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Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007 01:01 am

Rooting for the Celtics

Expect bagpipes in Washington Park on Sunday

Untitled Document First, an apology to the kilt-wearing folk of the St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois and associated friends and fans. Back around St. Patrick’s Day, in an obviously ill- conceived and unsuccessful attempt at humor, I joked about the Scots’ pretending to be Irish so that they could party on St. Patrick’s Day. Not everyone who read my comments found them amusing. I meant no harm and certainly understand that the term “Celtic” covers a variety of cultures. The St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois adds a great deal of color to the quality of life in the capital city. Just last month, while heading over to host my Songwriter Circle at the Underground City Tavern, I saw 15 or 20 drummers and bagpipers in full dress streaming from the Celtic Mist Pub, on Seventh Street, and massing at the northwest corner of Adams and Seventh. Led by pipe major Tom Ogilvy, they marched across the intersection and performed an impromptu concert in front of the Hilton for Vietnam veterans who were in town for a conference. The vets I spoke with were deeply touched by the gesture, and I’m sure they’re still talking about it. All that leads to this: The August Music in the Park concert is called a “Celtic Summer Show.” The St. Andrew’s Society, though not participating per se in the Springfield Parks Foundation event, influenced all the groups involved, either directly through its members or indirectly by raising the level of Celtic awareness in central Illinois. Exorna, the first group on the bill, takes its name from an actual lane in County Derry, Northern Ireland, where Victor McMullan, award-winning snare and bass drummer for the St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois Pipes and Drums, was born and raised. Joined by American Forrest Harris on fiddle, banjo, whistle, accordion, and vocals and Englishman Mark Butler on the guitar and vocals, McMullan — singing and playing the bodhran, other drums, and spoons — leads the trio through a range of lively Celtic material and popular songs in the Scots-Irish tradition. Next up is the Illinois Elks Pipes and Drums, consisting of about 15 musicians who belong both to the St. Andrew’s Pipes and Drums and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (Lodge 158 in Springfield, to be exact). Formed in 2003 to have some fun and show support for drummer Bill Block, then Exalted Ruler of the local Elks, the group has since produced a CD that benefited charity and really had a blast performing. Closing out the concert is Springfield’s own (and only) Celtic-based rock/folk/jazz/Latin/classical-influenced band, the Emerald Underground, which goes where no band has gone before. The combination of traditional folk instruments with those more commonly associated with rock & roll is not new, but the EU’s particular blend is unique, mesmerizing, and altogether entertaining. Whereas other groups gather under the Celtic tree, clinging to the roots, the Emerald Underground has been known to go out on a limb.
 Celtic music is not just for St. Patrick’s Day anymore. And you know what? It never was.
The Music in the Park Celtic Summer Show takes place 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Aug., 19, at Washington Park. Bring along a blanket or lawn chair and perhaps an umbrella.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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