A Revival of Reels and Jigs: Ceilidh, Anyone? The dictionary defines ceilidh as a social evening or a party with music and dancing. These days, however, a ceilidh features a band playing jigs, reels, hornpipes and polkas and a caller who keeps the dances flowing. The ceilidh revival is drawing in a new, young crowd.
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A Revival of Reels and Jigs: Ceilidh, Anyone?

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A Revival of Reels and Jigs: Ceilidh, Anyone?

A Revival of Reels and Jigs: Ceilidh, Anyone?

A Revival of Reels and Jigs: Ceilidh, Anyone?

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The dictionary defines ceilidh as a social evening or a party with music and dancing. These days, however, a ceilidh features a band playing jigs, reels, hornpipes and polkas and a caller who keeps the dances flowing. The ceilidh revival is drawing in a new, young crowd.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The dictionary defines ceilidh as a Gaelic word meaning a social event or a party with music and dancing. Today the ceilidh is experiencing a revival with a young crowd leading the jigs, reels and polkas.

Our commentator Chris Nixon has been investigating.

(Soundbite of music)

CHRIS NIXON: (Unintelligible) Ceilidh is packed was sweaty, joyful and young people.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: This is the Climax Ceilidh Band. They're helping revitalize an old sound. They bring a sophisticated propulsive grandeur to the music that keeps the dances moving. And if you're hearing touches of rock and roll in there, thank group founder Richard Jones. He came to roots music by rock and leading a stint with ‘70s hit makers the Climax Blues Band.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: The range of ceilidh is wide and it's become very popular. And the full sound of the Climax Ceilidh Band is a long way from the barebones of fiddle and melody of Spiers and Boden. But they're one of the hottest duos in folk, earthy and rich but with a relentless dance sensibility.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: That might sound basic, but it's several long steps from where ceilidh used to be. For many years it rested on the staid end of the folk spectrum. Think of a very prim square dance. Country dances were held in village halls and the music was raw and rural, drawn from many sources.

Polkas, for instance, originated with the music played at fun fairs that arrived from Germany. They were heard and regurgitated, half remembered and half improvised by local musicians.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: The old core of accordion fiddle stays at the heart of today's ceilidh music, but above that anything goes. From bagpipes to saxophone to Latin percussion, everything is grist to the mill. The band Heckedy, for example, top everything off with some nimble clarinet work.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: Ceilidh music began its comeback about ten years ago, and many of today's musicians are in their 30s, having come of age with it. Then there are those who've grown up with the new country dance music. Kerfuffle are a fine example of musicians who've been shaped by the scene. The music is stunning and the playing almost virtuosic. Yet the oldest member's only just passed his teens.

(Soundbite of music)

NIXON: The Ceilidh revival began in the unlikeliest of places, Sheffield, an industrial city in the north of England. The university folk club there found its monthly dances so popular that it morphed into the Ceilidh Society and the dances became more regular.

These days, dances around the country are more like clubs or raves, with people dancing all over the place. And when you hear the full throated brass of the wonderfully named womp weasel, it's easy to understand why ceilidh is getting more and more people moving.

SIEGEL: Our commentator is Chris Nixon.

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