Durango is on the rise as a player in the international Celtic community.
Despite being about 4,600 miles from Ireland and Scotland, the efforts of the Durango Celtic Society and the Durango Celtic Festival have made Durango a key destination for lovers and players of traditional Celtic music.
The festival organizers’ treatment of the musicians and the attentive audiences have made performing at this festival a sought-after gig, a gig where world-recognized Celtic musicians rub elbows with up-and-comers on the cusp of international Celtic recognition.
The seventh annual Durango Celtic Festival will run through Sunday, featuring performances and workshops at The Irish Embassy Pub and Henry Strater Theatre.
The good word travels within this community, and musicians who have come to this event in the past are eager to share tales of good times with colleagues. Artists are booked two years out, and the people coming in 2020 are already locked in. Because of this, they often catch musicians on the rise, and by the time they hit the festival stage here in Durango, they’re acknowledged as big-time players in the community.
Durango Celtic Society board member Beth Miller serves as the organization’s scout; her love of this type of music has led her overseas to find and book bands for the festival. It’s not hard, though, because the festival has a reputation that speaks for itself.
“Through this festival, you make friends with the musicians that come through, and there’s a few that I’ve kept in touch with, and they have a close community,” Miller said. “They tell each other about the festival here and spread the word around.”
Bands playing this year will include Patsy O’Brien, Supertrad, Dave Curley, The Jeremiahs, The Hydes, Patrick Crossing, Kitchen Jam Band, Truckely Howe and Devil’s Dram.
Closing out the festival on Sunday will be a traditional Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee). If you’ve ever spent a Sunday afternoon in a pub in Ireland or Scotland, you’ve likely experienced a Ceilidh. It’s a simple formula: Bring forth a group of musicians playing Scottish and Irish folk music, throw in some dancers and sip on a pint or two and you’re there.
“Its a traditional gathering. Everybody in the town comes together, there’s music, there’s drink, there’s dancing” said Miller. “At the Ceilidh on Sunday, we’ll teach some dances, so everybody can feel like they’re part of it.”
One of the reasons for the festival’s success is the organizers’ love of the music and its rich history. Miller and fellow board members C.J. Alderton and son Riley are huge fans with major appreciation and great recognition of this music’s role in communities around the world, along with its contribution to other styles of music.
“The one thing about Celtic music is that it’s hard to capture it in one time-signature. You’ve got jigs, reels, hornpipes, ballads and waltzes,” said C.J. Alderton. “Celtic music has a remarkable amount of variety, and because it’s underneath so many other genres, we feel that it’s important to know who the grandfather of all this great music is.”
An event like this is more than a concert, as part of the mission of this kind of festival is to bring the cultures that are at the center of this music to other parts of the world.
“When you travel, this music is so ingrained in the culture that you get to understand the people through that,” said Riley Alderton. “People that may have a wanderlust to travel but haven’t been able to, we get to bring that to them. We bring these world-class musicians and they play this music that otherwise we wouldn’t get to experience at the high level that we do because of this festival.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.