it sounded like a traffic jam ” now I can”t get enough of the piping. So I”m careful to play to the best level of music that I can, but not a level that would turn people of who were not familiar with the music. In Westcliffe you are walking a fine line as to how much that people can listen to of the “pure drop” as they say. There are some savvy listeners that stream and a few locals who know what”s going on with Celtic music, but most of the time it”s people who have just listened to a bluegrass or Cajun show ” so I ease people into it. I find that arrangements, for example Karen Casey, the Bothy Band, Christie Moore, Luka Bloom or even a Emmylou Harris version of Barbara Allen that she did in the movie “The Songcatcher” work well to for new listeners. There is also a big mutual admiration between folk artists and Celtic music artists and Jim likes to make that connection for his listeners. “Andy Irvine, big fascination with Woody Guthrie, so I play Andy Irvine doing Woody Guthrie or play Planxty doing Si Kahn”s Aragon Mills or Norman Blake”s Billy Gray song.” His spectrum of traditional music runs from Planxty and the Bothy Band to the new young bands like Danu, Teada, Beoga. etc. and his show has been getting good feedback from his listening community. “I”ve been playing the two sides of the coin fairly well and the show is popular with good donations and subscriberships.” For the past two years Jim has been involved with the Spanish Peaks Celtic Music Festival held at the end of September 45 minutes away in the Huerfano County towns of La Vita, Walsenburg, Chuchara, and Gardener. The festival was started by Barbara and Jack Yule who moved into the area from Scotland. He said that he bonded instantly to the Yules and is enthusiastic about the festival. “I would love to see their festival develop into the “Willy Week” of the Rocky Mountains. I think their mission and goal is to bring more than just concerts, but also bring in a lot of educational components and opportunities. They”re on the right track and getting good local support. But they need more than the local community, because there”s just not the numbers.” He hopes to see more people, particularly musicians, come from up and down the Rockies as they hear reports about the quality players and enjoyable location. “The trad players can be a little fickle ” if you offer them a world-class player and it”s not their favorite some just won”t come.” Said with a tone of dismay from a man who travels many miles weekly to Denver to teach music, and who would not hesitate to drive 3 hours to see a high caliber player teach a class or perform live. “I feel blessed that I”ve been exposed to this music – one of the greatest joys in my life, other then catching my 22 inch rainbow trout, is listening to live music- it could be one person or Lunasa going at it ” you just feel fortunate that you have been at the right place at the right time.” As it were he traveled to Ireland a few years ago to attend a Planxty reunion concert. “Flights were only $420 to Dublin ” to see Planxty -how could I pass that up! Pat McCullough KWMV 95.9fm Celtic and Beyond – Hosted by Jim Remington Monday 7:00 to 9:00 PM – Streaming on web at www.kwmv.org Email Jim at pineglenn@co-isp.com or leave a message at 719-783-0987.

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