LEWISTON – Bates College students will discuss their project researching the evolution of Celtic music in Atlantic Canada and Southern Appalachia at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, in the college’s Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Ave.

Presented by the Office of the Dean of Faculty at Bates, the program by Sarah Mazur, Renee Blacken and Kathryn Moore is open to the public at no charge. For more information, call 207-786-6255.

Mazur, a Bates junior from Winooski, Vt., and Moore, a sophomore from Pelham, N.H., received a 2004 Phillips Student Fellowship for a project titled “The Evolution of Celtic Music and Culture in the Canadian Maritime Provinces and Southern Appalachia.”

Blacken, a senior from Ithaca, N.Y., accompanied the pair on their summer 2004 research trip and will take part in the presentation. All three are folk musicians who have performed at Bates and in the community.

Carried by immigrants from the British Isles starting in the 17th century, the Celtic musical tradition came into North America through regions, including Atlantic Canada and Southern Appalachia. Mazur and Moore wanted to better understand how the musical currents evolved over time and under the influence of other traditions.

“We wanted to see the diverging paths that Celtic music has taken in these different parts of the world,” said Moore. “You can hear that a reel from Cape Breton is not at all like the same tune played in an old-time style.”

“We also wanted to see the attitudes people had toward the music, so we did a lot of observing and questioning. It’s surprising how much it can vary from place to place.”

The three started their journey in the Blue Ridge Mountains in June, attending festivals and other events, including the Friday jam sessions at the Todd General Store in Todd, N.C. During the next two months they visited West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York state, Monhegan Island, Cape Breton Island and St. John, Newfoundland.

“At most of the festivals we camped out next to fellow musicians,” said Mazur. “We made friends and connections, did interviews, learned songs, recorded vast amounts of music and took pictures. Our goal was to immerse ourselves in whatever music scene we were visiting.”

Moore plays mandolin, concertina and the Irish drum called the bodhran. Mazur plays guitar and fiddle, and Blacken is an accomplished fiddler, banjoist and step-dancer. The three will perform on Dec. 2 as well as discuss their research findings.

“We aim to make apparent the differences between the four main styles we explored – old-time, bluegrass, Cape Breton and Newfoundland,” said Mazur. “We’ll then suggest reasons why they’re so different when they all have Celtic roots.”

The degree to which the Celtic immigrants were isolated from other influences in the New World “has a great effect on the sound of the music today,” Mazur said. “For example, mixing with African cultures in the South gave old-time music a very different sound from that of Cape Breton, where the music remained almost purely Scottish.”

“The experience was amazing,” Mazur said. “Everywhere we visited people were excited to see us and take us into their homes. People were very open to our research and were often eager to teach us songs and learn about our own musical tradition.”

“This was the best summer of my life,” Moore added.

Phillips Student Fellowships support students who design exceptional international or cross-cultural projects focusing on research, service-learning, career exploration or a combination of the three. The Phillips Student Fellowships, Phillips Faculty Fellowships and Phillips Professorships are part of the Phillips Endowment Program, an initiative of awards, honors and opportunities funded by a $9 million endowment bequest made to Bates in 1999 by Charles F. Phillips, fourth president of the college, and his wife, Evelyn Minard Phillips.


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