March 1, 2003

Failte! Croeso! Degemer Mat! Welcome!

Pan-Celtic Harmonies

IONA ashington-based IONA treated our audience to their high energy entertainment featuring Highland pipes, driving percussion, strong vocals, and the dynamic visual of dance from all the Celtic nations, including America. Presenting the music and dance of all the Celtic countries — Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Asturies and Galicia — IONA emphasizes that America is not only the repository of all these cultural influences, but also the progenitor of many of its own. Audiences are encouraged to clog along, or dance Breton line dances, and join in singing.

ne of the top rated pan-Celtic groups in the world, IONA is Barbara Ryan (lead vocals, Celtic bouzouki, guitars and bodhrán), Bernard Argent (wooden flute, whistles, doumbek, back-up vocals), and one of the finest Highland pipers in the U.S., Bob Mitchell, who also plays small pipes and percussion, as well as Chuck Lawhorn on 6-string bass guitar, whistles and vocals, and dancer Susan Walmsley.

has released seven albums, the most recent of which, Birken Tree, has received rave reviews world-wide.

IONAarbara's vocals have been described as "smooth and sweet as dark honey". A folk singer in the 60's, she studied voice for 10 years, and has been a vocal coach ever since. Barbara's vocals are IONA's mainstay. She has accompanied herself on guitar since she was 12, and enjoys experimenting with different tunings. In 1983 she acquired her first bodhrán (Irish drum). Now the proud owner of 3, she is a skilled and effective percussionist. Her most recent instrumental contribution is a four course Celtic bouzouki. Barbara has performed throughout the British Isles and Brittany, at concerts and festivals all over the U.S. with IONA, and has sung for Voice Of America broadcasts, and for the National Geographic Explorer Special. She and Bernard have gained international recognition as the organizers of the Potomac Celtic Festival. They also organize the Winter Concerts at the Old Brogue.

IONAernard Argent is IONA's charming historian and yarn spinner. He studied music through much of his youth and at university in England. After performing in several orchestras on trumpet, he ventured into folk realms as a blues guitarist. Inspired by the renaissance of Celtic music in the ‘70's, he took up the tin whistle and progressed to wooden flute, which have become as much a trademark of IONA's sound as Barbara's vocals. Bernard also backs the group on doumbek and occasionally on guitar. He is the bass in IONA's "precise and pretty" harmonies. He and Barbara travel extensively through the Celtic lands, collecting material for their repertoire and his scholarly interjections...

IONAob's Highland Pipes provide the drive behind IONA's sound, while his subtler Shuttle pipes enhance the group's lyrical qualities. Bob and IONA have played together in various capacities since 1986. Featured as a guest artist on IONA's 1994 album Holding Our Own, he became a permanent member in 1997. Bob, who has been piping since age nine, has also performed at several Rod Stewart concerts, and for President Reagan and the Prime Minister of Ireland. Creator and director of the Dunloggin Pipe Band, Bob has won innumerable awards over the years in solo piping competitions, and as a Pipe Major.

IONAusan Walmsley adds her Highland Dance to IONA's concerts. She brings a grace and sureness to the steps which are only found in someone who has been dancing since she was 7. Prior to founding the Something Scottish Dance School in Alexandria, VA, Susan competed at almost every major Highland Games in the Eastern US. Susan adds a new and exciting visual dimension to IONA's dynamic performance, building the energy of the music, and illustrating its drive with her accompaniment.

Praises for their performances:

  • "Dedicated to preserving and reinterpreting traditional music of the Celts, Iona's Barbara Ryan, Bernard Argent, Bob Mitchell, Chuck Lawhorn and Susan Walmsley collectively serve as a stepping stone between the past and the present ... a winning combination of verve and soulfulness"
      Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

    Link to their web site

Our open mike tonight featured solo performances by James O'Malley, Antoinette, Dick Morrison, Two For the Road, Alan Michaelson, Ed Wernersbach, David Fersh, Annie Mark, Gary Schoenberger, and Kenny Baum.

If you weren't here tonight, you missed yet another of the very best programs of the year ...