The land where the music began centuries ago may be half a world away – but this weekend Vancouverites from all walks of life can tap into their Celtic roots at CelticFest.
Now celebrating the fest's 10th anniversary, organizers have introduced a host of new events, among them Ceili's Kitchen Party, where top Celtic musicians will jam at an Irish pub, and a Robson Square community stage that features live music, performances by top Scottish and Irish dancers, a bodhran drum circle and even a penny-whistle party.
Also new to the fest is an opening gala at the Vogue that features Newfoundland's harmony-heavy trio the Once, Juno-winning banjo maestro Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, Vancouver veterans the Paperboys, and fast-rising Irish group Hermitage Green, who have been touring with the Pogues and are making their Canadian debut at the fest.
"There's been a huge influx of Irish immigrants into Vancouver in the past few years – literally thousands of people have moved here from Ireland. So we really wanted to do something for that crowd, and Hermitage Green is a smashing band," says Ross Powell, director of programming and production. "They've been making really big waves in Europe, so we wanted to bring them over."
Of course, much of Celtic culture is about tradition, and revellers can do a jig at the CelticFest Ceilidh, try a wee dram at the Whisky Kiss scotch tasting and check out the wares at the Celtic Village and Street Market. They can also cheer on a St. Patrick's Day Parade and kick off the festival this weekend at Celts on the Creek at the Olympic Village, where they'll find tasty foods, traditional folk music, Scottish swordplay and The Green Man – an eight-foot-tall mystical storyteller.
"Those are our roots, and it's important to sort of see where we came from," says Mr. Powell, who adds there's a very good reason the songs and dances have endured through the ages. "It's just a heck of a lot of fun. We have a pretty darn good time at this festival. There's something about Celtic music that's just very uplifting, you know?"
CelticFest is at various venues March 8-16 (celticfestvancouver.com)