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Durango Celtic Festival draws international musicians

Ask a few select Celtic musicians if they would travel 4,500 miles from home to play a concert in Durango, and their answer is a solid “yes.” One such musician is Paddy Callaghan, a button accordion player who fell into the Durango Celtic Festival scene a few years back, and he’s stayed connected since.

This year’s festival takes place Friday to Sunday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, featuring bands Heron Valley, The Jeremiahs, Dave Curley, Patrick Crossing and more. Callaghan, along with Tomas Callister on fiddle and Adam Rhodes on bouzouki, make up the band Supertrad.

“There’s not many festivals that would get you coming across the Atlantic just for a one off,” Callaghan said. “The people and the committee have become really good friends over the years. And it’s just a lovely place, and I mean that both in terms of how the place looks and everything about it, but also the feeling and the atmosphere of the place. It’s a place that pops up in conversation all the time: ‘Do you remember that time we were in Durango ...’ It’s just one of those places that has almost become legend. So, the second this was a possibility, we were all very much in agreement. We’re going.”

If you go

WHAT: Durango Celtic Festival with Joanna Hyde and Tadhg O’ Meachair, Supertrad, The Jeremiahs and more.

WHEN: March 29-31.

WHERE: Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive.

TICKETS: Prices range from individual shows to daily/weekend passes.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.durangocelticfestival.com.

Supertrad was formed for the festival; the three have come to this event before in different bands, with festival organizers suggesting the three play together. They accepted, forming a trio that offers a no-filler dose of traditional Celtic music. It’s a configuration that excites Callaghan.

“When it’s just the three of us and its kind of stripped down and just us hammering out tunes, most would agree that’s when we’re at our happiest,” he said. “So we’re kind of delighted that the excuse of the Durango Celtic Festival is here to get us out doing it again.”

They’re so delighted that when they initially sat down in Callister’s flat to rehearse and build their set, they realized they had too much material. These are musicians who have chased this music their whole lives, a trio so well versed in the Celtic music world and its bottomless well of traditional songs that they are finding they could easily exceed the time limits of their own set.

“It’s 90 minutes, which is probably longer than we do at many festivals. So we just hammered out a whole pile of songs and things that we wanted to play, and we put it down on paper and just sketched it out and I was kind of looking at it thinking, ‘there’s a lot here but we need a lot so that’s fine,’” Callaghan said. “We got to the end, we’re happy, this is everything we want to play, and we started working on the timings, and it was over two hours. So we’re very keen to get to do this and to play with each other to the point where we’re finding more material than we can actually fit in.”

What they don’t play in their set on the Concert Hall stage will likely get played in one of the many informal picking sessions that can pop up anywhere. Like their bluegrass kin, Celtic music is a common language among its players, and the music will go on in bars or hotel rooms, long after they’ve played and been paid for the set they were hired for. The bonus music is what makes these festivals great.

“We’ve had some legendary sessions in the past in Durango, playing till all hours of the morning. And we fully expect to be doing the same again this year,” Callaghan said. “That’s a big part of it for me, to be honest.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.