Maine Celtic Festival July 20-22

Kilts, cabers and Kelly Girls

By Dagney C. Ernest | Jul 18, 2018
The Kelly Girls are, from left, Christine Hatch, Nancy Beaudette, Aisling Keating and Melinda Kerwin. Their latest album is "May You Always.”

Belfast — The Maine Celtic Celebration turns 12 this year, filling the city’s waterfront with music and a lot more. But outdoor parks can be tough for some to negotiate — which is why this year’s fest kicks off with a completely accessible event Friday afternoon, July 20.

Kelly Girls kick-off

The special Senior Sing-A-Long performance by the Kelly Girls takes place at 2 p.m. at the Crosby Center, 96 Church St. The one-time school building is the former home of the Theater Workshop of the Handicapped, which ensures that mobility-impaired folk can easily get in and out with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other assistance. Feet, however, can expect to tap.

The free/suggested $5 donation sing-along was funded by a New England States Touring grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, a program that aims to offer arts programming to an "underserved population."

“I focused this performance on seniors, especially those with mobility issues, who might find attending the MCC in the parks too much of a challenge,” said Maine Celtic Celebration stalwart Claudia Luchetti.

The Kelly Girls, who also will perform a set and host a song circle during the weekend festival, are a good choice for the event at the Crosby Center. Based in Massachusetts, the ensemble prides itself on its ability to tailor shows to any setting or audience. The group’s name evokes the time when Kelly Girls became a name for going out on temporary work assignments.

“We're carrying on this kind of tradition in our unique way. We enjoy putting on our own shows and concerts and also being a part of the gig economy,” said bandleader Aisling Keating, who credited band member Christine Hatch with the moniker.

There are four Kelly Girls. In addition to singing, they play fiddle, banjo, bodhran, tin-whistle, flute, ukulele, harmonica, accordion, bouzouki, guitar and mandolin — and they enjoy engaging their audiences, encouraging singing and clapping along.

“Especially with our senior audience, who seem to enjoy that kind of connection and participation,” Keating said.

Despite its title, the Kelly Girls Senior Sing-A-Long is open to all ages, and little ones also get into the audience participation. The music comprises both trad and contemporary Celtic songs and tunes rooted in Irish, Scottish, American and Canadian musical traditions.

“We like to blend and balance our performance with a mix of lively and mellow music and song. We love the changing mood and energy between our fast and upbeat songs and tunes and our slow ballads and waltzes,” Keating said.

The Kelly Girls have performed in many New England states and Canada and, individually and with other bands, in other parts of the United States, Ireland and other countries.

“Even China! We have not been to Belfast, Maine, before and are very excited to be coming there,” Keating said.

Celebration runs Friday through Sunday

After the performance at Crosby Center, the action heads down to the waterfront. This year’s Maine Celtic Festival will be “piped in” at 4 p.m. in the Front Street Pub Tent on Belfast Common, followed by Darby’s Session Group. At 6 p.m., the music starts on the Main Stage, where Downeast fiddle phenom Gus La Casse and local faves Napper Tandies and The Gallery Rats will play sets into the summer night.

Other local performers set to entertain over the weekend include Rockland’s Sara Grey who, with her son, Kieron Means, will demonstrate how old Celtic tunes have emigrated and evolved; Belfast storyteller and folk musician Jennifer Armstrong; Warren’s Alex Bigney Jr., Celtic harpist; and the Belfast Bay Fiddlers.

Other performers come from around the country, Canada and across the pond. And they come not only to play, sing and dance on the Main and Steamboat Landing stages; many of them also will lead workshops Friday and Saturday in the Boat House.

The Maine Celtic Celebration is imbued with music, but there are other delights to take in — Celti- breed dog shows, Highland Heavy Games, lots of fun stuff for kids to do, the Kilted Canter 5K (and a family-friendly kilt fashion show) and, yes, the annual New World Cheese Roll Championships. Saturday and Sunday events start by 9:30 a.m.; Saturday concludes with 9:20 p.m. fireworks, and the MCC closing session starts at 4:15 p.m.

Suggested donation is $10 for each day of the all-volunteer event. For the complete schedule and information about the performers, visit mainecelticcelebration.com and see the official program from last week’s Courier-Gazette, Camden Herald or Republican Journal (online at waldo[or knox].villagesoup.com/publications); they’re also around town and will be on the grounds.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional for more than 30 years; and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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