Winter has come – Arjan

MWF omslag A cold but beautiful winter-morning. With sunglasses on and singing along loudly to some great folk sounds playing on the car stereo I’m on my way to one of the last large events of the year, the Midwinter Fair at Archeon in Alphen aan de Rijn in the Netherlands. I can’t wait to see my folk-family again, to feel that feeling of home that is so different from all other “homes” yet always feels so familiar.

Archeon is an open air history museum covering roughly the time period from the stone age up to medieval times. Its collection of buildings, from bronze age farms through a Roman bath house and inn, all the way to a medieval cloister, provide such a great backdrop for this festival that you can just imagine yourself actually being transported back to these earlier times.

Upon arrival the first thing that you notice, apart from the very friendly staff, is the wonderful smell of wood-fires burning everywhere. It is after all a Midwinter Fair, so some added heat is required. Every few hundred meters there is a fire burning, with extra wood supplied, so that if you want you can build the fire a bit higher to warm up. This combined with so many happy people, many of which are clad in stunning costumes, makes the cold air fade to the background and warms the heart.

Picture by Kees Stravers

Picture by Kees Stravers

Right at the entrance we were greeted by the musicians of Datura. Welcome home! After a quick chat it was off to our first performance indoors for the day, Sowulo in the cloister. As we have come to expect from this band this was a heart-warming and soothing performance, with their spiritually inspired sounds blending perfectly with the smell of incense and a candle lit room. Ok, I know there was electric lighting as well, but the were candles and I’m trying to convey a feeling here, give me a break


Picture by Kees Stravers

Picture by Kees Stravers

After this performance there was a little bit of time to walk around to sniff the atmosphere and get some quick lunch, after which it was time to get back to that same cloister for a show by Einar Selvik, best known for being the man behind the formation of Wardruna. During the show the emphasis is not so much on the music itself, but heavily on the stories and the lore behind the instruments and the poetry. Einar performs with a passion for the music, and he certainly succeeds in conveying that passion onto the audience. I’ve been looking and thinking hard to find the correct words to describe the performance. Moving, touching, emotional, these come close but don’t do it much justice. Best way to describe it is: Do yourself a favour and go to one (or many) of his performances!

Picture by Kees Stravers

Picture by Kees Stravers

The stage was quickly converted for the next sound-check and performance. Kaunan is a new formation, these were their first performances, but with very experienced musicians. It’s a new side project by Oliver s. Tyr from FAUN, playing Nordic Folk in somewhat of a more old school style than his more modern musical endeavours. Great music to sit and listen to, but also to dance to! As they are so new they do not yet have any music recorded, but as soon as they have an album you can be sure we will add it to our play-list!

Picture by Kees Stravers

Picture by Kees Stravers

After this we walked around for a bit and as so often happens we met so many old and new friends that we missed a lot of performances. Unfortunately we can’t be in more than one or two places at a time. The evening then turned to a more personal note as we attended a beautiful handfasting. Well, I, Arjan, attended, as Alex was actually the one getting handfasted. 😉

And then the first festival day ended with a smashing show by The Dolmen at the Roman inn. Hard hitting pagan rockers from Britain, these guys, and girl of course, always know how to make a party! They almost blew the roof with their great music and experienced showmanship!


The second day started surprisingly similar to the first one, all be it rather late after an impressive Saturday, we overslept, we’re only human 😉 Sowulo is a band we can easily visit twice in one weekend, so that was our chosen method of waking up. Besides being great musicians they are also just amazing people and good friends, so a nice chat ended up in us stepping across the threshold for the next performance just as they played their last note. But the guys and girl of Pyrolysis were nice people too, so we agreed that they would give us a little heads up right before their next, and final, performance of the day so that we could see them live.

