Johnstown—The Billboard topping Celtic band Gaelic Storm will be at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The band has been touring North America and will be bringing a whole lot of Irish music to the center.
Gaelic Storm started playing together for friends in Santa Monica, Calif. in 1995. They hit all time popularity when appeared in James Cameron’s Titanic as the Celtic party band in the ships steerage. In a telephone interview, one of the band’s founders, Steve Twigger from Coventry, England, said they really did not audition for the part in the movie.
“They found us. We were playing at a festival in Los Angeles and they saw the spontaneity of our audience as we played,” he said.
The group is comprised of Twigger, guitarist-singer, along with Patrick Murphy, Cork, Ireland, the lead singer, accordion player and resident Irishman. The two musicians have been playing together for the past 12 years. Rounding out the quintet are Ryan Lacey from Pasadena, Calif., a percussionist and band member since 2003, Peter Purvis of Ottawa, Canada, who plays the pipes and whistles since joining Gaelic Storm in 2004 and violinist Jessie Burns, Suffolk, England, a band member since 2007.
“We have had a few changes over the years, but I think this is a great lineup, one of the best we have ever had,” Twigger said.
There have been changes in the band since they first started, but the one thing that has been consistent has been Gaelic Storm’s appreciation of their fans.
“The fans have always sort of been the other member of the band,” he said. “Every night we get we get off the stage and go and meet them. Maybe share a beer at their local watering hole. We like to hear their stories and talk to them. I think the most gratifying part of the day is to get out on stage and see a 1,000 people singing along with you.”
He attributes his love of their fans as growing up in the “pub atmosphere. I guess you could say it is a social atmosphere, where whomever you are elbowing up to at the bar, you engage in conversation. You never know who those people are and what stories they have to share.”
As many top songwriters, Twigger draws on a multitude of experiences for ideas for his music.
“I like to read novels and like to imagine scenes and put myself in them. Whenever an interesting person or place or event happens I kind of lock it away and hopefully it comes out somewhere down the line,” he said.
Twigger writes most of the songs on their albums, though he does admit Murphy provides many of the funny quips. He describes much of his music as being “happy” though a few songs on their latest album “Cabbage” are “nostalgic.” Twigger, as the primary songwriter in the band, produced “Cabbage,” one of their seven albums, with co-production by percussionist Lacey.
“I co-wrote some of the songs with Murphy and Steve Wehmeyer, one of the original members of the band,” he said.
The album has been a success, holding the number one position on the Billboard World Music Album Chart for three consecutive weeks in 2010. “Cabbage” is further testament of the band’s contagious energy, combing influences from rock, bluegrass, Jamaican, African and Middle Eastern music that may surprise listeners expecting purely traditional Celtic music.
The band takes a distinct pride in the fact that its music and performances are a celebration of Irish culture as well as a medium of connection for many of the 36 million Irish-Americans who have at least some Irish blood in them. Twigger said they have been living in America for so many years, that it influenced their musical style.
“We love America. It has given us so much opportunity. Of course we love the place we come from, that comes through in our songs, sort of married together,” he said.
Asked what he sees for the band in the future, he reflected, “We have already exceeded every goal we have set for ourselves. We just want to play for more people. As I said, it is a thrill to have people sing the words of our songs back to you. It is such a sense of community and coming together.
“For a few hours a night, you can take people away from their troubles and give them a good time,” he said. “We will keep going. Honestly, it continues to grow. Our numbers are up 20 to 30 percent and it is exciting and fun and we will keep doing it honestly until we drop.”
For tickets, contact the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center box office at 269-7200 or 800-846-2787.