Celtic culture comes alive at Yachats Celtic Music Festival

Beòlach, one of Cape Breton’s most exciting and innovative traditional bands, will be performing all three days of the Yachats Celtic Music Festival. (Courtesy photo)

For the 19th year in a row, Yachats plays host to the Celtic Music Festival, and organizers say this year will be better than ever. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 8-10.

The event is a celebration of traditional and non-traditional Celtic music ranging from Ireland and Scotland to Louisiana’s Acadiana and everywhere in between.

In addition to concerts and jam sessions, the festival offers workshops in Ceili dancing, harp playing and whistles; single malt whiskey sampling; Celtic-inspired food and beverages – “a lot of cabbage and potatoes,” according to local musician Robert Rubin, one of the festival organizers; a community Ceili (dance); vendors and storytelling.

And weather permitting, Rubin said festivalgoers have two chances to “stand at the end of the earth and experience the magic of a sunset while listening to the Piper on the Point” at the Yachats State Recreation Area wayside, a mystical experience at the heart of Celtic music.

“It’s magical, and everyone should be there,” Rubin said, noting the Piper on the Point is free and open to all as the sun sets Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9, from 4:55 to 5:25 p.m.

Organizing the festival these days is Polly Plumb Productions, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt group formed in 2015 to keep the Celtic Festival alive and to present other fun things for the Yachats community, or as its website states, to produce and support “diverse, artistic, colorful, whimsical, musical and intelligent arts and cultural programming.”

This year’s festival is a “special, rare opportunity to see as much world-class Celtic music as you want. The Celtic Festival is more than just entertainment – you can learn a lot, too,” Rubin said.

Tickets are required for the concerts, which are held at the Yachats Commons and the Little Log Church. The Drift Inn will host after-hours jam sessions featuring the festival musicians after the last concert of the evening of Nov. 8 and 9 at approximately 9 or 10 p.m.

It’s the music, the heart of the festival, that packs the south county community and brings visitors to the dance floor.

Stephen Farish of Waldport, who books the festival musicians and is on the board of directors of Polly Plumb Productions with Rubin, has been involved with the event in various capacities since 2011. He said it began in 2000, when David Bridson of Raindogs in Yachats and other Celtic music lovers and local business people got together in an effort to liven up the community during what was traditionally a quiet season in the tourist trade. While organizers have come and gone, the festival has continued each year.

Rubin said he was asked to book musicians for the festival but was not particularly familiar with a lot of Celtic performers.

“I knew Stephen (Farish) liked Celtic music and I proposed that he take over booking the bands. Stephen is why the festival has grown,” Rubin said.

For the last two years, some of the festival concerts were sell-outs, Rubin noted, and he expects that to happen again this year.

Because of the size of the Celtic Festival, Polly Plumb board members play a big role in coordinating individual aspects of the event.

In addition, Rubin said, “We have tremendous community support — the Little Log Church, the Commons, the Lions Club with their hall. And businesses in town embrace the festival — motels and bed and breakfasts and rentals donate places to put up the musicians. Yachats is a real community.”

“I don’t think any of us could do this if all of us weren’t involved,” Farish added. “Everyone’s combined synergy makes it happen. We may have grandiose ideas individually, but things happen when we all come together as a board.”

And while Rubin and Farish are both Waldport residents, Farish said Yachats is a community greater than its small number of residents, adding, “You can be a Yachatian at heart.”

Rubin and Farish can’t say enough about the quality of the musicians scheduled.

“These people are capable of playing extremely large halls and getting paid lots of money, but they are willing to come to Yachats because they realize little festivals like this are important to keeping this style of music alive,” Farish said. “They play Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and they know of each other – this festival gives them a chance to meet and jam together.

“It’s a great way for the regional Celtic community to connect with world-wide artists and play together,” Farish added. “I feel sorry for any music lovers who don’t show up.”

The festival opens at noon Friday, Nov. 8, with free music at the Commons from noon to 1:30 p.m., and closes at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, following a concert from 2 to 4 p.m. with vocalist-instrumentalists Cassie and Maggie MacDonald of Nova Scotia and the Acadian trio Vishten. Tickets must be purchased for all concerts and most workshops.

Festival performers this year are Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary, Kevin Carr, Vishten, Gillian Boucher and Bob McNeill, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, Beolach, and Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter.

Single malt whiskey tasting at the Drift Inn is led by John Robbins of Yachats. Workshop leaders over the three festival days are Lisa Lynne (beginning harp), Maldon Meehan (dance) and Rob Gandara, pipe and whistle maker from Celtic Carbony Winds (whistle and practice chanter) and the Sunday Ceili dance instructor and caller is Elisa Chandler.

Visit www.brownpapertickets.com for tickets to the concerts and whiskey tasting. Tickets for Little Log Church concerts are sold only at the door, first come, first served. Visit www.yachatscelticmusicfestival.org and www.pollyplumb.org for more information and detailed schedules.