A Pilot Mountain duo is sharing their love and knowledge of Celtic tradition through music. CandelFirth will be performing on Saturday as part of the Surry wineries Sweet Wine Trail in honor of Valentines weekend.
Randy Candelaria and Susie Firth Cooper met nearly 16 years ago while Candelaria was playing with Naomi’s Fancy. Cooper had begun her Celtic journey with Tyra Summers playing mainly ballads. Hearing Naomi’s Fancy play upbeat jigs at the Sawbriar, Cooper recalled, “I was just amazed,” adding that she felt inspired to continue her pursuit of Celtic music.
They began playing together about two years ago while Cooper was a member of Ashgrove, meeting at The Living Room’s open mic nights. CandelFirth was formed about six months ago, now playing Celtic tunes at area restaurants and special events. Candelaria explained scaling back to two musicians has allowed them each more freedom in their music and the opportunity to showcase their talents.
Each masterful with multiple instruments, the two musicians frequently switch mid-song. “We get all kinds of different combinations of sounds depending on the instruments that we’re playing,” said Candelaria.
Cooper began with classical flute in her school band. Over the years she has added fife, piccolo, and native American flute to her repertoire. “Harp is what resonates most for me,” she said, adding each of her five harps are distinctly different. Now working to master the double strung harp with 52 stings, Cooper explained that it will create a fuller sound, interesting harmonics, and faster runs as needed for jigs and reels.
Having played Celtic music for over 30 years, Candelaria has a huge collection of tunes committed to memory. With fiddle as his main instrument, Candelaria also plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, recorder and bagpipes. “I love exploring cords on the Irish bouzouki,” said Candelaria, explaining a fellow musician with Naomi’s Fancy first got him interested in the instrument.
Candelaria spent some time in Ireland exploring the music. “Each county has a distinct sound and different approach to its ornamentation,” he shared, noting he plays in the Sligo style. According to Candelaria, Celtic musicians aim to stay true to the tune while adding their unique style of ornamentation.
“One of the things that is neat about Celtic music is that it can easily be infused with a lot of other styles,” said Candelaria, noting they mix blues, rock and classical into their arrangements.
In addition to sharing the music, Candelaria enjoys teaching his audience about Celtic heritage and the history behind the songs. “It’s kind of interesting if you can weave together the story of Ginny and Charlie historically,” said Candelaria, referring to three of their songs which highlight the same two people.
“We’ve had moments where we’ve come up with amazing beauty in sound, and it moves us,” said Cooper, adding they want to share the music that inspires them.
Regular shows include Mountain View Restaurant on second Fridays, and Carolina Heritage Winery on first Saturdays. Their Valentine’s show will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery, located at 170 Heritage Vines Way in Elkin.
Information about other upcoming performances may be found on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CandelFirth.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.