Celtic ensemble expresses different type of culture

What started as a simple idea has now manifested into a new, culturally driven music ensemble at Laramie County Community College.

The idea for the new Celtic ensemble came from Leslie Harrison, LCCC aural theory instructor. "I thought it would be great for students to learn a different culture and be exposed to something new," Harrison said. She is now the Celtic ensemble director as well.

"It was just an idea, but then Dean Kathleen Urban and Gary Hall (LCCC coordinator of instrumental music) approached me and thought it was a great idea," Harrison said. They agreed the opportunity to expose the students to a different culture, to allow the students to learn a new form of music by ear and to present them with something totally new from anything they usually learn was a great idea," she added.

The ensemble will perform for the community at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 22, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Harrison's background

Harrison started out as a classical flutist at a very young age and continued studying classical flute through college in New York. While in New York though she met many Celtic/folk musicians and said that's when she discovered an interesting Celtic inspiration.

After earning a master's degree in New York, she followed that Celtic inspiration by going to Ireland and master that particular genre of music.

Harrison said she has Irish relatives, so she was about 12 or 13 when she heard Irish music and really started to appreciate it. "I really got into it at about age 15 but didn't know until New York that I loved it," Harrison added.

After earning her master's degree in Irish music from a university in Ireland, she decided to move closer to her family in Fort Collins because she hadn't seen them since she was 17. When she moved back to the West, she then found a group to perform with.

Returning to the West hasn't stopped Harrison from continuing her Celtic journey though. She said she found Celtic music "different and endlessly interesting" because a standard tune may be played many different ways.

Inspiration for Celtic ensemble

"Celtic music is such community thing," Harrison said. "There's one tune, and a whole community of like 25 people will get together and just play the music."

Harrison is also continually inspired by the fact that Celtic music is such a broad genre. "It encompasses such a large region of Europe, and there are many different bits to it," Harrison added.

Harrison also said because European folk music came over to America, it is very remarkable to see how it has evolved into Western, bluegrass and other "American-based" music. "Our music (in America) has descended from Celtic music. It has evolved through the years, and that is incredibly fascinating," Harrison noted.

So instead of keeping this deep Celtic knowledge to herself, Harrison decided to start the Celtic ensemble at LCCC.

The ensemble currently has a couple flutes, some violins, a harp, piano, guitar, tuba, many singers and one clarinet, Harrison said. She added this group is not really equivalent to traditional Irish music groups in that some different instruments are not usually found in a traditional Irish group, but it is a fun mix and a fun challenge to figure it all out and make it work.

Because Harrison lives in Fort Collins, she comes up to LCCC every Tuesday and Friday, and the ensemble meets around noon on those days.

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