It’s an early celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and all things joyfully Irish when the San Antonio Comhaltas Session Players perform at the Isla Grand Beach Resort on Friday and Saturday nights, February 20 – 21, 2015. Light refreshments and a cash bar will open the event at 6:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Comhaltas Session Players is one of the more than 400 international chapters of the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí (meaning “Society of the Musicians of Ireland”) which is the primary Irish organization dedicated to the promotion of the music, song, dance and the language of Ireland. The San Antonio Chapter was founded in 2011 and its members have earned praise as amazingly accomplished musicians of traditional Irish music. They have twice toured Ireland and played for the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins. A local pub owner and musician in Dingle, Ireland was quoted in the local newspaper praising the San Antonio Group as, “a class apart in terms of their precision and execution. They bring back the way sessions used to be played in pubs.”
Irish traditional music sessions are mostly informal gatherings at which people play Irish traditional music. While the concert setting for El Paseo Arts will feature a more formal performance format than that typically seen in Irish Pubs, the musicians and singers will nevertheless sit in a semi-circular arrangement that allows them to interact with one another as part of the spirit of creative cooperation that characterizes a traditional session. The San Antonio group consists of thirteen musicians and singers playing reels, jigs, airs, hornpipes, set dances, slides, polkas and mazurkas. Their instruments include whistle, flute, guitar, bouzouki, banjo, spoons, fiddle, accordion, and bodhran and electric piano.
The program will also feature some high flying spurts of Irish Set dancing performed by ten dancers from the Gildea School of Irish Dance. Dance is an integral part of Irish music as many of the traditional forms were developed specifically for dance. Playing with dancers gives the musicians a deeper understanding of the rhythms and nuances of the music.
The first half of the musical program for El Paseo Arts entitled “The Other Side of the Pond” will feature the traditional music and dance of Ireland including such numbers as “Ballydesmond Polkas”, “Fergus O’Flaherty’s Fancy Port Large Set”, “Lilting Banshee Set”, and “The Boys from the County Armagh/Bless ‘em All.” The second part of the program, entitled “This Side of the Pond” will focus on American Irish tunes and Texas-American Irish tunes, some of which were played at the two Irish settlements of San Patricio and Refugio. Musical numbers include “Dingle Bay”, “Stolen Kiss/Gypsy”, The Kerry Polka Set”, Johnson’s Motor Car set”, and “Tater Jack Walsh”. Of course, no Irish music concert would be complete without some knowledge of the Irish culture and history, so the concert will include some charming and interesting tales about the history of how the particular songs came to be composed.
Tickets for the concert event are $25 per person, $20 for El Paseo Arts Foundation members. Tickets are available for purchase at Paragraphs Book Store on South Padre Island and The Art Gallery in Port Isabel’s Lighthouse Square. Tickets may also be purchased online at http://www.elpaseoarts.org or https://facebook.com/ElPaseoArtsTX.
This unique event promises an evening of arts entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone. Truly, the rafters will chime and the roof will be lifted by the beauty of the music and the spirit of “comhaltus” that will be shared by musicians, singers, dancers and the audience members. Stories will be told, dances will be danced, songs will be sung, music will be played and all in the traditional Irish way with plenty of laughter and Irish fun.