Band keeps its Irish heritage alive


With pipes and drums, fiddles and whistles, Craobh Rua is bringing traditional Irish music to Carroll County.

The Belfast-based band, whose name means "Red Branch," will beat the bodhran drum and trill the uilleann pipes during its 8:30 p.m. performance Friday at Western Maryland College.

"This band, one of the best exponents of Irish music at the moment, is working hard to preserve and further traditional Irish music," said Robyn Boyd, Craobh Rua's U.S. promoter.

Much of the music that is coming from Ireland today is rock, even though the bands may be using traditional instruments, said Ms. Boyd.

"Craobh Rua is not in it for stardom," she said. "These guys play for the love of the music. They are the legitimate heirs of Irish music."

The band makes use of several instruments rooted in Ireland's history. Mark Donnelly plays the uilleann pipes, a smaller version of the large war bagpipes.

"So much of the music was used to let people know what was going on," said Ms. Boyd. "The music was always a strong part of the revolution."

Craobh Rua blends the bodhran drum, tin whistle and fiddle, but it also can coax notes from instruments such as the guitar, mandolin and banjo.

"The tenor banjo, popular with American folk musicians, has found its place in Irish music," said Ms. Boyd.

The concert Friday will give the audience a taste of what will be heard this summer at the college, when the band returns to take part in Common Ground on the Hill, a traditional music and art learning experience, which will explore cultural diversity.

"It is our attempt to bring artists together and influence people," said Ms. Boyd.

Craobh Rua will return in July to participate in the arts center, and band members will lead four workshops focusing on the British and Irish musical experience.

"They will be wonderful teachers," said Ms. Boyd, administrator for Common Ground. "It will give everyone the opportunity to learn from the source, something like everything you ever wanted to know about playing in an Irish band."

Mr. Donnelly will explore the history of Irish pipes, and Michael Cassidy will teach the Irish fiddle. Brian Connolly, banjo player, will focus on the connection between traditional Irish and American folk music. Jim Byrne will teach the songs particular to Ulster.

"Often, the music from Northern Ireland does not get the respect as that from the South," said Ms. Boyd. "There are similarities, but you can also hear the British/Scottish influence in the northern music."

Craobh Rua, which has played at several American and Canadian folk and music festivals, has recorded several albums, one of which won the 1990 Folk Group Album of the Year in Scotland. During its short trip to the United States this week, the band will also travel to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington Saturday and to Philadelphia Sunday.

The performance begins at 8:30 p.m. in Big Baker Chapel on the Westminster campus. Tickets are $10 for the public and $8 for the WMC faculty and students. Information: 857-2771.

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