‘Celtica Sinfonia’ celebrates Irish music in Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

‘Celtica Sinfonia’ celebrates Irish music in Vail Valley

Sarah Dixon
Special to the Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyDancers from "Lord of the Dance," State Street Ballet and other companies will join 17 musicians onstage in "Celtica Sinfonia" at the Vilar Center in the Vail Valley Saturday night.

VAIL, Colorado – Four-piece Celtic band Feast, which will be in the Vail Valley Saturday, had been performing together for six years when they were struck with inspiration in the summer of 2008: create a larger production featuring live music and dance. They would call it “Celtica Sinfonia.”

“The words just popped into our heads, and we intuitively felt it would be a good name,” said Tim Mientka, the cellist for Feast who created “Celtica Sinfonia” with his wife, Catie.

“Celtica describing the concept of the show, the kind of music and dance we’re performing. And Sinfonia, to indicate that it’s a larger ensemble, like a symphony,” he said.

Feast debuted the “Celtica Sinfonia” show at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Performing Arts Center in March, 2009. The concept was such a success that Rocky Mountain PBS sent eight cameras to film the performance, which aired live on PBS just last week.

“Celtica Sinfonia” returns to the Vilar Center at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, for an encore staging. The brand new program features 17 musicians playing on stage while dancers from “Lord of the Dance” and California’s State Street Ballet perform alongside them.

“With such a large group of performers, the evening has such variation,” said Mientka. “There’s traditional Celtic step dancing, rockin’ Celtic music, but also some pieces that are more classical in texture.”

One unique aspect of the evening is that the musicians are on stage with the dancers – a proximity not always possible in live dance performances.

“There’s a synergy with this show that is just incredible, it’s so spontaneous,” said Mientka. “When dancers perform to pre-recorded music, they’re locked into a specific choreography. When they’re performing just steps from live musicians, they get a little bit of give and take. They can react to the music real-time, and then you get the creation of new art right there on stage, before the audience.”

With 17 musicians in the relatively small, 530-seat Vilar Center, Mientka describes the effect as a “wall of sound.”

“We have musicians playing violin, viola, cello, piano, a full brass quartet coming from Denver, a few extra percussionists, bagpipes,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge, exciting sound. A big band, orchestral effect – a fusion of all these instruments and styles.”

After last month’s well-received airing of the 2009 “Celtica Sinfonia” show at the Vilar Center, the group plans to take the broadcast aspect to the next level in 2010.

“We touched base with the Rocky Mountain PBS folks and they wanted to come film the show again this year,” said Mientka. “But this year, everything is going HD. It gives us the opportunity to present the show as programming for national PBS broadcast.”

Mientka says the Vilar Center as a venue has been one of the elements that has made “Celtica Sinfonia” so successful.

“It begins with the incredible staff at the Vilar Center,” Mientka said. “The tech crew is the dream crew for a big show like this. The bricks and mortar are the icing, the state of the art lighting and sound. And the size of the house is so nice – the audience can connect with our music.

“It reminds me of the theaters in Europe – ornate decor, the balcony, the rich color schemes – everything about that theater is first class, first rate. We love performing for the audience there, and it’s been so special to share that on a statewide level – and now, possibly a nation-wide level – through PBS.”

Sarah Dixon is the marketing and public relations manager for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. E-mail comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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