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What is Celtic Music? Part 3 - Here in Canada!

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

In my two last blogs, I discussed where Celtic music comes from and the different types of Celtic tunes as well as the instruments that play this style of music . Today’s topic is why we play this style of music in Canada!

Why a Celtic party?

I started organizing Celtic parties for my music studio over ten years ago. My goal was to provide my students with the experience of playing music with others for fun, without the stress of an audience or the expectation of a perfect performance.

Celtic music was originally played by groups of friends at parties, and not in concert halls, so it is the perfect style of music to give students this experience. This genre also gives players lots of creative freedom: the same tune can be played at a range of tempos to suit the mood, students can explore improvisation in the form of ornamentation and articulation and we can enjoy playing it together in a group setting, using a variety of instruments.

But most of all, the expressive melodies of the laments and airs work so well when played on the flute and the upbeat dance tunes are a perfect antidote to the chill of a Canadian winter!

Every year I invite some of my musician friends to play with my students. Over the years we’ve had a variety of instruments play with us: banjo, bodhran, fiddle, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, accordion and keyboard to name a few. Although the students each prepare a Celtic piece over the course of several lessons, we don’t rehearse with the musicians beforehand but rather enjoy the process of making the tune work together, at the event.

Other Canadians love to play Celtic music too! Some of the most well known Canadian musicians who embrace this genre include the Irish Rovers, Loreena McKennitt, Natalie McMaster, Great Big Sea, Ashley MacIsaac and Rita McNeil.

Traditional Quebecois folk music was also influenced by the irish and Scottish immigrants who lived in New France. The French added the Celtic dance forms (reels, jigs, hornpipes) and playing styles to their traditional songs from France. Check out La Bottine Souriante to hear some Celtic influenced traditional Quebecois music.

Here is Montreal’s best Celtic flute player, Dave Gossage, playing right here in a Montreal backyard:

Here is fiddle player Natalie McMaster and pianist Mac Morin playing, both from Nova Scotia, playing some of their favorite Celtic tunes:

Chris Norman is a Celtic flute player, born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Here he plays a piece full of Celtic melodies and named after the island of Cape Breton (Nova Scotia, Canada). (He plays it with the Chamber Orchestra of Argentina. A true example of how Celtic music has influenced musicians all over the world, and how it has permeated all genres of music, including classical!)

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