Sweet Celtic music in Iqaluit this week



IQALUIT — The sounds of Ireland, played in a Newfoundland style, will be heard in Canada’s Arctic this weekend.

A trio of Newfoundland-based Celtic performers will perform at three different venues in Iqaluit this week.

Fergus O’Byrne, Jim Payne and Colin Carrigan play and sing Celtic music.

For performer Fergus O’Byrne, the performance will be another example of how the Celtic music he first heard as a child growing up in Ireland has travelled and changed.

“When I came to Newfoundland I was quite surprised that the people were so familiar with the music. When they started singing their songs they sounded somewhat familiar, but not quite,” O’Byrne said.

While they’re in Iqaluit, the trio hopes to play with local musicians who play their own Arctic versions of Irish and Scottish music.

“The fiddle music and the accordion music, when we get to Iqaluit, people who are hearing it will be surprised by how close it is to the local music played up there. A lot of people up there learned accordion from the Scottish whalers,” O’Byrne said.

“I can pretty well guarantee it will be a lot of the same tunes.”

O’Byrne also hopes to meet drum dancers and compare the Inuit drum with a traditional Celtic drum called a bodhran.

O’Byrne, Payne and Carrigan decided to come to Iqaluit after meeting Iqaluit resident Keith Dennison during a performance in Yellowknife. O’Byrne had been to Resolute Bay and various communities in the western Arctic, but never to Iqaluit.

With its high concentration of Newfoundland expatriates and the exposure to accordion and fiddle music, O’Byrne said the shows should be a popular attraction.

For O’Byrne, the trip is the latest adventure his professional music career has provided him.

During his 32 years on the professional circuit, he has witnessed the popularity of folk music rise and fall and rise again. In the 1970s he played on national television with the group Ryan’s Fancy.

The public’s recent fascination with all things Celtic has “obviously helped,” O’Byrne says, but he plays because it’s something he likes to do. He also does it to help keep local music alive.

“I’ve been at it for 32 years. I’ve had my ups and downs. You kind of ride the ups and downs of the waves of the business,” O’Byrne said.

“Those who make a career of it generally tend to survive somewhat. It’s not a major lucrative endeavor, but it’s very much a pleasurable thing to do.”

Anyone who also takes pleasure in Celtic music can listen to O’Byrne, Payne and Carrigan perform at the Elks Lodge on Saturday night and the Astro Hill Theatre this week.

A private show for hospital staff is also scheduled.

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