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Peet in the Creel to play Celtic music in Lowell

Peat in the Creel will perform Celtic music, particularly Scottish, during an intimate show at LowellArts, 223 W. Main, at 7 pm on Saturday, March 2.

The group consists of Alison Myers on flute, whistle, and vocals; Aidan Carry on fiddle; Toby Bresnahan on bouzouki, guitar, and vocals; and Mike Mulder on bodhran drum. According to advance press for their appearance, the band “draws from Irish traditional music roots to bring forth a range of energetic dance tunes, spirited folk songs and peaceful melodies.”

“Most everything we play is traditional ancient Celtic music, or in the style of ancient Celtic music,” Myers said. “We play jigs, reels, waltzes, airs, most everything that is considered dance music. A song is music that has stories with words to it, while tunes are instrumental and meant to be evocative. Subject matter includes everything in life that you can think of: love, longing for home, work, slavery, war, loss, and, of course, alcohol. Most of the shenanigans in Celtic songs have to do with someone consuming more than their share and learning a hard lesson.”

People generally associate Celtic music with St. Patrick's Day and don't listen to it much outside the month of March. Myers said that West Michigan has a small but lively year-round Celtic music scene.

“While we all have day jobs, not many make a living playing traditional Irish music around here, playing music is something we do because we love to connect to the rich history and the deeply emotional sounds of the style,” Myers said.

Another unique aspect of Peat in the Creel is that, unlike most Celtic bands, they play more Scottish music than Irish music. Yes, there is a difference.

“Not only do they sound different, they have different instrumental influences and different languages,” Myers said. “Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are not the same. To the average ear, you could say that the two styles of music have different 'accents.' Beyond those two Celtic cultures, there are many more across the globe that are popular. For example, Galicians, Bretons and especially those in Canada.”

The phrase “Peat in the Creel” was taken from a song written by John Roderick Bannerman to celebrate Mary C. MacNiven winning the gold medal for best singer at the Royal National Mòd in 1934.

“[The band name is] taken from a verse of a Scottish song called 'Mairi's Wedding,'” Myers said. “Mairi's guests have brought her many gifts including 'plenty peat to fill her creel.' In the rural areas [of Scotland], people typically cut peat turf, dried it and burned it in stoves for heat and to cook with. A creel was a large woven basket similar to a fishing creel that was used to haul the heavy peat bricks.”

The members listen to a lot of Celtic music, that's how each helps decide what songs they perform as a group.

“Whenever one of us hears a tune that we like elsewhere, whether it be on the Internet, at a session, from friends, etc, we bring it to the band and learn the melody,” Myers said. “Then we either pick other tunes to go with it in a medley or we give our own spin based on other versions we like. We just do what we think sounds good to us. We have [written original songs] in the past, but nothing beats the tried and true traditional tunes that have stuck through the centuries.”

Some of the band members are from Lowell and the band has played around the Lowell area lots of times since they were founded in 2011.

“Half of the band is from Lowell, the other half hails from Trufant in Montcalm Co. and Chelsea, near Ann Arbor,” Myers said. “Toby has played guitar since he was a teenager and has since produced, played and recorded soundtracks for the film and gaming industry; Mike has been behind the scenes of Celtic music as an engaged follower and promoter of local music talents and as a host and presenter of several world-renowned bands for many years before being encouraged to learn bodhrán [a hand-held drum]; I have played the classical flute for over 25 years and transitioned over to other types of flute-like instruments while in college; Aidan has been playing violin for over 13 years, as well as with the well-known Chelsea House Orchestra, which has produced many professional musicians, and was recently certified as a mixing engineer. Aside from the LowellArts house concerts, we have played the Fallasburg Arts Festival many times. The LowellArts council does a great job of bringing diverse artistic and cultural events to Lowell.”

Tickets to the show are $10 in advance or $12 at the door that night. For more informaton about the band, visit peatinthecreel.com. For more information about LowellArts, visit lowellartsmi.org, call 616-897-8545 or stop by the gallery during business hours.

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