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The first-ever Fresno Celtic FalldeRall festival takes over Fagan's Irish Pub this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Featuring an impressive line up of world-famous Celtic musicians, 10 local bands, two Irish dance troupes, teaching workshops, and lectures on Irish culture, organizers have assembled an ambitious program for their first FalldeRal festival.
"FalldeRal is a little bit of word that doesn't mean much of anything, so I can kind of twist it to mean what I want it to mean," begins Bruce Honeyman, festival director. "It's in the dictionary; it's a song made up of nonsensical syllables. In Irish music it's very common they'll just have fun with the langugage and they'll say, 'Oh fal-de-ral-i-diddle-i-day,'" he sings. "They're just singing something in a repetittive way. It's like a children's song." He added the extra "L" to FalldeRal because of the time of year.
If Honeyman is adept at singing nonsense syllables, it's due to his long-time interest in roots music. He plays in three local roots-based bands, Fresneax Ramblers, Blind Dog, and Roscanna. He created the FalldeRal to bring Fresno's splintered Celtic performers together, and to bring some of the world's top Celtic musicians to play and teach.
"It was just kind of fun to get people to work together and give people a reason to want to work together. And a festival met that need," he explained. "The Rogue Festival woke me up to the possibility that you could do something totally cool in Fresno, but you had to get organized."
Local bands scheduled to perform include Songs 4 Pints, Kenny Hall's Irish Band, Celtic Jam Band (featuring Steve Ono, Eddie Gordon, Kevin Hill, Patrick Contreras, and Eva Scow), Pipe on the Hob, Highlands and Lowlands, Harps of Erin, Crann Tara, plus Honeyman's own.
In addition to the local acts, the FALLdeRAL will showcase big-name international talent. Kevin Burke has been called the "greatest Irish fiddler living" by The Village Voice. Liz Carroll, all-Ireland champion fiddler, is a NEA National Heritage award-winner. John Doyle has played guitar in Irish supergroups Solas, Eileen Ivers, and others. The Coulter/Phillips/Grosjean Ensemble, features Grammy-winning guitarist William Coulter and champion Scottish fiddler Deby Grosjean.
One of the unique facets of the FALLdeRAL is that these master musicians not only perform, they teach.
"Part of the festival is to not just perform but it's to teach as well as be taught. Part of what makes folk music different is there's a tradition of handing down what you know to other people," Honeyman explained. Workshops on the polyrhythmic harp, bodhran (an Irish drum), guitar, penny whistle, and of course fiddle, will be taught by experts. For the non-musicians, Fresno State professors will give lectures on Irish music, culture, and history. There's even a workshop on Irish crochet. Workshops are free with entrance to any performance, and will be held under a canopy outside Fagan's.
For Honeyman, there was no better place to hold the Celtic festival than at Fagan's downtown.
"It took me about ten minutes to look at it and say, wow this is a great space for a small festival," said Honeyman. "We're all traditionalist and we're very much involved in the community." Just as pride in downtown can create connection within a community, traditional music can act as an anchor in daily life.
"To me, just as a psychologist, it's nurturing your soul. It's what gives you a sense of place, a connection to things that are real and not just fantasy, and it's not B.S. and it's got substance and heart."
The Fresno Celtic FALLdeRAL takes place September 30th - October 2nd at Fagan's Irish Pub, 2039 Kern Street. Tickets are $25 per performance. For times and workshop information, visit fresnocelticfestival.org.