Irish music brings global appeal as Celtic Woman visits Bakersfield | Bakersfield life


Robbie Byrne is well aware that Bakersfield is not Boston or Chicago when it comes to Irish culture. But bring the right event to Kern, and plenty of people with Irish connections will come out of the woodwork.

It’s something Byrne, a professional piper who spent 15 years here after living in Ireland and England, learned when he started the local Irish Heritage Club with Kenny Mount. And it’s something he’s seen repeatedly whenever Irish music comes to town.

“We had Riverdance years ago, the original Riverdance,” Byrne said. “(The place) was then called Rabobank. Oh, the place was packed, full of all kinds of people.

“When an event like this happens… you’ll have a lot of Irish people coming out of the gardens.”

This time, the show that will bring everyone who dreams of the Emerald Isle to life will be another concert at what is now the Mechanics Bank Theatre. This time it will feature Celtic Woman, a traditional Irish ensemble led by four singers, who will return to Bakersfield on May 8 to support their 14th tour.

Celtic Woman was originally scheduled to embark on the tour in 2020, then 2021, before finally hitting the road at the end of February.

“We spent so much time thinking, ‘Was this ever going to happen?'” said Chloë Agnew, who returns to Celtic Woman for this tour after initially joining the band as a teenager. “So to finally be back and really enjoying every second, onstage and offstage, it’s really cool.”

Agnew, who lived in Los Angeles for eight years, said she was looking forward to returning to California, as the group’s route winds from San Diego through the Central Valley. She added that shows in smaller towns can often be even more rewarding.

“The public really appreciates you coming to (their) city,” she said. “Really, wherever we go, we’re just grateful that people want to come and listen to our music.”

Byrne’s career is proof that devotees of Irish culture can show up in unlikely places. He remembers one time when he was called to Randsburg, outside of Ridgecrest, for a gig, and his hosts there treated him like family.

Longtime Byrne and Mount club member Jeffrey Biggs has another theory for why Bakersfield might be receptive to Irish folksongs: the town’s love of country music.

“Irish, Celtic and Scottish music is driving a lot of that,” Biggs said. “The Irish and Scots who settled in Appalachia kind of spawned this folk music we hear along the east coast.”

Celtic Woman’s real appeal, however, is that its music may appeal to those with no immediate connection to Celtic culture – as evidenced by the band’s ability to sustain a three-month, six-show tour per week across the United States.

“These are great stories and the Irish are great storytellers,” Agnew said. “So I think our songs are about love, earth, loss, hope, all the universal things that people can relate to and relate to.”

Byrne said the songs’ rich history – Celtic Woman’s repertoire includes classics like “Danny Boy” and “The Parting Glass” – gives them a gravitas that what he called pop music “here today” lacks. today, gone tomorrow”.

“When you’re playing or listening,” Byrne said, “it’s a different dimension.”

Tickets are on sale now for the show, a matinee at 3 p.m. on May 8.

Journalist Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.


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