Hands-on learning, hands-free listening

Winter Jubilee is a full day and night of music

SHEL is the Holbrook sisters, Hannah, Sarah, Eva and Liza. The sibling quartet from Fort Collins will headline today’s Winter Jubilee at the Smiley Building. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of SHEL

SHEL is the Holbrook sisters, Hannah, Sarah, Eva and Liza. The sibling quartet from Fort Collins will headline today’s Winter Jubilee at the Smiley Building.

Three years ago, Jacob Brooks watched as his wife, Annie, played guitar at an impromptu gathering in an Irish youth hostel.

Little did he know that the experience would lead to the creation of an educational music festival in Durango – inspiring local children to pick up instruments and pursue musical educations. Now in its third year, the Winter Jubilee is an affirmation to the “pay-it-forward” power of inspiration.

“I just saw how music is such an amazing part of the (Irish) culture. It is so instrumental to everyday life,” Brooks said of his experience. “I realized that we had lost some of those roots.”

This year’s Winter Jubilee today will bring three young acts together for a day of educational workshops, concluding with a concert that evening. Annie Brooks, the nationally touring Fort Collins sister act SHEL and Irish group Mighty Tempest will take the stage at the Smiley Building for about two hours of live music.

The daylong event will feature songwriting, fiddle, percussion and rock-band lessons. Students of all ages from local schools will be in attendance.

“I love the idea of bringing the community together under the canopy of music,” Annie Brooks said.

The idea of community is prevalent in the organization of the Winter Jubilee. Inspired by the abundance of local music in Ireland, the Brookses seek to elicit a similar attitude toward music on the small, local level.

The Jubilee is “a community event with the intent that music doesn’t have to be limited to the corporate hits. (It’s) kind of a localization to bring it back to the community,” Jacob Brooks said.

The event attracted only a few students to the workshop program its first year, but from that small group almost a dozen students signed up for music lessons afterward.

Since then, both the workshop program and the concert have continued to grow.

While the bands in this year’s musical lineup come from strikingly different musical backgrounds, they all uniquely interpret traditional themes into contemporary music.

“They’re all a breath of fresh air in a culture that puts so much emphasis on top-40 hits,” Jacob Brooks said.

The classically trained SHEL fuses American folk, traditional Irish and indie pop into their own beautiful sound. It’s hard to tell which is more beautiful – their instrumentation or harmonization. Over the last few years, SHEL has been featured on National Public Radio and live at music festivals across the country, including South by Southwest and the Four Corners Folk Festival.

Mighty Tempest traveled the farthest to reach Durango. Hailing from Dundalk, Ireland, the Irish rock band has toured the Emerald Isle extensively and recently began playing in the United States.

For Annie Brooks, whose parents are both singer-songwriters, music has been part of her life since birth.

“I thought learning how to play the guitar was like learning how to tie your shoes,” she said.

She brings a world traveler’s mind’s eye to modern Americana with elements of early jazz.

Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at margaretyh@gmail.com.

Ireland’s Mighty Tempest will add an international flair to the Winter Jubilee. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jacob Brooks

Ireland’s Mighty Tempest will add an international flair to the Winter Jubilee.

Singer-songwriter Annie Brooks is the lone Durango performer on the Winter Jubilee lineup. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jacob Brooks

Singer-songwriter Annie Brooks is the lone Durango performer on the Winter Jubilee lineup.