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First News Summer 2006

A Celtic Music Festival in your Backyard

   The time is near… to get out your fiddles, harps, whistles, pipes, bouzoukis, accordions, bodrans, and guitars, shake your dancing feet and join the fun at the second annual Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival from September 28 through October 1. This musical feast of Scottish and Irish music is hosted by Huerfano County’s four communities: Walsenburg, La Veta, Gardner and Cuchara.

   So how did such an international festival suddenly appear in Southern Colorado? The story goes back to December of 2000 when a Scottish harp maker and melodeon player, Jack Yule, moved from Scotland to Gardner, Colorado with wife, Barbara. Quickly, Jack befriended three local musicians - Clark Dimond, Oress DeHerrera and Jim Conley – all keen to play Scottish and Irish music. Coincidentally each summer, musician friends of the Yules from "the home country" came across for a visit. This was a grand excuse for an all day 'ceilidh' (pronounced 'caylie' ) a Scottish party where friends gather to play music, sing, tell stories and dance. Such informal musical parties began to attract more participants. During the course of four summers, the idea for a full blown "weekend festival" was born. Eventually a committee was formed, preparations were made, and the first festival burst forth, embracing a happy and appreciative crowd of roughly 800 participants last October.

   Two acclaimed artists from last year's event – Scotland’s William Jackson and Ireland’s Grainne Hambly–are returning this September. Other accomplished performers from last year, electro-jazz harpist, Park Stickney, and Paraguayan harpist, Alfredo Ortiz, are already confirmed for 2007. New Scottish guests for 2006 include Gaelic/Scots songsters Margaret Bennett and Ed Miller, fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson, and accordionist/step-dancer John Sikorski. The featured artist will be America’s premier Uilleann piper and expert on Scottish pipes, Jerry O’Sullivan. Joining this illustrious group are America’s International Celtic performers, harper, Kim Robertson, and cellist, Abby Newton, and local favorites, Willson and McKee along with others.

   The Festival includes four concerts, plus one for children, and a ceilidh dance with open platform. In addition, festival organizers are promoting hands-on learning with a series of retreat classes and workshops for adults and children such as a one-hour harp class for beginners, Highland and Uilleann piping, fiddle and guitar instruction of Scot and Gaelic songs, story telling, song writing, and ceilidh dancing and step dancing lessons under the direction of guest artists. There truly is something for everyone. For more information and regular updates check the festival or call Barbara Yule at (719) 746-2061.


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