Festival aims to turn Vashon into Celtic isle

Admission to all festival activities is by donation at the door.

Button accordion champion John Whelan will teach a workshop and join The Beltane Boys in concert at the Celtic Spring Festival on Saturday, Feb. 1 (Courtesy Photo).

Button accordion champion John Whelan will teach a workshop and join The Beltane Boys in concert at the Celtic Spring Festival on Saturday, Feb. 1 (Courtesy Photo).

“Celtic Spring,” a new family-friendly Celtic music festival with a full slate of virtuoso performances, music workshops and storytelling sessions, will take place from 2 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Vashon United Methodist Church.

The festival is the passion project of islander Erin Durrett, who is excited to welcome islanders to its wide range of events.

“I’m doing this totally as a volunteer out of love for Celtic culture,” Durrett said, adding that she hopes the event will be the first edition of an annual festival that takes place for many years to come. “This could give Vashon a reputation as the Celtic isle of the Salish Sea, and make the island a destination for all things Celtic.”

The festival will start at 2 p.m. with a spiral meditation, leading attendees through the traditional Celtic practice of walking a spiral labyrinth while listening to gentle harp music. Harpists will include Jane Valencia, Deb Knodel, Jane Valencia, Ruthann Ritchie, Christina Tourin and Duncan Sanders.

From 3 to 4 p.m., festival-goers of all ages can be regaled by Celtic stories, told by tellers from up and down the west coast.

Six separate workshops, serving up an impressive body of knowledge about Scottish fiddle, pipe, accordion, harp and song, will take place from 4 to 5 p.m.

Brandon Vance, an award-winning Scottish fiddler who also has a career as a baroque and contemporary violinist, will teach traditional Scottish tunes and techniques.

Flutist Cameron St. Louis will give workshop attendees an inside look at some of the regional “accents” of Irish flute music that are rapidly disappearing, and give tips on how to develop a palette of different approaches to ornamenting tunes and adding expression. Bringing along a recorder or flute to this workshop is recommended.

Richard Hill, who has taught and sung in Scottish Gaelic since 1989 and is the founder of Slighe nan Gaidheal and Feis Seattle, will teach a workshop about the high-energy mouth music of Scotland.

Celtic harpist Christina Tourin, founder of the Scottish Harp Society of America, will give a workshop on how to connect to Celtic tunes and engage an audience in the music-making process, and a workshop in old-style Irish solo dancing from Galway will be led by Alicia Gunn.

Seven-time all-Ireland button accordion champion John Whelan has performed and played his instrument for 50 years. His workshop will focus on tune learning and incorporating proper rhythm, phrasing and ornamentation. He will also include tips on how to learn tunes more easily, enabling players to have more swing in their playing.

The headline concert of the festival, by the Seattle pipe, fiddle and vocal group The Beltane Boys, joined by Whelan on button accordion, will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

After the concert, the festival will come to a raucous close with a Celtic community music and dance session, called by Alicia Guinn, from 8:30 to 9:15 p.m.

Admission to all festival activities is by donation at the door. To sign up for workshops and to play in the closing session of the festival, contact allmusicissacred@gmail.com.

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