They were having the craic celebrating Irish music at the Columbia Museum of Art on Saturday.
Simply put, craic means fun or good times — but whatever words are used to describe it, there was plenty of toe-tapping good fun as the sound of violins, pipes, flutes and drums filled the air for the S.C. Irish Arts Weekend.
“We have people who come from all over,” said Andi Hearn, who, along with her husband, Davey Mathias, started the festival six years ago.
When not running the Redbird School of Irish Music out of their home in Olympia, the two play traditional Irish music together — her on violin, or “fiddle,” and him on guitar or banjo. The two started the festival as way to bring their love of Irish music to a broader Midlands audience.
“It was the kind of thing we traveled for,” said Hearn. “So we wanted to offer that here.”
The small but immensely popular three-day event, which includes workshops, lectures, mini concerts and group sessions, on Saturday drew people from as far away as Indiana and New Mexico. In fact, out of the 14 gathered for the 10:30 a.m. Irish fiddle workshop, 10 were from out of state.
Many, such as Lillie Morris, of Appling, Ga., and Larry Green, of Bardstown, Ky., know each other from other festivals and gatherings.
“For those of us who are attracted to this music, it’s not a casual attraction,” said Morris, a retired nurse who teaches the fiddle. “It’s very intense.”
It’s also a chance to sit at the knee of those masters bringing tunes straight from the Emerald Isle to South Carolina.
Ireland’s own Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and Mick O’Brien, a fiddle and uilleann pipe duo, opened the weekend with a concert attended by about 100 at Conundrum Music Hall, on Meeting Street in West Columbia. The two are serving as workshop instructors throughout the weekend, giving advice and providing instruction.
“Where else can you go and play music and sit in with the world’s top players?” said Green at the end of his workshop led by O Raghallaigh.
Both Morris and Green said while the love of Irish music can be highly personal, the music also generates social activity in pubs and small gatherings.
“There’s a communion that takes place when we play together,” Green said. “Forty years ago this music was in danger of becoming extinct. So those of us that love it feel a responsibility to keep it going and pass it on.”
Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.