Monday, September 29, 2014

Bethlehem Celtic Classic 2014

For the past six years, Haley and I (and often Dylan though not this year) have attended the Bethlehem Celtic Classic in Bethlehem, PA. It is one of our favorite Celtic fall festivals and celebrates all aspects of culture and heritage from Ireland and Scotland. There is everything from the "showing of the tartan" parade, pipe band competitions, dance competitions, the US National Highland Athletic Championships in the main field, Haggis eating competition, fiddle competition, workshops, a kids area with crafts, and music on a number of stages from the huge Grand Pavilion to quieter, more intimate stages in venues throughout the festival grounds and the main street of town. Add to that vendors selling all sorts of wares from kilts to swords to hand-made jewelry, food from haggis to corn on the cob on a stick, and about 30,000 people and you have one really cool festival.

For a number of years, our main reason for attending was the fiddle competition and hanging out with Haley's fiddle playing friend, Alex and his family. Last year, Haley was asked to perform during the fiddle competition rather than compete (she had already won the under 14 age division four times and had three more years to go). She liked the idea of being able to perform rather than compete because she still had a reason to go and hang out with her friend, Alex, and Livia (who was going for her 1st time) plus Patch and Alanna.

This past spring, John Whelan invited Haley to perform with his band in the Grand Pavilion at this year's Classic. She jumped at the chance….she loves to perform with John as part of his band. After months of waiting, we rose super-early on Saturday morning to drive to Bethlehem so we'd arrive in time to watch Livia compete and Alex perform during the break in competition (he'd won the under 18 age division a couple years and had a few more years to go so performed rather than competing). Livia did a great job and won the under 14 age group.

After Livia and Alex finished, we walked into town for our yearly lunch at the Brew Works. We had the biggest table in the place...table for sixteen, please! Lunch took a really long time but we all had fun.


From lunch, or maybe "lupper" by the time it was over, Haley and I checked into our hotel, she made herself beautiful for the night's performance, and then it was time for rehearsal. She still thinks rehearsal is as good as the performance itself. The band was minus a fiddler, Kathleen, this gig so they had to divide Kathleen's "parts" between Haley and Genna and they had a new flute player, and awesome dancer, Jonathan. They worked hard for a little over two hours putting together the set.


Haley and I rode back into the festival with Genna, had a bite to eat, then watched the Glengarry Bhoys performance. They packed the huge Grand Pavilion tent with more people, unable to fit inside, lined up around the perimeter and had them waving their arms and screaming. Incredible!

Glengarry Bhoys

Haley with D'Arcy, the fiddler for Glengarry Bhoys
The John Whelan performed the final act of the night (9:30pm).  They were high energy and fun with great music, most of which John has written himself. At the finale, John invited Haley's friend, Alex, on stage to play a slow air then join the band for a few tunes.



Here's a little video I took of their first set…


After the performance, everyone walked back into town for a late night session on the 2nd floor of a pub. It was a huge session with a lot of great musicians/performers and ran until the wee hours of the morning…we left around 2:30am and it was still going strong.

Session
Sunday morning, Haley and I slept in a bit then went to breakfast with John and the Srour family. John left to head back to CT for a day of teaching and the Srours took Jonathan (flute player/dancer) to the train for NYC. Haley and I went into the festival to enjoy the day. Haley wanted to see her friend Rose's band Burning Bridget Cleary so we headed to the Grand Pavilion first. Rose asked her to join them onstage for a set during their show and afterward we watched the rest of the performance. 

Haley and Rose
We walked around the festival for while, looked at all the vendors' displays, watched a bit of Timlin and Kane's performance…



…and caught a little of Mick Moloney and friends before we had to be at the Highland fields for Haley to receive a scholarship from the Bethlehem Celtic Cultural Alliance. Exhausted after the awards presentation and our day in the crowds and sun, we walked back into town and headed home.

2 comments:

balindsey said...

I was at Celtic Classic too and saw Haley with John Whelan and Burning Bridget Cleary.

Can I ask where is the session you have a photo of? At one time (10-15 years ago) the Celtic Classic had a tent reserved for sessions but it didn't get a lot of participants for some reason.

ptmom said...

There was a session every night on the 2nd floor of McCarthy's in town.