Picture by Kees Stravers

Picture by Kees Stravers

Quick lunchtime again and then back to the cloister for L.E.A.F.. Their show on the previous day at the Roman inn had been plagued by technical difficulties, resulting in a short performance. Not so on this Sunday. No matter how often you see these amazing musicians perform, their desire to reach perfection shows every time, and it’s always a joy to experience. Surprising to me, yet very fitting, were their renditions of songs by Trolska Polska and Virelai. A feast for the ears! Somehow, organically, the room divided itself. People were sitting and listening right in front of the stage, where left from the stage a sort of dance area formed. To the right there was room for those who came in a bit too late to sit down to stand, and so everyone could get the full effect of the show that they wanted!

With only a short thirty minutes before the next performance, again in the cloister, we raced out to do some shopping, because let’s face it, how can you go to a fair and not buy something like for instance some great mead for back home? We made it back just in time for the start of this day’s performance by Kaunan. Oliver s. Tyr (DE), Göran Hallmarken (SE) and Boris Koller (AUT) used their self-described “archaic” instruments to create an atmosphere that completely fitted the theme of the fair for this year, Vikings. With eyes closed the cloister almost turned into a longhouse and I would definitely love to see an extended show of this great new group!

Picture by Don Bakhuizen

Picture by Don Bakhuizen

Right after this performance we received the heads up I mentioned earlier, that Pyrolysis was about to start their final show, so it was off to the Roman bath house which by this time was filled with candles. Originally formed in 2010 as a folk-punk band these four guys and one girl play a very good acoustic set and we had loads of fun listening to them. It was extremely hard to keep myself from moving along to the music while I was trying to record some video. Work of their own, and well known traditionals, it was just pure fun being there!

A race back to, yet again, the cloister, because Einar Selvik was playing again. And judging by the crowd, many people had heard of his amazing performance the day before, because the cloister was pretty much full. The performance itself was just as moving as it was on Saturday, but being able to share that with such a large group of people was amazing. The emotions that Einar placed in his music and his singing reverberated through the entire crowd and probably also back to him, as this was fast becoming one of the most touching shows ever. After it was over, which was way too soon, there was a well-deserved standing ovation, and there were many people, including the both of us, left in tears from the massive emotional roller-coaster. Thank you Einar, thank you so very much for this experience!

20141207-001 Campfire Coming down from this emotional high we unfortunately missed the closing act of the fair, Rapalje. A shame, because these guys know how to make a party! Fortunately the CeltCast family extends beyond just the two of us, so I’m glad to report that the Roman inn was packed full from front to back, with everybody dancing and moving along to the music. With candles on all the tables and that typical Rapalje madness it certainly was a party!

This is however somewhat of a continuous thread through the Midwinter Fair, albeit a positive one. There is so much to be seen, in so little time, that you are bound to miss some great shows and events. And that’s just the music! How about the many stands selling all sorts of lovely things, the story tellers, the costumes, the Kid’s Quest, the LARP’ers, the wedding chapel, just too much to talk about without this report turning into a book 😉 I guess in the end there’s just one more thing to say. It has been an amazing weekend, and we are already looking forward to next year’s Midwinter Fair!

– Arjan

Pictures courtesy of:

Kees Stravers

Don Bakhuizen

My FaerieCon Weekend – Miles

Old friend of the Folk scene, and of CeltCast, Miles Batty went to Faeriecon East last weekend and wrote a great review, for us to share with you! Would you also like to be an occasional contributor? Write a concert, festival or album review and we might just publish it! 😀

– Tuesday the 11th of November 2014, Oregon.

Brief obligatory introduction:
I’m Miles, an occasional contributor to CeltCast – Community Radio, and I’d promised Alex, station co-founder, a review of FaerieCon and the concerts. So here you are!

FaerieCon In March of this year, 2014. I learned that Omnia was coming to FaerieCon East, a fantasy-themed convention on the east coast. I looked at our projected bank balance, then quickly ignored it. “It’s Omnia,” I told my girlfriend, “and Faun. And Woodland. And SJ Tucker. At the same event. We’re going!” And plans were made.

