Beòlach House Concert
in Havertown, Pennsylvania

Event Description

Saturday, 2007 March 10
Originally, this was supposed to be hosted by the Philadelphia Céilí Group, but this event has never appeared on their web site. My second request for information from them was finally answered via e-mail this past Thursday (while I was travelling) and states that due to a “last minute problem” the concert will be a house concert “at the home of Marian and Tom Gittleman, 828 Beechwood Drive, Havertown (Tickets, $15 - seating limited -- call ahead - 610-896-9537)”. I did and, at this point, there is standing room only.
A cèilidh with Beòlach, the marvellous Cape Breton ensemble. During their current concert series Andrea Beaton, a fine fiddler, pianist, and step-dancer, sits in for Wendy MacIsaac and Mac Morin, who are unable to make this tour; the remainder of the troupe—Mairi Rankin on fiddle, Patrick Gillis on guitar, and Ryan J. MacNeil on pipes/whistles—will appear as usual.
If you are unable to get into this event, as now appears likely, Beòlach will fortunately be at other venues in or relatively easily accessible from Pennsylvania; see thetour schedule on Beòlach’s web site for details and in particular the 25 March concert in Harrisburg (see the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site for more information on this event).


My apologies for all the extra heads in the photos, but it was in close quarters and this is the best I could get. The step-dancing photos are also without feet for the same reason.

Mairi Rankin on fiddle and Andrea Beton on keyboards

Ryan J. MacNeil on pipes and Patrick Gillis on guitar

Andrea Beaton on keyboards

Mairi Rankin on fiddle

Patrick Gillis on guitar

Ryan J. MacNeil on tin whistle

Mairi Rankin singing

Andrea Beaton step-dancing

Mairi Rankin and Andrea Beaton step-dancing

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 March 12)

Saturday evening, Beòlach performed at a sold-out house concert in the Philadelphia suburbs that I was lucky enough to squeeze into. Originally, this concert was due to be held under the auspices of the Philadelphia Céilí Group, but due to a snafu was transformed into a house concert at the home of Marian and Tom Gittleman in Havertown. Although a bit crowded, it was an intimate setting with fine acoustics and an environment in which I had not previously heard Beòlach perform; there was no sound system nor was any needed.

On this tour, Beòlach is temporarily without the services of Wendy MacIsaac and Mac Morin. That leaves Beòlach with a gaping hole, into which Andrea Beaton has stepped on this tour, alternately playing fiddle and keyboards as well as step-dancing. You will understand just how talented both she and the rest of the group are when you hear how they have adapted and adjusted their respective rôles in the band in such a way as to preserve the unique Beòlach sound overall; with one person filling in for two, it may not be quite so full a sound as when there are five, but the result is nevertheless unmistakably the great music of Beòlach that I and many others have come to know and love.

And we had a full serving of that wonderful music! Starting off with selections from their two CD’s, including Mrs. Crawford’s, David Rankin’s, and Freddy’s Set, the music poured forth and the delighted audience was tapping their feet and rocking in their chairs. There were some surprises as well: three new sets that Beòlach have developed for this tour. One starts with a Liz Knowles tune whose name I didn’t get and continues on in the classic Beòlach style, with Ryan J. on whistles, Pat on guitar, and two fiddles. A second one has Mairi on lead vocals with Pat providing backing vocals and guitar, Andrea on keyboards, and Ryan J. on whistles doing a mournful song (I heard its title as I will cry if you go away); this is the first time I have ever heard a sung number from Beòlach and it was very fine: Mairi's voice is beautiful and clear and the song’s arrangement and classical Celtic sad-song instrumentation will, I am sure, make it a hit with audiences on this tour. The third new set started with Mairi step-dancing and segued into another fine group of tunes. Andrea also showed off her steps in a solo step-dance accompanied by the others and Andrea and Mairi together did a joint step-dance during their final number. An encore was of course demanded and granted, bringing an evening of great music to its sadly inevitable close.

During intermission and at the concert’s end, the versatility of these four musicians was the subject of conversation. I saw some of the CD’s for sale in many people’s hands; for those coming across this music for the first time, it must have been a special treat, as it was for me when I first saw them live and has been every time since.

My thanks go to the Gittlemans for stepping into the breach, getting me into the concert, and for their fine hospitality. They hope to offer other house concerts in the future and this initial one was a fine start.

And thanks as well to Beòlach for coming to the area. It was great to have a chance to chat with them all again and to catch up on the news from the Island. They will be continuing to tour through the end of March in venues all over the Mid-Atlantic and New England; their schedule is here. Their summer tour is taking them to Manitoba and British Columbia, so, if you’re in their spring tour area, catch them now! You will not be disappointed!