Originally Published: October 18, 2010 10 p.m.
Celtic music will resonate throughout the reaches of Watson Lake Park Saturday when musicians take over the bucolic scene with their bagpipes, snare drums, bodhrans, fiddles, accordions, guitars and didgeridoos for the first-ever Prescott Celtic Music Festival.
For those unfamiliar with bodhrans and didgeridoos, the first is a one-sided Irish drum typically played with a short two-headed drumstick, and the latter is an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument.
Making music from this mix of instruments will be the festival's headliners, The Wicked Tinkers, who call themselves "A Celtic tribal sound explosion" and tell their audiences to "prepare yourself for a wild ride ... sit back and be transported to an earlier time in Scotland and Ireland, when battle cries filled the air and strange unheard of creatures roamed the night. Or better yet, get on your feet and let your body move to ancient rhythms and forgotten sounds."
"Simple instrumentation," is drummer Warren Patrick Casey's description of Wicked Tinkers' style, and Aaron Shaw, on bagpipes, trumps and vocals, says songs they play are "old, old traditional tunes re-imagined for the 21st century."
The man behind the first festival celebrating Celtic music in Prescott is David McNabb, a devotee of this genre, who is directing the event, sponsored by the Welsh League of Arizona.
Music, he said, identifies a culture - that particular place. "So, when you hear Celtic music, you're getting a feel of the people of the Celtic lands. It can be very upbeat and lively or very slow and heart-wrenching - provoking an emotion."
Prescott's own Crosswind also gets top billing for the daylong festival. Performers Katie Peterson, Jan Alexander and Kent Gugler specialize in the music of Ireland and Scotland, as well as traditional music of the Appalachian Mountains.
They say their performances are "lively, dynamic and filled with much variety," ranging from "beautiful harp pieces and soulful songs to upbeat fiddle dance music."
Traveler, a Celtic rock group from Phoenix, rounds out the ensembles that will perform in the park's main ramada at the top of the hill.
Down below, in the park's smaller ramada, duos and trios will play acoustic Celtic folk music, with gigs by Welsh folk singer John Goode, Callahan Howard, Gerry Muisener, Tramor and Shepards Pie and bagpiper Tom Watts.
McNabb's Scottish heritage is what led him to the music of the land of his ancestors, but before he became an aficionado of Scot melodies, he performed as a Scottish athlete in the Highland Games for 21 years, he said. When he was in college, he was active in the Scottish club, later served as president of the Clan McNab Society of North America and he now directs the Prescott Celtic Concert Series, which brings performers from Scotland and Ireland to Prescott venues five or six times a year.
Even if he gave up learning how to play bagpipes, McNabb's passion for Celtic music has not waned.
"The music is just wonderful," he said. "Both the melody and the lyrics warm your heart. It brings out your emotion and touches your soul. It puts you in touch with yourself. There's something about it that is very earthy, and yet it's also transforming."
The festival begins at 10 a.m., with opening ceremonies at noon, and lasts until 5 p.m. Other highlights of the day include Celtic food, such as chicken pie, steak and mushroom pie, sausage roll, haggis, and short bread. Diners can wash down the Celtic fare with Irn-Bru, Scotland's favorite soda and "the other national drink of Scotland," McNabb said. The favorite drink is, of course, scotch, and tasting tents will offer not only that but also Scottish-style ale, Kilt Lifter.
Vendors will be on hand selling wares such as shirts with clan names, kilts and all their accessories, jewelry and Celtic weaponry. And, those who want information about their Celtic surnames will have that chance at one vendor's booth.
Advance tickets, available at Celtic Crossings at Prescott Gateway Mall, are $22 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets at the gate are $25 for adults and $17 for students. Children under 12 will get in free. For information, call McNabb at 771-1218 or visit prescottcelticmusicfestival.com.