Starting a music festival is not easy. Just ask C.J. Alderton, who against all odds will lead the way for what promises to be a successful second annual Durango Celtic Festival this weekend.
“The festival began for me about six months ago,” Alderton said Thursday while making final preparations for the opening-night Ceilidh kickoff event at the Henry Strater Theatre.
The four-day event includes music as well as history and culture from the Emerald Isle and that general part of the world. The visiting acts – Colcannon, Tramor and Willson & McKee – are born and bred musicians at the top of their craft in the Celtic tradition with roots in Colorado. That keeps travel-cost overhead down while not sacrificing any authenticity or quality of performers. For a festival in its nascence that’s still got an eye on the bottom line, that counts for a lot.
“Last year we were below poverty, and this year we’re just below middle class, so things are looking up,” Alderton said, laughing. “Last year, we presold five tickets and 300 showed up, and so far, we’ve already sold 85, so I think it’s catching on. And we’re over 500 on Facebook, and we’re proud of that, too.”
The weekend will feature a mix of concerts, workshops and a special treat Sunday. Colcannon, who will close Saturday’s slate of music at the Strater, will perform “The Pooka & The Fiddler,” a Gaelic tale recited by Irish native Mick Bolger and backed musically by the band. The children-friendly all-ages story won a 2006 Parent’s Choice Award and promises to be a fine ending to the Celtic Festival.
“It’ll be a little ad hoc because we haven’t done it in a while, but it’ll be fun,” Bolger said from his Aurora home while packing up for the drive south.
Tonight’s headliner, Tramor, is a traditional duo of multi-instrumentalist John Good and harpist John Piggott.
The visiting guest performers will be rounded out throughout the weekend with sets by local and regional acts Mad Haggis, Big’Ns, Gypsyfire, Makhbeth, Truckely Howe, An Sliabh, Westwind Pipe Band, The Kitchen Jam Band and Alderton’s own outfit, the de facto house band at the Irish Embassy, Patrick Crossing.
Alderton credited his fellow volunteers, Mariah Blair, Shiela Lane, Lyn Boyer and Terry Double, for keeping the festival going and growing.
“There’s a lot of excitement, and we’re hearing from people all over the world,” Alderton said. “I think this Celtic thing is taking off.”