- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

When the members of Gaelic Storm arrive on stage Sunday night at the Birchmere, they will bring their brand of rowdy, infectious, contemporary Celtic music. Tagging along is a success story right out of a Hollywood movie or, more precisely, a success story due to a Hollywood movie.
The band had been together for a few months and were playing a weekly gig at an Irish pub when at the end of a typically raucous set, a man approached them. He said their loose, raw style was just what he wanted for a movie he was working on. That project became the blockbuster film "Titanic." Gaelic Storm is the band seen and heard in the movie's steerage class dance party.
In August 1996 the band recorded its music for the film. Then it went back to the pub and waited. It wasn't until December 1997 that the film was released. Everything exploded from there.
"I had no intentions," lead singer and harmonica player Pat Murphy says. "I was working in a bank, and Twiggs [guitarist Steve Twigger] was working for an insurance company. We just played once a week, on a Sunday night. We got the 'Titanic' gig, and away we go."
The group has since recorded three successful CDs and is playing to sell-out crowds at clubs and theaters around the country.
The band has a mix of talents and experience. Mr. Murphy has played piano in some pubs in Ireland. Mr. Twigger and percussionist Shep Lonsdale have been in bands in Britain. Steve Wehmeyer, a native of New York state, started playing bodhran (Irish drum) when he was 10. Fddler Kathleen Keane, who joined the band after the movie, grew up in Chicago and has toured with several well-known Celtic performers.
The band showed two sides of itself on its first two albums. "Gaelic Storm" (1998) had the rowdy energy of its live performances, and "Herding Cats" (1999) showed it could be more than just rowdy. The band's latest album, "Tree" (a joke about the way Mr. Murphy pronounces "three"), is a blend of their first two albums, with some experimenting.
"The new album is very broad," Mr. Murphy says. "It's got some really traditional stuff on it, and then it has definitely more contemporary stuff." Along with strong critical praise, the album has reached the top 10 twice on Billboard's World Music Chart.
The group uses a wide range of instruments, including the usual tin whistle and button accordion and the unusual bouzouki (Greek mandolin), the didgeridoo (Australian horn) and the djembe (African drum).
Drums, Celtic and otherwise, are an important part of Gaelic Storm's distinctive sound.
"I think another reason this feels more contemporary is because of the drum beats; that's Shep Lonsdale's percussion," Mr. Murphy says. Between Mr. Lonsdale's modern percussion and Mr. Wehmeyer's more traditional bodhran, there are extra layers and unique rhythms that give Gaelic Storm a special feel and energy.
Anyone who has joined a rowdy singalong in an Irish pub knows the basic appeal of Celtic music. Something in the rhythms and the life that Gaelic Storm brings to its selection of jigs, reels, pub songs and originals takes it to another level.
"Once you see the live show, it's always full of energy," Mr. Murphy says with a touch of a brogue and laughs. "We were bodysurfing in Dubuque a few weeks ago. Two of us just dived off the stage into the audience: bodysurfing to Irish music."
Gaelic Storm can also be seen Monday and Tuesday at the Ram's Head in Annapolis.

Playing at Blues Alley tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday is another musician with boundless energy. Kenny Garrett is one of the best known and distinctive alto saxophone players in mainstream jazz. Not only has he played with jazz legends such as Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis, but also rock idols Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Bruce Springsteen.
A Kenny Garrett Quartet concert can touch an array of themes and styles. The basis for a piece can come from Far Eastern melodies, church hymns, tangos, hip-hop or just experimenting with time signature. Anything is ripe for jazz improvisation in the hands of Mr. Garrett and his band. All of it is infused with his grace, energy and optimism.
Mr. Garrett needed all those qualities during the recording of his most recent album, "Happy People." The first day of recording was September 11. Mr. Garrett and the band debated whether to go on with the session. It was decided that the best way to deal with the emotions was to play music. There was a feeling that people were going to need Mr. Garrett's music.


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