Red Dragon We arrived at the hotel at about noon on Friday, and I saw a few familiar faces, gave and received hugs, and checked into the room. Quick costume change, and off to join the burgeoning madness. I was carrying my red dragon arm puppet, who goes by the name of “N’Aflawen Ddraig Goch ap Machynlleth.” (If you’ve been studying your Welsh, you’ll know that that translates to “The Fierce Red Dragon from Machynlleth” – a real town, where I spent my childhood years.)

Fur The convention itself was remarkable. SO much talent! Costumes you’d only dream of, and spirits and enthusiasm and verve enough to make anyone believe in magic. Within an hour, I felt as if I was in a world of fantasy, and I was in love with every part of it. During the next three days, I took, or had taken, dozens of pictures. I must give credit to my friend Jeremy Durant, who took far better pictures of the concerts than I ever could. He’s the above fellow with the big horns, seemingly startled by a small dragon.

Fae We wandered about the hotel, visited the merchant’s halls, met more people, and waited with delighted anticipation for the first of three concerts of the weekend, SJ Tucker, opening for Faun.

Sooj SJ Tucker, if you don’t know her, is an American musician with an *unbelievable* voice. SJ, also known as “Sooj”, is friendly, articulate, talented beyond human reckoning, and a delight to listen to. You can experience her for yourself by going to her website. To give you an idea of her musical skill, go to the albums page and click on the Sirens album, and play the song Carousel. She throws herself effortlessly off a musical precipice and never loses her way. That was recorded in 2006. She’s even better now.

Sooj, along with her cellist Betsy Tinney and percussionist Ken Crampton, entertained for the better part of an hour, taking her audience through a mystical wonderland of magic, delight, whimsy, thunderstorms and alligators.

FAUN I Then after a brief intermission, FAUN took to the stage. Fog machines spilled clouds into the room and coloured lights and banners fluttered, turning the room into an enchanted landscape.

The crowd was very soon dancing to music that…. well, it’s Faun, you know their music. If you don’t, shame on you. Beautiful, ethereal, mystical, mediaeval, enchanting…. I joined in the dance, my feet often leaving the ground and my heartbeat at one with the captivating sound that carried us all away. Cello, lute, bhodran and hurdy gurdy and drums and voices and bells kept the magic alive for much of the evening.

FAUN II I was not alone in noticing that the crowd of 1200 people dancing to their music was making the light rig shake overhead, and the floor was bouncing, literally, beneath our feet. At one point I spun around and lost my balance, and crashed into some fellow who was likewise enjoying the music. I glanced up and apologized to the fellow I’d almost knocked over… Steve, from Omnia. “S’alright, mate,” he said easily, “It’s Faun.” What a way to meet the man for the first time!

It was close to midnight when Faun completed their third encore, and finally departed the stage. I joined the crowd spilling out of the ballroom, still lost in the enchantment of their music and not yet willing to return to the real world. But of course it was FaerieCon, the ‘real’ world was very far away. N’Aflawen and I called it a night by one o’clock, and I found my way to a soft world of orphic chorus.

Miles On Saturday morning I dressed in my satyr attire, with horns, ears, hooves and tail. I made my way to the merchants hall, where one table offered face painting. I became even more transformed into a satyr, and set about enjoying the day.

The doors to the Woodland and Omnia show were set to open at 8, and the line started forming at 6:30. By 7:45, the line snaked from the ballroom foyer, past the restaurant, through the lobby, and half a mile down the guest room hallways. So many people!! So many stunning costumes! More than once, as I walked the line meeting people, I heard voices musically lamenting their inability to speak human…

The doors opened at 8:15, and the crowd surged into the ballroom. Most of us, myself included, had never seen Woodland or Omnia perform live before, and we knew we were in for a very special evening. Sadly, we exceeded the room’s legal capacity, and the Fire Marshal order that nobody else be allowed in. So if you were one of the poor folk who left the ballroom to use the bathroom and found yourself unable to re-enter, that’s why.

Woodland Woodland took the stage at about 8:30, and gave the audience a wonderful taste of their talent and music. Primarily acoustic, with guitar, lute, cello, didgeridoo and drums, they wove a sonic veil of enchantment and mystery throughout the ballroom. Emilio and Kelly headline a wonderfully skilled, diverse musical band, well worth your time.

