Emerald for a day

Heidi Umphenour pulls a fresh tray of Irish soda bread from the oven at Blackbird Bakery Tuesday morning. The bakery usually sells out of the bread by noon. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Heidi Umphenour pulls a fresh tray of Irish soda bread from the oven at Blackbird Bakery Tuesday morning. The bakery usually sells out of the bread by noon.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

T.J. Faddis knows the difference between a jig and a reel because she plays both.

The sprightly Faddis, who plays pennywhistle with Celtic Magic, the band performing March 16 on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, said, “A jig tune has a rhythm that says ‘jiggety, jiggety jiggety jig. That’s 6/8, like a fast waltz. But a reel is in 2/4 time.”

Faddis, who is the only Celtic Magic musician with Irish heritage – other band members have Scottish roots – has forebears that hail from County Cork.

Like many Irish who emigrated to America, Faddis’ relatives were driven from the country by the 19th century Potato Famine, the blight that killed the island’s cash crop and major food supply.

Faddis’ ancestors left a land marked by Celtic ascendancy, by Viking, Norman and British invasions and by the transfer of Irish Catholic land to British Protestant hands.

The tragedies of Irish history are often a subtext when the Irish celebrate, Faddis says.

She notes that the jig embodies this duality.

The dance form that features fast footwork while the upper torso remains relatively motionless developed as a ruse to fool the British, who had banned Irish traditional dance. If dancers appeared stationery, British soldiers could patrol without taking note, Faddis says.

“The Irish have a firm grip on reality, metaphysically speaking. Life is hard work and a pint at the pub,” Faddis said. “But then, they also say, ‘If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.’”

Faddis and the other members of Celtic Magic – Polly Tarpley, Seamus Wegner, Dan McClelland, Charles Faddis and Kent Tarpley – call on both sides of the Irish character in a repertoire that ranges from joyful to melancholy, but the mood of the band remains resolutely upbeat.

“Life’s far too serious to be taken seriously,” Kent Tarpley said. “We enjoy playing our music.”

The group bends traditional idiom, introducing bongo drums, a Fender bass and even an Australian didjeridu. Charles Faddis plays the bagpipes, often mistakenly considered just a Scottish instrument.

Celtic Magic, who call themselves a progressive, funk and Celtic traditional band, say that the Island Center crowd can expect raucous music, but not the revelry that many associate with the day.

“We are not doing any debauching in our show – although we might sing a drunken song,” Faddis said.

* * * * *

“Erin go Braugh” translates “Ireland (and Bainbridge) forever” when the Puget Sound’s Emerald Isle dons green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish fun and fare mark March 14-17 celebrations:

* St. Patrick’s Day Parade and a showing of the movie “Return to Neverland” are linked events events coordinated by Team Winslow. Prospective paraders meet 9:45 a.m. March 16 at the Town and Country parking lot near Clark realtors to decorate bikes and parade to the Pavilion at 10 a.m. to view the movie for a $2 donation.

Fans of traditional Irish music fans may choose between the small venue and the dancehall setting. At intimate Pegasus Coffee House, Island Music Teachers Guild presents the Celtic band Crooked Mile and the Stuart Williams Band featuring Wesley Laws on pennywhistle at 7:30 p.m. March 16 with a suggested donation of $4.

In the larger setting of Island Center Hall, Celtic Magic, a six-person band, plays music ranging from foot-tapping jigs and reels to the doleful delights of “Danny Boy,” adding bass, bongos keyboard and didjeridu to traditional irish bodhran, bagpipes and pennywhistle, 8 p.m. March 16, with tickets for $8/adult, $5/ ages 6-18.

* Irish history and geography are invoked in travel books and historical fiction. Pat O’Connor reads from “Rick Steve’s Ireland 2002,” the travel book born of O’Connor’s 20-year love affair with Ireland. 7:30 p.m. March 14. He penned for the popular Rick Steve’s “Europe Through the Back Door” series that spun off a PBS series.

Ann Moore entertains listeners with “Gracelin O’Malley,” her recently published novel set in the 19th century Ireland of the Potato Famine, at 3 p.m. March 17 at Eagle Harbor Book Company. O’Malley shares the podium with Adrianne Harun reading from ”The King of Limbo and Other Stories.”

* Islanders may hoist a pint of green beer at Island Grill or sample traditional Irish fare at a range of island eateries.

At Blackbird Bakery, Irish soda bread or a slice of Irish rye are featured breakfast toast, while cookies in the shape of snakes, shamrocks or rainbows add a sweet touch. At Bainbridge Bakery, the special treats are Irish cream cake and other Irish pastries.

The Harbour Public House serves corn beef and cabbage with soda bread, with perhaps the most unique gustatory contribution to the day offered by Cafe Nola in the form of black-eyed pea chili, a St. Patrick’s Day recipe Nola personnel say comes from Ireland “by way of Texas.”

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