Yer man cannot go anywhere without finding some Celtic music and sure enough Rock found it in Toronto, Canada, last week. So be advised that the place to go is Allen's on Danforth Ave. (416-463-3086). Every Tuesday and Saturday the cozy, tradition-laden atmosphere is filled with the best of Celtic music in the Toronto area and the proprietors, John Maxwell and Dora Keogh, are as gracious as any host I have ever encountered. The musicians were very accomplished and they play like they mean it. The patrons made the place explode with their spontaneous set and step dancing and piping. The Craic was 90!
Through a phone listing in the Irish Echo newspaper, Rock was able to make contact with a County Antrim native and her Canadian husband who graciously reserved a seat at their table at the TRANZAC (Toronto Australia New Zealand Club) for a performance by legendary Scots songwriter Eric Bogle. Eric's trio went through most of his newer material from the ridiculous to the sublime but included his "Green Fields of France" (a.k.a. "How do you do young Willie McBride"). Unfortunately due to business commitments Rock was unable to experience Toronto's Cape Breton fiddling scene at the Bow and Arrow Pub. Luckily the Rankin Family filled that void right here in River City (see review, this issue).
Meanwhile, back home in "t.he dark and bloody ground" the finishing touches are being applied to our TWO highland games. First up is the Kentucky Scottish Weekend on May 12-14 at General Butler State Park (an easy 45-minute drive up I-71) which attracts pipe bands and highland dancers from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Returning this year is the everpopular Scottish balladeer Alex Beaton. On the first weekend in June (1-4) The Glasgow Highland Games celebrates its 10th anniversary with pipe bands and dancers from Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and the Carolinas. A torchlight ceili on Friday night features balladeer Carl Peterson and Louisville's own Galloglas and a "Tartan Bash" Scottish variety show follows Saturday's piping, dancing, etc. and yes, battle-ax throwing. The Clan Wolf Scottish Highlands reenactment group will welcome you to their encampment as well. So come make like Rob Roy.
Rock had the opportunity to hear Ten Penny Bit last Saturday night at O'Shea's Traditional Irish Pub. Their fine musicianship was, unfortunately, lost for the most part due to a woefully inadequate sound system. O'Shea's' kinks have obviously not been ironed out but it does promise to be a fine venue for Celtic music.
A tip of the hat to Richard Van Kleeck whose stewardship of the Lonesome Pine Specials has brought many first-quality Celtic acts to our fair city. Following the successful concert by the Rankin Family on April 21, we eagerly await the Celtic Thunder program scheduled for the Zoo this summer featuring The Trinity Irish Dancers, The Drovers and the internationally famous De Dannan.
In case you're wondering, should you ever need up-to-date information about "things Celtic" you can always call the Celtic Centre at 502-897-9050. They know what is going on; if they don't, they can tell you how to find out.