Thursday, 9 August 2012

Phew! Now THAT was a Celtic festival!

I suspect that some days after the Montelago Celtic Festival started packing up leaving the Colfiorito plain, the dust is still settling. Stardust, that is, for the music and the spirit certainly reached that far.

It must be quite a feeling to walk out on the plain when it's empty and quiet, a place that not long before was heaving to the rhythms of the Montelago community in its annual celebration of camaraderie, release, and - naturally - celtica. What stories those plains could tell ...

But whatever remembrance and imagination can conjure between them from the off-stage happenings, we're really here to discuss just one thing - the music.

Let's start with Friday, and a quote from a previous entry on this blog: "(Mortimer Mc Grave) may just be the roof-raiser of the festival." Prophetic words, it seems (the absent roof notwithstanding), as Maurizio, Luciano and their friends made emphatic statements in several different musical languages for two festival-defining hours. In short, they knocked it out of the park - from the first stirring numbers of their Moving Hearts-inspired band, The Storm, to soirees with the City of Rome Pipe Band and the Cisal Pipers, the beat and the energy fulfilled their promise of a musical earthquake with devastating dance-like effects. The message was simple: "We love this festival!" It showed, and underpinned the achievement of this tenth Celtic year in the Apennines.

It would be an injustice to omit mentions for their Friday partners on stage either side of them - New Road and the Cisal Pipers, accomplished crowd-movers and foot-tapping provokers in their own rights. Same goes for Saturday's opening act, La Corte di Lunas, who threw down the night's gauntlet with a rousing set.

And then came Rare Folk, as rare an act to appear at the festival in all of its ten years. Blending jazz, Celtic, world music, and the booming bass of the bouncing Mufas, the Spaniards from Andalusia pulled in the crowd and never let them go, as their several attempts to leave proved - encore followed encore until time finally caught up and they had to leave. But they stayed around themselves, to dance with the crowd as the following groups lit up the stage.

Another rare treat followed Rare Folk as the enthusiastic crowd experienced "the definitive bagpipe version" of  Queen's We Will Rock You, as well as a reggae number in amongst the City of Rome Pipe Band's more typical repertoire. But perhaps the highlight of their set was the stirring rendition of Amazing Grace, sung with depth, beauty, and grace (naturally) by one of the band's two female drummers.

With the rising crescendo of their supporting acts, the Isle of Skye's Peatbog Faeries didn't disappoint with a performance of pure quality and infectious energy, before Folkmondo wrapped up the night's proceedings with a strong set of their own.

It's over now (unfortunately), but that may be just as well, since the body can take only so much stimulus in such a concentrated period of time. Yet again, Montelago has given us something to remember and something to look forward to, and as it has done over the past 10 years, it delivered ... in spades. 

Except that now Maurizio, Luciano and the rest of the organizers have raised the bar across the board - from the headliners to the supporting acts, and the magnetic novelty of Mortimer Pub (a big success). Makes one want 2013 to come along as soon as it possibly can.

gach Montelago clocha sneachta!

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