A Breath of Fresh Air – the SOK Celtic Christmas Rehearsal

A Celtic Christmas –  A Winter’s Ramble with Harpist and Singer Keri Lynn Zwicker : The rehearsal at the Key City Theatre, Saturday December 6, 2014 12-1:30 pm. Orchestra plus guestsI have always felt that there was something missing from Christmas. In recent years my attendance at a Winter Solstice celebration in Vancouver gave me pause to think but I was still unable to arrive at a conclusion. At the Symphony of the Kootenays (SOK) rehearsal on Saturday it finally clicked. When the Bodhran (the Irish Frame drum) roared into life within a rousing Celtic tune I had an epiphany. What has been missing all these years is the essential pagan element of the season’s celebration. The season has been diluted and polluted with so much tinsel town garbage over the years that we have forgotten, that despite the Christian overlay, from the beginning of time the Winter Solstice (Christmas) is essentially  a pagan festival. The SOK, Harpist Keri Lynn Zwicker and the Bodhran player Nathan McCavana restored some of that essential pagan essence to the music of the season. Sure, it was Christmas music but with a primordial pagan pulse that gives new life and vitality to a musical landscape that,  over the years, has become kinda blah. After all, how many times can we listen to I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas and still be emotionally stirred? Here are some images from the rehearsal.

216. Keri Lynn Zwicker318. Nathan McCavanaWendy Herbison - Concert Master  Viola   Beth Thomson Jeff Faragher               Wendy Herbison - Concert MasterBeth Thomson       Liz Tremblay Keri Lynn Zwicker470a.   Sven Heyde   432. Jeff Faragher    Shirley Wright    Keri Lynn Zwicker Beth Thomson Percussion - Sven Heyde and Courtney Crawford  480.   Ben SmithThe Trio   Aurora SmithBass Bass Keri Lynn Zwicker    Jeff in the trio    Keri Lynn Zwicker

and now for the essential pagan element : THE BODHRAN – here is the wikipedia entry:









“The bodhrán (/ˈbɔrɑːn/[1] or /ˈbrɑːn/; plural bodhráns) is an Irish frame drum ranging from 25 to 65 cm (10″ to 26″) in diameter, with most drums measuring 35 to 45 cm (14″ to 18″). The sides of the drum are 9 to 20 cm (3½” to 8″) deep. A goatskin head is tacked to one side (synthetic heads or other animal skins are sometimes used). The other side is open-ended for one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre. One or two crossbars, sometimes removable, may be inside the frame, but this is increasingly rare on modern instruments. Some professional modern bodhráns integrate mechanical tuning systems similar to those used on drums found in drum kits. It is usually with a hex key that the bodhrán skins are tightened or loosened depending on the atmospheric conditions.” Frame drums are found all over the world and the wikipedia articles goes on to list around 40 different regional variations. Nathan’s Bodhran is a little different fron the traditional in that it is tear dropped shaped. Like a lot of modern players,  Nathan uses “bamboo bundles” as a beater. He also uses a small condenser clip-on microphone to re-enforce the sound (after all he is competing with a symphony orchestra). Also note the black “electrical tape” trim around the top. This is used to reduced unwanted overtones.

316. Nathan McCavana
















The final pagan bonus in the rehearsal and one that may not have made it to the actual concert was Nathan’s rousing rendition of THE POGUES  The Fairy Tale of New York with its classic line “And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day”   – a far cry from I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas:


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