NORTH BEND — The people of Oregon's South Coast are used to enjoying a green Christmas. This year, instead of dreaming of a white Christmas, you may want to think about celebrating with a nod toward the Emerald Isle.
On the first and third Wednesday of each month, the Liberty Pub in North Bend plays host to the South Coast Folk Society's Irish music session. Members say that when those dates fall in the month of December, they sometimes deviate from their usual playlist, as a little bit of the Celtic Christmas spirit comes out to play.
For those without a calendar handy, that means Dec. 17 provides the perfect opportunity to get introduced to your inner Celtic.
“Well, it was created for the purpose of dancing, too, and that is the joy of it,” says Stacy Rose, who helps guide the South Coast Folk Society.
She says the music just seems to resonate with people.
“It touches, I think, a part of people's soul. Maybe they don't have Celtic genealogy in their family. But, it touches a part of us that we just relate to and want to be a part of.”
Dahlia Grossman is one of those people who wanted to be part of it, playing guitar at the sessions.
“The music is so lively. It's just so much fun that we love to share it with people,” Grossman said. “You've got to be happy.”
You may have to be happy, but you don't have to be a regular musician to take part in the session. And you don't even have to play an instrument that derives from the region.
Rose says all musicians, of all talent levels, are welcome.
“In terms of instrumentation, there are traditional instruments that you would see — fiddles and uilleann pipes (bagpipes) and whistles — but we also have guitar players and there have been banjos, and I play a hammered dulcimer, which is not a traditional instrument, so really any kind of instrumentation would be welcome.”
The music also reaches far beyond the holidays, with the group gathering year round.
“There is a certain traditional repertoire of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French-Canadian, tunes that are considered this kind of music. It's traditional music. It is dance music, dance tunes, so there is a standard kind of repertoire,” Rose said. “Typically it's jigs, and horn-pipes, and waltzes and some standard songs that we'll sing as well.”
The South Coast Folk Society, at its heart, is all about participation. Rose says the Irish music sessions are just one facet of their plan to get people out of one comfort zone and into another.
The main mission of the all-volunteer, nonprofit group is to ensure that folk music doesn't fade from the area.
They keep a pretty busy calender in order to do that, including sing-alongs, once-a-month contra dances, once-a-month international folk dances, and a variety of other events. Check out their website at southcoastfolksociety.wordpress.com, or find their Facebook page, for details.
Perhaps you can even use the Dec. 17 Irish session at the Liberty Pub (no cover charge, and runs from 7-9 p.m.) to take your first steps toward joining that effort.
“If anybody plays an instrument, come on out and play with us,” Rose said. “One of the joys of playing at a session is seeing people who maybe have been a little bit timid about their playing and they'll come out and see what it's about.
“I just got a message from somebody who we started playing with, and encouraged, and now she is in two different bands and playing all the time. It's really exciting to see musicians develop their skills and become part of a community.”