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Time Travelers: Broceliande uses traditional Celtic sounds in modern ways in their music.

Tapestry of Tartans

A stage at Tapestry in Talent goes Celtic for a day

By Marianne Messina

ANY CONVOCATION of Celtic-American bands turns out to be a kind of variety show, much like you'd find at the traditional Celtic gathering called the ceilidh. The local arts and cultural festival Tapestry in Talent will throw its own ceilidh (of a sort) with the KARA/KLIV stage devoted to Celtic music all day on Monday.

"In a real ceilidh, everybody was expected to be prepared to add to the entertainment," says Aaron Shaw, award-winning bagpiper for the Wicked Tinkers. "Everybody would have their own thing that they were kind of known for." These talents could include dancing and storytelling as well as piping, fiddling and singing.

The things that draw musicians to Celtic music are as diverse as the Celtic permutations they create. For flautist Viviana Guzman, whose large collection of world flutes informs her eclectic CD Planet Flute, it was the tin whistle that drew her to Celtic music. "The tin whistle just has this spunkiness--it just makes you want to dance. It can also be very haunting as well. So there are the two sides to the flute, the birdlike, very cheerful and that haunting, melancholy, very ancient voice of the Native American Indians, of Incas in South America, of the bansuri flute in India. It's very profound."

Harpist/vocalist Margaret Davis fell in love with Celtic music after hearing the Irish group Clannad. Since then, Davis and her husband, guitar/mandolin/oboist Kristof Klover, have started two Celtic bands; he directs the Celtic rock band Avalon Rising and she directs a vocally rich ballad-oriented group, Broceliande.


On Stage: A complete Tapestry in Talent schedule.


As much as they capture the flavor of Celtic music, most American Celtic bands have no qualms about modifying ancient tradition to express that most American of values, individuality.

"Broceliande is very much arranging these tunes in new, fresh, modern ways," says Davis. In spite of a degree in medieval French and Provencal music, Davis is more inspired by sampling the past than recreating it. Her husband steers Avalon Rising according to a similar philosophy. "We are kind of making our decisions by 'Is this beautiful or not?' rather than 'Is this correctly medieval or not?'" says Klover.

Meanwhile, the Wicked Tinkers have recently added Aboriginal didgeridoo to their lineup, which, while it defies historical authenticity, beefs up the drone power. "We searched a long time to find a didgeridoo that was in tune with the bagpipes," Shaw says.

Exposed to a vast palette of music, the modern Celtic musician answers first to an inner ear, which is often a synthesis of influences. Klover wanted acoustic harp in his amplified rock band. "It's been a mic-ing challenge," Klover admits, "but it's pretty nice." Thus, traditions once distinct and isolated in the Scottish Highlands, or in Sligo, Donegal, Wales, and Brittany enter the modern world by way of the great American stew pot and a dollop of ingenuity.

Viviana Guzman plays the SunTrips Stage at 4pm on Sunday, Sept. 2. Broceliande, Shanachie, Avalon Rising, and the Wicked Tinkers all perform on the KARA/KLIV stage on "Celtic Day," Monday, Sept. 3. Broceliande at 11:30am, Shanachie at 1pm, Avalon Rising at 2:30pm and Wicked Tinkers at 4pm.

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From the August 30-September 5, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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