Longing for a traditional way to celebrate the holidays? Go see Golden Bough's concert "Christmas in a Celtic Land" on Dec. 22 in Manteca.
The Modesto-based acoustic trio will perform Irish and Scottish folk songs about Christmas and winter, with a few singalongs thrown in. The show will be held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church and is part of the Manteca Kindred Arts concert series.
The musicians will wear festive holiday outfits and make sure the show is light and entertaining. "It's great for the whole family," said harpist Margie Butler. "It's a fun show."
Butler and her husband, Paul Espinoza, a guitar and mandolin player, formed the group in 1980, playing with different musicians over the years. Violinist Kathy Sierra joined 12 years ago and has been performing with the group ever since. All three sing and play additional instruments, including the penny whistle, bodhrán drum, recorder, accordion and Irish flute.
Butler's interest in Celtic music dates back to when she was a small girl and listened to her Irish father sing folk songs and tell traditional stories. When folk music became popular in the 1960s, she decided she wanted to perform it herself.
It wasn't hard for her to learn Irish songs because they were so familiar.
"So many of those old Irish songs, I can't tell you how I know all the words, but I know all the words," Butler said. "It's kind of in your DNA."
She started playing piano and moved onto violin, but never got very good at either one, she said. At age 20, she found her true love when she started playing the harp.
Butler now passes on her knowledge of the instrument to a dozen private students in Modesto, as well as others who attend her occasional introductory workshops at Modesto Junior College. She also is a distributor for San Luis Obispo's Triplett Harps, selling the instruments for $1,500 to $5,500 each. Her husband also teaches private guitar lessons.
Golden Bough tours extensively on the West Coast and in Europe, performing the music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, French Brittany and Spanish Galicia. The group has endured because of the musicians' genuine love of music and life on the road. "You have to really love to travel and you have to be willing to work really hard," she said.
The trio has recorded more than 30 albums, including "Christmas in a Celtic Land," the title of the Manteca show. People who attend the concert will have a great time, Butler said.
"I love this time of year because the music is so beautiful," she said. "Old Irish and Scottish carols are the best."
WHAT: Golden Bough
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22
WHERE: St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 910 E. North St., Manteca
TICKETS: $15 adults, $5 under 18
CALL: (209) 823-2570 or (209) 239-2194