Cool Stuff Series: The Wee Ceili Room
OK, so I have permission to share with you one of the best kept secrets in the local Irish music scene.
All right, not-quite-so-well-kept secrets. At the least, it’s a Cool Thing that most folks outside the inner circles of Irish music fandom haven’t heard about.
I present to you the Wee Ceili* Room.
Technically, it’s an enclosed porch in the back of the home of Irish dance instructor and traditional music promoter Sam Keator and his lovely and gracious wife Anne Doherty, but to call it an enclosed porch doesn’t do it justice. The floors and walls are a rich, polished wood, with windows and skylight. Most important, the acoustics are excellent.
This, my friends, is the location of some of the most incredible house concerts you will find anywhere. Don’t believe me? Google Andy Irvine, Noel Hill, Laurence Nugent, Hanz Araki, Golden Bough, and Molly’s Revenge. They, and plenty more, have played the Wee Ceili Room.
Calling the setting intimate is an understatement. Seating is for about sixty-ish, and if you are sitting in the front row you may have to tuck your feet out of the way if a musician gets up to change instruments. The atmosphere is one of utmost respect for the music— you will not hear people chatting in the audience or talking on their cell phones while the musicians are playing. Not that all is Serious with a capital ‘S’. The musicians generally bring stories to go along with the songs, and some of them will have you laughing until you can’t breathe. If you want to not only hear the songs and tunes, but also learn about their provenance and the historical events from which they arose, this is your place.
There is a casual potluck of desserts, snacks and libations before the music starts that picks up again with the set break. Don’t worry if everyone seems to know everyone else. Before the end of the evening, you’ll know everyone, too. And when you come back the next time they’ll be glad to see you again.
The Wee Ceili Room reminds me of something out of Charles de Lint’s Newford. I half-expect Geordie to play there some day, or to bump into Jilly in the audience. Outside the world of Story, we may not find shapeshifters or paintings that come to life, but the magic is real nonetheless.
(The Wee Ceili Room exists in the very real Washington County, about 45 minutes to an hour southwest of Portland. To find out more about coming events and to find out how get on the mailing list, check out www.IrishPDX.com. And while you are there, look at the info on dance classes, ceilis, the Community Concert Series, and other great things Sam has going. ‘Cause honestly, I could probably fill up the rest of my Cool Stuff blog with the events he has going on.)
*‘Ceili’, pronounced ‘kay-lee’ has come in this country to refer to both Irish Social Dance and to one of the dance socials where ceili dancing happens. But the literal translation from the Irish is ‘party’.