By Julie Horner
I watched Monday’s Harvest Moon rise above Joe’s Bar, casting the trees in velvety silhouette and found myself humming “The Rare Auld Mountain Dew,” an old Irish folk song: ”Let grasses grow and water flow in a free and easy way….hi dee diddley idle dum, hi dee doo dye diddly aye day!”
I was still high from another weekend of playing music with my best friends, Ken and David from The Crooked Road Céilí Band. Together this summer we’ve serenaded four couples down the aisle to holy matrimony, watched dozens of wee ones frolic at area farmers markets, worked Irish set dancers to a froth, and have shared our music with so many wonderful folks at wine tasting dinners, art walks, roadhouses, and local festivals throughout Santa Cruz County and beyond. It’s official: San Lorenzo Valley has its very own Irish band!
I met Boulder Creek multi-instrumentalist David Chadwick at a traditional Irish session at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in San Jose just as the bug to learn Celtic music had bitten. With a degree in music and background playing classical guitar, David was wailing on fiddle along with the rest, playing one lovely Irish melody after another. Resistance was futile; it was only a matter of time before I joined them in earnest. It became a happy obsession to learn as many Irish jigs and reels as we could, and before too long David and I started leading our own Tuesday night session at O’Flaherty’s.
We discovered Ken Bewick at the Celtic jam at the Poet & Patriot Irish Pub in Santa Cruz. An accomplished guitarist, professional recording artist, and singer-songwriter with the Santa Cruz-based band, Mudfrog and Boston-based Classical Tangent, Ken was looking to test his Celtic mettle and rekindle the love of playing out. Ken rocks our straight-ahead trad. With David leading on fiddle or 4-string tenor banjo, and me shredding on the hammer dulcimer, Ken puts the groove to our traditional tunes. Throw in Irish and American songs, and material that Ken has written, and you’ve got an honest acoustic vibe that so suits intimate gatherings.
The hammer dulcimer is a curiosity; we take bets on how many times I’ll be asked what I’m playing! The dulcimer is a large trapezoidal wooden box strung with up to 72 steel strings, two per note, and played with delicate wooden hammers. It’s basically a naked piano, and versions of the instrument are played around the world, including the cimbalom in Eastern Europe, and the santoor in India. The sound is somewhat harp-like and very different from the Appalachian, or mountain lap dulcimer.
The Crooked Road Céilí Band plays for the sheer joy of making music and being able to share our enthusiasm with our community. The word “ceili” or “ceilidh” (pronounced “kay-lee”) is Gaelic for party, and the band aims to put a jig in your step and a song in your heart!
As published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin September 2014
(c) 2014 Julia Horner