Folk duo Castlebay will present a concert in celebration of the Celtic holiday of Embolic, also known as Candlemas or St. Brigit’s Day, Sunday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Belfast Unitarian Church, 34 Miller St. Julia Lane and Fred Gosbee are well known for their songs and stories interwoven with award-winning playing of Celtic harp, guitar, fiddle and woodwinds.

Feb. 2, designated as Groundhog Day in this country, is, in fact, an ancient Celtic holiday celebrating emergence from winter. Evidence left behind by the early inhabitants of the British Isles indicates that they viewed the calendar year as a circle or wheel with fixed points determined by solar and lunar activity. In addition to the well-known solstices and equinoxes, the ancients marked the halfway points between as “cross quarter” days.

Embolic is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The ancient people of the British Isles and Ireland noted these turning points in the year with appropriate celebration presided over by various guardians. In the case of Embolic, the guardian is called Brigit whose realm is the hearth. She is the patroness of smiths, craftspeople, poets and musicians. Represented as a maiden, she is transformed from the Cailleach, or crone, of winter and is herself known as a midwife. The name “embolic” is derived from Oi-melc or “ewe’s milk” as this is the time of lactating sheep. In Christian times, Brigit was so revered she became an Irish saint with whom many miracles are associated.
The music and lore of the Celtic lands is alive with imagery and symbols associated with these turning points of the year and our relationship to the natural world. Castlebay’s program presents a vivid picture of these events and their significance today.

Lane and Gosbee are known for their intelligent arrangements of traditional music, and both have loved, sung and researched folk music since childhood. Lane’s interest in the sources of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing and Celtic music led her to study in Oxford, England. Gosbee heard old songs at home in central Maine then studied folklore at the University of Maine under Sandy Ives.

Both are fine vocalists and support the songs with Celtic harp, 12-string guitar, violin and woodwinds. Several of these instruments were designed and built by Gosbee. Lane’s unique self-taught harp style has won several international competitions where she was praised for her innovative arrangements and energetic performance.

Over the past 15 years, Castlebay has recorded 14 albums and has toured the Eastern United States, Ireland, England and Scotland playing at festivals, folk clubs and arts centers, as well as on radio and television. They maintain a commitment to cultural education, providing folklore and music programs for schools, museum, libraries and Elderhostels. In addition, they regularly exchange music and information with folklorists and musicians from Australia to Ireland. Their Web site is castlebay.net.

Admission to the concert is $10, $5 for children. For more information, send e-mail to castlebay@castlebay.net or call 529-5438. If the weather looks threatening, call or consult the Web site.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.