Omnia - Steve At 9:30, the lights dimmed again and the crowd became restless, knowing what was to follow. Omnia took to the stage soon after, and took the enthusiasm of the crowd to even higher levels. If you’ve heard that the band is ‘animated’, you’ve been misinformed. They are so much more than that. Steve and Jenny and Daphyd and new guitarist Satrya danced and cavorted and played and spun with such enthusiasm, I think poor Rob was the only one in the entire whole hotel still sitting down, and that only because he had to play his drums.

Omnia - Stenny Daphyd’s sliding didgeridoo often extended eight-ish feet over the crowd, or else swung wildly over Steve’s head as they cavorted and capered back and forth upon the stage, his booming bass a counterpoint to Steve’s unstoppable pennywhistle. Jenny danced between harp and bodhran and keyboard, like a beautiful sprite in love with the whole world. The music flowed, Omnia and their fans danced and sang, the ballroom itself was alive with the music… there was not a soul unchanged. Omnia’s music does that to people. During the performance of “We don’t speak human”, hearing a thousand people shout at the evils of industry and greed, is a magic to behold.

Omnia played until nearly midnight, returning for three encores. During the final song, Morrigan, Daphyd split his lip on the didgeridoo but continued to play, his mouth bloodied but his spirit unfettered.

Steve - Miles After the concert, still afloat on the wave of music, I chatted with friends awhile, then made my way to the bar to see if I could talk briefly with the band on behalf of CeltCast. I had my phone with me, of course, and tried to record a brief interview with Daphyd and Rob. (Daphyd’s lip was fine by then, and he was laughing about it.) Sadly the recording on my phone was a garbled mess of bar chatter, so no recorded interview. Sorry Alex!! For the record, Rob did say he thought the audience was dynamite, and that he really appreciates having all of the amenities of a hotel in one building. No hiking half a mile to pee. And Daphyd gave a very brief, humorous a capella soundbite for Celtcast, sadly lost in the garble.

I introduced myself to Steve as the man who crashed into him the previous night, and we took a quick selfie. After a day of cavorting and dancing, my facepaint was no longer as clear as it had been hours earlier… I told Steve our picture looked like “a terrorist and a convict”, and he enthusiastically agreed.

Micheál - Miles Micheál Ó Laoghaire from Ravengrove Radio recognized me from my days at Wyldwood. “Miles!” he called out. “Good to finally meet you!”

When the bar closed at 2 am, Steve and Jenny invited everyone back to their room to continue the party, myself included. As we made our way through the hotel, Jenny observed with amusement that only Americans call the ground floor of a hotel the ‘first floor’. “The first floor is above the ground floor, don’t they know that? It’s so silly.” Steve turned and spread his arms wide, a grin on his face. “You know who’s silly? Not only Americans. Everyone! All of us mutant monkeys. Humans, such a silly race.”

Up in the hotel room, I chatted with Micheal, Christen Marie and Steve, while Philip and Emilio, and Stephan and Oliver from Faun played an acoustic jam. (Personal note: I *really* like the hurdy gurdy sound. Oh yes.)

Steve commented as we were talking that he and Jenny had both been nursing a fever for a few days now, and he didn’t think the show was as high energy as it could have been. (Are you kidding?! If it was any higher energy they’d have had to replace the roof!)

By about 3 am I was struggling to maintain a vertical position, but the bands were still playing – Micheal says they played until 5 – but I bid farewell, blew Jenny a kiss, and stumbled back to my room.

Woodland Acoustic On Sunday, Woodland played an afternoon acoustic set in the ballroom, again carrying their audience on wings of music and fantasy. I sadly stayed for only half the set, because I had a long drive ahead of me.

Final goodbyes, a host of hugs and farewells and teary eyes, and even more pictures, and we stepped out of the world of Fairie and back into a chilly November day.

What. A. Weekend.

– Miles

The original post can be read at Miles’ blog: “The antlers made me do it
Pictures courtesy of Jeremy Durant


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