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Bagpipes, Fiddles, and Whiskey: The Inaugural Corvallis Celtic Festival

Bagpipes%2C+Fiddles%2C+and+Whiskey%3A+The+Inaugural+Corvallis+Celtic+Festival

One Sunday in Portugal The Nettles nervously played outside a church. As the congregation poured out of the church, they gathered around the band and handed Euro coins to their young daughter. To her surprise, the coins were not all for her to spend on candy. 

The Nettles will not busk the streets of Corvallis, but they will kick off the inaugural Corvallis Celtic Festival this Thursday at Common Fields alongside Fionnghal and a bagpiper. The music goes from 5-9 p.m. and there is no cover. 

The Corvallis Folklore Society will host the festival filled with music and activities this weekend, beginning Thursday and closing Sunday.

The Corvallis Folklore Society has been around for more than 25 years sponsoring various folk music events. 

The planning for this event started around January of this year, focusing on the music aspect of this festival, rather than highland games that often go along with Celtic events.                                                                                                                                                                     

The Gothard Sisters will play a fundraising concert Friday night at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance online or at Grass Roots bookstore and $25 at the door. 

“The Gothard Sisters are a dynamic supergroup of three American sisters who play contemporary Celtic music,” says their website. “Blending Celtic, folk, classical and new age musical influences, the Gothard Sisters bring songs to life with violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bodhran, djembe, whistle and vocal harmonies.”

The band has released nine albums and is located in Seattle, Washington. 

There will be music all day Saturday. The main stage is located in Central Park with various performances including music and dancing from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

The second stage is at the Corvallis public library with performances and workshops. Open Celtic sessions will be held there for beginners and experts. 

A Celtic session is “where a group of people who may or may not already know each other get together and play tunes,” says Beth Brown, director of the festival and member of Fionnghal. “There’s a lot of common repertoire in traditional Celtic music.”

The last stage is held at the Corvallis Arts Center. “That’s for all things about Celtic harps,” says Brown. There will be a Celtic harp workshop, as well as Celtic harp performances. 

Various vendors will sell flutes and whistles, books, artwork, and more. 

Children’s activities and crafts will also be available such as sidewalk chalk and DIY Irish Bodhran drums with pizza boxes. 

From 9 p.m. to midnight, Squirrels will host a Celtic session for 21+ musicians. No cover charge. 

From 10 a.m. to noon singers will perform at the Old World Deli. Another Celtic session will be held at Common Fields from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and one final session back at the Old World Deli from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The festival will close with a whiskey tasting at the Brass Monkey at 4 p.m. for $25. There will also be live music. 

Laura, of The Nettles, is looking forward to this “great chance for the community to come together.” 

The band had tours and festival gigs planned before the pandemic hit, and Kevin is looking forward to playing for audiences again. 

The Nettles consist of spouses Laura Brophy (fiddle) and Kevin Nettles (guitar), Michael Proctor (bass), and Tracy Dougherty (drums).

They describe themselves on their website as “Eclectic. Celtic. Folkadelic. From Irish and international music to American Oldtime to rock music, The Nettles put it all through their folkadelic kaleidoscope. Celtic music that’s progressive, exciting and a little bit dangerous. This band ignites audiences with fiery music that blends traditional music with modern spices. The Nettles play improvisational music based on traditional tunes, a Celtic jam band that makes audiences move and groove.” 

The band jokes that they “never play the same tune once.”

The Nettles formed 30 years ago in the mid ‘90s and have been part of the Oregon Celtic community for 20 years. 

Both Kevin and Laura first learned piano as kids, as many do. Kevin went on to learn guitar in his mid 30s and now plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tenor banjo keys, and finger drumming. 

Laura wanted to learn another instrument in junior high and picked flute because it “sounded fun.” However, the orchestra needed violins, so she picked up violin and the rest is history. She is also known to play the occasional harmonica or tin whistle. 

Kevin and Laura spent their honeymoon in Ireland, before playing music together. Years later they went back to England and played many Irish sessions. 

“We like to play outside when we travel to give back,” Laura says. “As not just to be a tourist, but to also give what we have and share things with people.” 

“Music is a great tool for bringing people together.”

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