By Julie Horner
In bold late October sunshine, Filoli House stood magnificent and sprawling, its lush gardens, vines, and hedges sweeping like wings verdant and moist against the dry, tawny expanse of rolling California oak lands. Catering staff was adding finishing touches to the tables stationed throughout the grounds – local wine, lustrous crystal and silver on small tables draped with white linen under fragrant boughs.
The Crooked Road Céilí Band had been invited to play traditional melodies in the courtyard at the storied mansion’s front entry – hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and guitar to welcome guests as they arrived for a gala garden party as if from a page out of Alice in Wonderland.
The motorcade pulled abruptly to the graveled walk promptly at 3:15. Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, escorted by an entourage of secret service and local insiders, were ushered past, smiles and polite nods, into the reception in full swing. What an honor to share this glorious day of music and cheer with the Bay Area Irish community – a rare, celebrated instance of international import.
Based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Crooked Road Céilí Band is anchored by Julie Horner and David Chadwick. David and I met at the Sunday traditional Irish seisiún at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in San Jose a dozen years ago and have hosted the Tuesday night seisiún there ever since. I cut my teeth on Celtic music at John Taylor’s iconic King’s Head Pub seisiún in Campbell back in the day and performed for many a Highland Games in the 1990s with the now defunct group, Celtic Blacklyst. David rode his bicycle across Ireland with a mandolin strapped to his back, spending years woodshedding the music on fiddle back at home.
The Crooked Road Céilí Band features a high-ranking roster of professional musicians to round out the trio, and sometimes a quartet, to provide lively acoustic music for a wide variety of events including weddings, dances, and public and private occasions of all kinds. We share our love of traditional music prolifically, keeping a calendar bursting with musical endeavorings.
We discovered our regular third member, guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ken Bewick, at the seisiún at the Poet & Patriot Irish Pub in Santa Cruz. Ken puts the groove to our traditional tunes, taking the energy to new levels. Adding another layer of interest, we often ask local bluegrass legend, Mark McCornack to join us on 5-string banjo, which gives our sound a down-home Americana feel. And when we’re fortunate, bodhrán player, Russ Bennett is available when an event calls for the drive of the traditional frame drum.
Together in many forms, The Crooked Road Céilí Band has been invited to play on stage at Ardenwood’s annual Tartan Day celebration; the highly regarded international music festival, Church Street Fair in Santa Cruz; the Big Trees Scottish Festival and Highland Games at Roaring Camp; and for the South Bay Scottish Society Robert Burns supper – eight years running if you include the years we were playing as Cooking with Turf!
Doug Lowder (fiddle) and Jack Gilder (concertina, flute) make up The Crooked Road quartet. We met at the famed Plough & Stars Irish seisiún in San Francisco, and Jack, David, and I are regulars at Lark in the Morning annual music and dance camp in Mendocino. The Crooked Road plays once a month for Irish set dancing at the Plough and we host the enormously popular twice-a-year Irish céilí at the Felton Trout Farm Inn.
The Crooked Road Céilí Band is also in demand to play traditional dance music for Scottish céilídhs, joining forces with callers Linda Henderson and Juliet Davoren for numerous private parties throughout the year.
One of our favorite specialties is providing music for weddings. We’ve traveled as far as Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe to help families celebrate very special moments, performing in cathedrals of stone and cathedrals of redwood forest alike. The hammered dulcimer is much sought after for adding an evocative magic to traditional pieces like Amazing Grace and Pachelbel’s Cannon in addition to melodies from the Irish and Scottish tradition.
The Crooked Road Céilí Band plays for the sheer joy of making music and being able to share our enthusiasm with our community, aiming to put a jig in your step and a song in your heart! Longtime hosts of the traditional Irish seisiun at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub on Tuesdays in downtown San Jose, the Poet & the Patriot in Santa Cruz, and Thursday’s at Rosie McCann’s in Santa Cruz (RIP).
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