CASTLEBAY has been musically weaving together the heritage of New England and the Celtic lands since 1987. Members Julia Lane and Fred Gosbee have loved and researched traditional music for most of their lives and blend history, legend and experience into their personable performance style. Their concerts feature poignant ballads sung in Lane's ethereal soprano and Gosbee's rich baritone interspersed with joyous dance tunes played on Celtic harp, guitar, fiddle and tin whistle Castlebay treats the audience to a musical journey through time and across the Atlantic. The duo occasionally presents special theme concerts on various aspects of Celtic lore, nautical life or Colonial America.
Although they are known for their intelligent arrangements of traditional music, Gosbee and Lane also compose their own musical works, many of which have their roots in the Celtic tradition, expressing an intimate experience with the elemental. Gosbee's narrative ballads are finely crafted and celebrate the dignity and humanity of ordinary people while Lane is known for her imagery and beautiful melodies. In the time- honored art of meaningful songwriting, they give new voice to an ancient tradition. These songs are included on their 24 recordings.
In the last few years the duo has added accompanied storytelling to their presentations. These are both prose and poetry accompanied by the harp as was done in ancient Ireland.
The duo is equally adept at evocative instrumental music. They have produced a series of 9 full-length instrumental recordings collectively titled Tapestry, and have provided soundtracks for several award-winning videos. Together, they composed a suite for quintet of folk instruments inspired by a tour of the Scottish island of Skye called The Skye Suite. Subsequently. the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association commissioned them to compose a similar piece for that region. Sang o’ the Solway was performed in Scotland several times in 2000, 2001, and 2002, culminating with a performance at the prestigious Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. Lane & Gosbee have recently created a multi-media presentation commemorating the 1740 shipwreck of Scots- Irish immigrants in northern Maine called Grand Design which has played in Canada, New England and South Carolina.
Castlebay also does songwriting residencies in schools. The songwriting is done as a group project, usually on a theme of local interest. Putting the subject into the form of a ballad reinforces the understanding of the subject matter as ideas need to be fully understood in order to state them in different ways. We have worked mostly with 10-11 year old students, although occassionally with older or younger ones. A two-day residency is minimum, three or four is better. We can work with no more than four groups per residency. We have done songwriting residencies with over fifty classes in Maine and South Carolina.
In order to remain affordable to a variety of smaller venues our fees are negotiable, especially if accommodations and travel expenses can be provided and in the case of blockbooking.
In the drive for “progress and success” awareness of connections and responsibility for each other and our environment has been obscured. One of our biggest needs is to understand and appreciate community and resources, both environmental and spiritual. The knowledge of these relationships is paramount in Celtic tradition and has relevance in modern society.
The people who inhabit a region resonate to their environment, working with it to survive and even to enrich their lives. Work habits and social behaviors arise according to their relationships with seasons, weather and the condition of the land. From these come belief systems, folklore, art and music. Immigrants carry the ancient traditions of their race as well as internalizing the influences of the new place. The music and lore of both the Celtic lands and New England is alive with imagery associated with our relationships to each other and the natural world. The stories and songs are a vehicle for explaining them and attempting to transform, or be transformed by them. Hearing and understanding ancient stories and music inspired by elemental experience can help us refill our own wells of creativity and reweave the web of connection. They are timeless, and provide revelation, and even healing, for both the bard and the audience.
CASTLEBAY has toured the Eastern U.S., Maritime Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland – even Kosovo – playing at festivals and arts centers, as well as on radio and television. The duo maintains a commitment to cultural education, exchanging music and lore with colleagues. They provide folklore and music programs for schools, museums, libraries and Elderhostels exploring Celtic lore and tradition. For the last several years about half of their performances have been outside of New England.
“What captivated us were Julia and Fred's musicianship, the apparent casualness with which they weave their listeners into magical worlds of storytelling, song, and harp, and their down-to-earth (and sea) Maine coast and Celtic tunes, tales, and salty humor”. (Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke, MA)
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Julia Lane has loved, sung, researched and created folk music since childhood. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, her interest in English and Scottish folk music and lore led her to study in Oxford, England. She continues to conduct in-depth research into the social history and folkways of the Celtic lands and her native New England. Realizing the power of music in conveying a story, she has created multi-media programs of history and myth with both traditional and original music.
Julia has studied piano, classical and flamenco guitar, and voice. A self-taught player of the Celtic folk harp, her unique style won the Senior Professional Harp Competition at the New Hampshire Highland Games in 1991 and 92. In 1993 she placed first in the Stonehill International Irish Harp Competition. Lane is also a fine vocalist whose voice has been compared favorably with Loreena McKennitt, Jean Redpath and Judy Collins.
Fred Gosbee has collected and performed folk music for over thirty years. As a child in Central Maine, he heard his older relatives singing the old woodsmen's songs and playing fiddle and accordian. At the University of Maine, he was inspired by the folk music he heard in a college folklore class with Dr. Sandy Ives who became Fred’s advisor. Dr. Ives became influential in Fred’s awareness and appreciation for his own heritage of folk music.
Gosbee has written many original songs in the traditional style based on Maine's culture and history, both real and imagined. His works have since been recorded by other artists and have garnered him invitations to international music festivals.