The Durango Celtic Festival is a family affair.
Over the years as the event has grown, C.J. Alderton of local Celtic band Patrick Crossing (who seems to be the ringleader of the festival) has assigned duties to various family members to help produce the event. He handles the booking of the bands. His wife, Jan, oversees band hospitality, while their son, Riley, is the events volunteer coordinator and festival emcee. Riley’s wife, Kristy, handles photography and design of festival marketing materials, and Alderton’s daughter and son-in law are festival volunteers.
While there are plenty of others – an extended “family,” if you will – who are behind organizing the event, it remains a small, tight-knit group of folks that make this event happen.
Durango Celtic Festival runs through Sunday, with seated performances happening at the Henry Strater Theatre and late-night jam-sessions happening at The Irish Embassy. Performers will include Ed Miller and Rich Brotherton, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Realta, High Time and RUNA.
RUNA refers to the Aldertons as family as well. The Philadelphia-based band, which began playing this festival in its early years, were smitten by its DIY approach to booking and the event’s casual atmosphere. It is a band born out of attending Celtic festivals, and it’s that attendance that keeps the music moving forward. You’ll find members of RUNA when not on the stage performing their own set, leading an instrument or vocal workshop, or playing in the informal sessions in the pub.
“The sessions and workshops are encouraging people attending the festival to come and be part of all of it,” said RUNA vocalist Shannon Lambert-Ryan. “But when you get some audience members who also enjoy playing, it’s an opportunity for them to not just try out there skills in a friendly environment, but it’s encouragement for the traditions to continue. If you don’t encourage that, they don’t continue, so there’s a lot of that that goes on at festivals that you just don’t get on a daily basis with touring. We all grew up going to different festivals, and a lot of that is what encouraged us individually to try different things and eventually find ourselves in this career. And not all of us assumed that this is what we’d be doing in life. The festivals for all of us have played a huge role in what we do and how we’ve gotten to what we do.”
RUNA refers to itself as a “Celtic roots” band. Much of what the members play is steeped in the traditions of Celtic music, but members also come with various backgrounds and musical interests – that all comes out in the band’s sound. Some of it is traditional Celtic, some of it country or acoustic folk. All of it is done through the historical exploration of music from regions across the world.
“We really love to explore all of those different kind of ideas of music, dances and culture, exploring the basic similarities and seeing where that goes. Sometimes it works well, other times, not so much. But more often than not, we find there is that common ground between cultures,” Lambert-Ryan said. “Especially in a day and age when we are so focused on the differences between everybody, we love to celebrate those similarities. Whether it be bluegrass, Appalachian music or Cajun music or dance. We really like to play around with those, and then stuff you wouldn’t think about like blues, and swing and funk, because a lot of those rhythms started further back, and it was those meshing of cultures that helped develop something new and different. We really like to explore all of those.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.