Callanish is State College’s answer to Celtic traditions

In what looks to be another notch in a green belt bursting with Irish heritage in our area, Centre County’s all-female traditional Irish music group Callanish will be headlining the Irish Music and Arts Celebration at The State Theatre. A staple at various festivals and local concerts who specializes in Irish and Scottish folk tunes, Callanish is set to take the stage Sunday to perform selections from their comprehensive catalogue to compliment the culture and wonderment of Saint Patrick’s Day in Centre County.

“It’s very happy music and it’s a great way to celebrate,” said Patty Lambert, Callanish’s flautist and backing vocalist, “We play the music that the people have been playing in Ireland for a couple of centuries and it was always social music, never concert music. It was what people played in their homes for their own enjoyment and they would have what were called ‘kitchen parties’ where people of all ages, children included, would play music and tell stories. So we’re kind of producing that sort of atmosphere, only of course, we’re doing it in a concert setting.”

Forming in 2001 and having been veterans of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, First Night State College and Celtic Day in Lewisburg, Callanish plans to release their fourth album, “The Hare’s Paw” on Sunday. Financed in part by their fans via a Kickstarter campaign, “The Hare’s Paw” is the band’s first album to feature guitarist Holly Foy and vocalist Louisa Smith. With a strong foundation entrenched in the traditional Irish and Scottish vein, the album also features some original tracks, a first for Callanish.

“We usually stick very much to traditional music, but at this particular show we’ll be doing a new song by [lead vocalist] Louisa Smith who wrote a song called ‘The Kilkenny Soldier’ and Gretchen Lee our fiddle player wrote a reel called ‘The Brownie Reel,’” said percussionist Carol Lindsay, “So we’re playing two original pieces of music that were written by our bandmates.”

While Callanish does perform at different locations throughout the calendar year, its third month always tends to be the most hectic. But March isn’t just one of the busiest months for the band, it’s also one of the most important times of the year as well.

“It’s a time to really celebrate the heritage of Ireland and a culture that’s so unique and strong,” Lindsay said, “The Irish culture is so strong and it’s survived for so long. We’re just delighted that we’ve been able to create a way to celebrate the holiday that’s focused on the arts, the music and culture of Ireland.”

“It’s the time of year when anyone with Irish ancestry or anyone with any interest with Ireland tends to come together and celebrate the heritage. Not only its art and music, but its history as well,” Lambert added.

Although the music that Callanish will be performing is sure to be a highlight on Sunday afternoon, it will also act as a sort of compliment to the other festivities that will be taking place at The State Theatre, providing a proper, educational counterpoint to many other Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Another interesting aspect about this festival that should be celebrated is the fact that the majority of the artists and performers all either hail or have firm roots in Centre County, providing a rather organic, or dare I say, “green” element to the celebration.

“It’s going to be such a wonderful afternoon and it’s all local, so it’s really a kind of hometown experience,” Lindsay said while discussing the Irish Music and Arts Celebration, “It’s such a different way to spend Saint Patrick’s Day than people usually think. You’re not only enjoying the music, but you’re learning about the culture of the Irish people and that’s what makes it so wonderful. It’s really an immersed experience in Irish culture.”

“The entire afternoon is surround-sound for the senses,” Lindsay said, “You’ll see all of the art, you’ll hear the story-tellers, you’ll hear the music being played. The colors and the textures make the culture come alive.”