THE SAVANNAH Irish Festival returns this weekend, featuring one of its most beloved and long-running acts.
“We started the Savannah Ceili Band about 10 or 11 years ago,” recalls fiddler Colleen Settle. “It began from a little session group at Kevin Barry’s on River Street. It was a very informal setting, where local and visiting musicians would play traditional tunes together. Our band arose from that.”
Members of the Ceili Band have participated in the local Irish Fest since the event’s inception. The Savannah Irish Fest has always sought to provide a showplace for more authentic Irish and Celtic cultural celebration, as the local St. Patrick’s Day celebration a month later has become ever more commercialized.
Other members of the Ceili Band include Michael Corbett (guitar, banjo, vocals), Jerry Stenger (bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Jim Quigley (bodhran, mandolin, vocals), and Dan O’Connell (accordion, flute, whistles, vocals).
Many will also recognize Settle and Corbett from their duo, Seldom Sober.
This weekend might be your last chance to see the Savannah Ceili Band, however -- they are calling it quits at the end of this year's Irish season, through the spring.
As far as what to expect from their sets this weekend – traditional or new? — Settle says to listen for a little of both.
“We play tunes people will recognize but also some newer things to keep it fresh, and to keep it interesting for us as well,” she says.
“To those who aren’t familiar with traditional Irish music, it can tend to sound the same,” “Most people can’t tell the difference between a jig, a reel, or a hornpipe. We like to throw in some interesting arrangements to keep audiences engaged.”
Fiddle playing, in particular, lends itself to various regional and local distinctions in Celtic music.
“Fiddlers in Sligo and Galway each have their own distinctive fiddle style,” Settle says. “And there is some difference between north and south, too -- fiddlers in Clare and Donegal will sound very different from each other.”
And there is another interesting relationship between Irish styles and Scottish styles of fiddling.
“The two traditions have a lot in common but can be very different in some ways,” Settle says. “For example, the Scottish fiddling style typically has more snap in the bowing.”
Ceili Party @Civic Center
Fri. Feb. 15 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Use service entrance on Liberty Street. $10 donation per person.
Irish Festival @Civic Center
Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday noon-6 p.m.
10:00-11:00: Opening Ceremony SVA Chorale
11:15-12:00: The Byrne Brothers
12:15-1:00: Irish Dancers of Savannah
1:15-2:00: Savannah Ceili Band
2:15-3:00: The BlarneyGirls
3:15-4:00: Kevin McKrell and Donnybrook Fair
4:15-5:00: Legacy Irish Dancers
Kevin Barry's Pub Stage
11:00-11:45: The BlarneyGirls
1:00-1:45: Kevin McKrell and Donnybrook Fair
2:00-2:45: Seamus Kennedy
3:00-3:45: The Byrne Brothers
4:00-4:45: Savannah Ceili Band
12:15-1:00: Seamus Kennedy presents Comic Songs
1:15-2:00: Tom O'Carroll presents "The Irish Diaspora"
2:15-3:00: Howard Keeley presents "100 Years Ago: Ireland's First Dáil Meets and Ireland's War of Independence Starts"
3:15-4:00: Harry O'Donoghue hosts the Singer/Songwriters
4:15-5:00: Tom Byrne presents "The 1916 Fiddle"
11:00-11:45: Magician Debbie O'Carroll
12:00-12:45: Legacy Irish Dancers
1:00-1:45: Silly Dilly the Clown
2:00-2:45: Irish Dancers of Savannah
3:00-5:00: Silly Dilly the Clown and Crazy Chicken
Sunday, February 17
12:00-12:45: The BlarneyGirls
1:00-1:45: Legacy Irish Dancers
2:00-2:45: The Byrne Brothers
4:00-4:45: Irish Dancers of Savannah
5:00-5:45: Savannah Ceili Band/All Performer Ensemble
Kevin Barry's Pub Stage
12:00-12:45: The Savannah Ceili Band
1:00-1:45: The Blarney Girls
2:00-2:45: Tom O'Carroll
3:00-3:45: Kevin McKrell and Donnybrook Fair
4:00-4:45: The Byrne Brothers
1:00-1:45: Harry O'Donoghue hosts singer/songwriters Kyle McCullen, Tom Byrne and others
2:00-2:45: Seamus Kennedy presents "Songs That Influenced Me Growing Up in the North of Ireland."
3:00- 3:45: Songs and Stories of Dublin presented by Tom O'Carroll
12:00-12:45 :Irish Dancers of Savannah
1:00-1:45: Magician Debbie O'Carroll
2:00-2:45: Silly Dilly the Clown
3:00-3:45: Angela Beasley's Puppet People
4:00- 4:45: Legacy Irish Dancers