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Style Magazine

Gold Country Roots

Oct 31, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

The history of Celtic music in California goes all the way back to 1579 and Sir Francis Drake and his crew. Pennywhistles were carried because they would fit in a pocket and fiddles were present for the numerous nautical songs, necessary to the rhythm of a sailing ship. Drake’s crew had a heavy Irish presence, and a strong Celtic musical influence. Through the centuries, the Celtic influence on the folk music of the Gold Country has been vast. The promise of California gold and the railroad brought thousands of Irish and Scottish descendants to the Wild West, and they brought their music with them. The sound of Northern California folk music is the sound of fiddles, pennywhistles, Irish drums, hammered dulcimers, Celtic harps and Uilleann pipes, in addition to the mellow melodies of guitars, the twang of banjos and the skirl of steel guitars (as well as an occasional random accordion thrown in for good measure). Celtic music is a marriage of many influences, but Celtic roots are always present in the background.

Coloma Celtic keeps this unique music of the Golden State alive. In the tradition of folk music, Coloma Celtic is a group of four friends: Jenny, Alan, Dan and Jim, each of whom are, in the words of Dan Little, “serious amateurs,” devoted to the tradition and the beauty of the music of the Gold Country. Coloma Celtic doesn’t conduct formal practice sessions. They get together and they play, and it all just comes together. The life of folk music depends on the skill of the players, the experience and the interaction of the musicians with one another. This group’s skill and experience comes through lyrically in their musical interactions. The music is a living conversation between the musicians – every time they perform a piece, the piece evolves, just as it did in the days that folk music was new. 

Coloma Celtic has the ability to transport the listener to a different time and place with their Gold Country Celtic music. Each member of the group has been playing Celtic music since 1979 – they have played together in different groups at different times – but they have been playing together as Coloma Celtic since 1999. This is a group of old pals who are getting together to tell a new story together, or perhaps retell an old one.

Coloma Celtic plays a variety of venues, big and small, throughout the Gold Country. You will find them at Marco’s Café in Coloma one evening, or entertaining rafters some afternoon after a day on the river. Recently, they played the main stage at Georgetown’s Founders’ Day celebration, and nine times per year you will find them playing at state parks. They are often found at the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School entertaining and educating the kids and exposing a new generation to the beauty that is the folk music of our region.