CARTHAGE – New England Celtic Arts will kick off its fundraising campaign for the new Skye Theatre Performing Arts Center Thursday, April 24, with a concert of British and Celtic music by the Farmington/Wilton-based group Talisker.

The ground-breaking ceremony and preshow jam will take place at 6:30 p.m. The concert will begin at 7 o’clock.

Skye Theatre will expand its facility from a second-floor, 120-seat acoustic room to a full-size, fully equipped ground-level theater with 200-plus seats. Recent changes in state guidelines require Grange halls, theaters and other places of second-floor assembly to have sprinkler systems, handicapped accessibility and upgraded fire escapes.

“It makes no sense for us to go to great expense to continue on the second floor of the current building when we would not be increasing the size of our seating capacity,” said Phill McIntyre, director of Skye Theatre. “We are sold out on most shows now and our summer season hasn’t even started yet.”

Skye Theatre was started in 2006, thanks to Phill and Jan McIntyre whose passion for Celtic music progressed from being fans to presenting the genre at house concerts and renting venues all over Maine.

“It has grown way beyond our wildest dreams and we need to continue, so this expansion is our only alternative. We’ll be able to comply with all the state regulations and have a state-of-the-art facility as well,” McIntyre said.

“Since we are a grass-roots organization, we will be building with volunteer labor and donations of time, material and dollars from our loyal fan base. Our financial target is $50,000,” he said, noting construction will begin as soon as plans are accepted by the state.

Skye Theatre hosts a mix of New England artists and international performers from Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Britain and Europe. This year’s lineup includes more than 40 concerts of top-named Celtic performers.

“We want to kick off the fundraising campaign with a local group. We think Talisker is the perfect choice because they all have day jobs and perform out of love for the music. That’s how Skye Theatre started, and that’s how we will continue in the future,” McIntyre said.

Traditional and original

Talisker performs traditional and folk music from England, Scotland, Ireland and some original tunes in the folk style by founding members Peter and Donna Campion. The Campions will be joined by John and Kathryn Sytsma, Elaine Eadler and Tree Robbins. They use their own arrangements for vocal and instrumental harmonies and a large assortment of exotic instruments, such as krummhorn, bouzouki, penny whistles, viola da gamba, accordion and bodhran.

Featured will be lively “pub” songs such as “Wild Rover,” ballads such as “Searching for Lambs” and “Windmills” and comic songs by Percy French. The group presents some interesting treatments in some numbers. In “Stolen Child,” for instance, Eadler sings a story of fairies stealing children while Robbins weaves a Yeates poem recitation in and around the instruments and voice.

Sytsma has done vocal arrangements of some of the songs, but most evolve with group members trying out ideas as the songs are rehearsed. The tunes start to take on a character of their own and the creative process is ongoing – including sounds of nature as well as unusual harmonies.

Skye Theater is at 2 Highland Drive off Winter Hill Road and U.S. Route 2. Tickets are $10 at the door. For reservations, call 562-4445. For more information, visit www.necelticarts.com


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