Celtic band The Fire Inside makes simply complex tunes

April 5, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Irish music lithely springs from its instruments during reels, jigs and pub songs.

The Fire Inside, a local Celtic band, entertains diners at Vino Bella in Issaquah on St. Patrick’s Day. Contributed

“I like it because it’s actually quite simplistic, but you can make it complex,” Issaquah violinist Tami Curtis said. “It’s just plain fun. It puts a smile on your face.”

Curtis and six other local musicians, living in an area stretching from Issaquah to the Snoqualmie Valley and up to Redmond, have formed a Celtic band named The Fire Inside.

The band is the brainchild of Carol Whitaker, of Fall City. Whitaker played for an informal group, and she knew several other people who played in bands about town. She wanted to play more challenging Celtic music, so she took her flute and penny whistle and formed a group of her own this past winter.

“She’s British and bossy and really cool,” Curtis said.

During rehearsal, Greg Stearns, an Irishman living in North Bend, gave a speech about how the Celtic band had potential.

“He said, ‘Despite our age and getting on in the years, we still are in possession of the fire inside,’” Curtis remembered.

As soon as the words had left his mouth — in his deep Irish accent, no less — the entire band agreed The Fire Inside would be an excellent name for the group.

The Fire Inside plays songs from all across the British Isles, including Welsh music and Scottish tunes — “It’s all Celtic,” Curtis said.

At a show at Issaquah’s Vino Bella wine bar on St. Patrick’s Day, the band passed out sheet music so the audience could sing along.

“Everybody can belt out some portion of ‘Danny Boy,’” Curtis said. “It’s just so much more of a rich experience if the audience can sing along.”

Michael Hurtenbach, of Snoqualmie, plays the concertina, an instrument like a small accordion. He used to play the guitar, but stopped after he developed arthritis.

“I couldn’t play the (guitar) chords very well,” he said. “I went through several different instruments” before finding the concertina.

His fingers are able to play the concertina’s buttons and push and pull at the bellows. Though the concertina keeps his hands occupied, it frees up his voice, and he sang a vibrant version of “Marie’s Wedding” at Vino Bella, all while wearing a kilt.

“I love Irish music and it’s a common instrument in Irish music,” Hurtenbach said.

The group practices weekly and is putting about 40 songs to memory so it can mesmerize its fans and know the music inside and out.

The feat is not as hard as it sounds, Whitaker said, as Irish music melodies tend to repeat themselves within a song.

“The more I learn, the faster I’m getting,” she said.

The tricky part is learning the fingering and flourishes at breakneck speed on a penny whistle — “a tiny little pipe with six holes,” Whitaker said.

The classically trained flutist is taking the challenge head on, and she and the other players — Greg Stearns, David Edfeldt, Daniel Horn and Susan Lawrence — invited the community to come sing along with The Fire Inside at its upcoming shows.

On the Web

Hear The Fire Inside online. Go to www.youtube.com and search for ‘The Fire Inside Celtic at Vino Bella, Issaquah.’ Find the band on Facebook, too.

If you go

8-9:30 p.m. April 23, St. George’s Day

  • Zeeks Pizza
  • 2525 N.E. Park Drive

7-10 p.m. May 14

  • Maple Valley Creative Arts Council Open Mic
  • 23220 Maple Valley Highway S.E., Suite 15

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 30

  • Issaquah Farmers Market
  • Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W.

4-5:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Festival at Mt. Si

  • Si View Community Center
  • 400 S.E. Orchard Drive, North Bend

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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