For about 8 years we have been attending the Almonte Celtfest held in July each year in beautiful Gemmill Park. Motivated by a love of Celtic heritage, a friend of mine Terry Currie with 2 others founded this festival as a way of keeping their musical traditions alive and to pass on the legacy of Celtic heritage to the wider community. Fiddling and step dancing have a strong presence in the Ottawa Valley as Celtic music continues to thrive in kitchens, pubs, churches, backyards and festivals.
Not to be missed also is the unique “fiddle Mass” held in the Holy Name of Mary Parish on the Sunday morning during the festival. Our friends Glenn and Betty Clarke first started coming up. They have a large RV which they park in the church parking lot. They started inviting us and others and we have have kept up the tradition most years. The first year, I mistakenly drove from Barrhaven to Smith Falls thinking that was near Almonte. Betty still laughs about this! Now living in Arnprior, we know much better where Almonte is.
We attended on Saturday this year expecting more rain and the sun came out, thanks to Liam. Anna Ludlow, a fiddler, vocalist and guitar player originally from Antigonish, NS was the star performer. She had everyone up and dancing … in the mud. We had a good time watching all the kids sliding face first in the mud. Never have we seen this here before!
Another perennial favorite is Louis Schreyer, world champion fiddler from Chapeau, QC. He performed with Erin Leahy and 2 others. I still remember their stunning concert together here last year. Betty and Glenn are hosting them at a house concert in September. Last year they hosted Anna Ludlow in a great private concert event in their backyard.
We are blessed to have the Clarkes as close friends and to get to go to the Celtfest with them each year. Hopefully the mud will dry up in time for next year’s festival! Highly recommend (more info.)