By George Nostrand
While St. Patrick’s Day was clearly an Irish holiday, to begin with, it’s been the Americans who have turned the celebration of the saint into the party it is today. Whether it’s dressing in green, dying bodies of water green or consuming food and drink that are not normally green…America seems to be green with Irish envy at least once a year. There are some legitimate celebrations of Irish culture. The best of these, perhaps, is the music.
Every year, Vermont celebrates St. Patrick’s Day across the state by showcasing some of the area’s best musicians performing traditional tunes. Historical stories are intertwined with humorous tales. Fiddles, bagpipes, bodhrans and other instruments get their turn to take center stage. And everyone can claim to be a bit Irish for the day.
Last year, I interviewed multi-instrumentalist Timothy Cummuings, who had taken on the role of organizing and hosting Middlebury College’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. This year will be the 14th annual and will feature Cummings, joined by Pete Sutherland, Dominique Dodge, Jeremiah McLane and student guests. Mary Wesley will be the dance caller. The show is a week early, on March 12, from 4 – 6 p.m. at Wilson Hall (McCullough Social Space), Middlebury College, 14 Old Chapel Road.
St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year. This will surely make the party not only bigger but start sooner and last longer. This goes for those celebrating and for the bands providing the entertainment. Local band Extra Stout started their run of gigs last weekend at the Inn at Long Trail’s McGrath’s Pub, by playing the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of March. They play most Sundays during the ski season, from 4-7 p.m., but the band’s calendar heats up every year in March. On the big day itself, Extra Stout will play three shows, starting with a stop at Castleton University. Several past and present musicians in the band have been, or are currently, professors.
Ludlow’s Gypsy Reel has been an area favorite for decades. They kick off their St. Patrick’s celebrations this Friday. March 10, playing at the newly refurbished Tavern at the Hartness House in Springfield, from 6 – 9 p.m. The local quartet has been playing all over the world for the last 30 years, but always stay close to home for St. Patrick’s Day. On Thursday, March 16, Gypsy Reel will host a special edition of their weekly session at The Killarney Irish Pub in Ludlow, from 6:30 – 9 p.m. Gypsy Reel veterans Claudine Languille, Camille and Graham Parker lead, cajole and coach other and musicians who sit in through a series of traditional and nontraditional tunes.
On the great green day itself, Gypsy Reel continues a tradition of playing an early show at the Sitting Bull Lounge at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, from 3-6 p.m. Then they will move down the hill for the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at The Killarney, which starts at 7.30 p.m. and traditionally goes until they can play no more. The grand finale of Gypsy Reel’s run will be a special concert performance at the Slate Museum in Granville, New York on Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m., featuring fiddle, mandolins, banjo, guitar, bodhran, upright bass and powerhouse vocals.
These are just a few upcoming shows. Stay up to date on additional St. Patrick’s Day shows — as well as a host of other events — by book-marking www.VermontToday.com.