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Unique culture reflected in “Celtic Christmas” at the Chief

Lisa Ruff/For Steamboat Today
Known as a renowned Celtic fiddle player, Jessie Burns has traveled the world bringing her talent to a wide variety of audiences. This Saturday, she will be back in Steamboat Springs to present "A Celtic Christmas" at 7 p.m. at the Chief Theater.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

What: Jessie Burns presents: A Celtic Christmas

When: Doors/bar opens 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: $20

— Music is a reflection of the culture that produces it. Celebration and conflict resonate in the instruments that give voice to a people and their history.

With a degree in anthropology from the University of Durham in England, Jessie Burns knows that fact on an academic level. But as a master fiddler. who has travelled the world with such power-house, multi-national bands as Gaelic Storm, Burns is the very embodiment of the music she performs.

Burns returns to Steamboat and the Chief Theater on Saturday, Dec. 10 for “Celtic Christmas” with fellow band mates Beth Gadbaw on Irish drums, Adam Agee on fiddle, Eric Thorin on double bass and Frederic Pouille on bass guitar.

“This is bound to be a sold-out show,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief.

Burns is enormously popular with Steamboat audiences and promises to pack the house, Parker said.

“We are so excited to play the Chief,” Burns said. “Each time we come, the theater is more and more beautiful, and the experience only gets better.”

Burns’ roots in the Yampa Valley go back to 1998 when she founded and played with the band Shenanigans, comprised of local musicians Von Wilson, Bob Schaffer, John Aviza and Greg Zulevich. The band was a Steamboat favorite until 2002, when Burns left to pursue the Boulder music scene.

A self-described mix of English, Irish and American cultures, “Celtic Christmas” explores the folk music of each of these countries.

“My family is a mix of different cultures,” explained Burns. Her grandparents immigrated to England to escape the troubles of a divided Ireland. Her grandfather was an Irish Protestant, and her grandmother was an Irish Catholic.

“Music ties together different parts of my family,” Burns added.

According to Burns, the Christmas concert represents the music of the seven Celtic nations — Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Mann, Wales, Cornwall and Galicia in northwestern Spain.

“It’s the music of the people,” she said. “It was an oral tradition, passed down by ear. Many people could not afford printed music, so the music was passed down generationally and geographically.”

Parker agreed that the folk origin of Celtic music is what makes it so relatable.

“Most of the songs come with a story — when it was written, why it was written,” Parker said.

He added that Burns’ performances are special because she takes the time to tell the stories that inspired the songs —stories of love, loss and celebration.

“I lived in Asia, backpacked around Africa and all around Europe,” Burns said. “Most of the time, I travelled with my fiddle. There was an Irish community everywhere I went. Music is such a strong cultural piece. It’s part of how we look out for each other” said Burns.


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