Victoria-based Celtic folk group Knacker’s Yard toured Ireland and the United Kingdom for the first time this summer, and fiddler Bronwyn Churcher said visiting their music genre’s birthplace has given the band a new perspective.
“We did a lot of historical tours when we were there as well and we sing all these songs about such specific places in Ireland, but to actually see them, it brings them to life,” she said.
The band was invited to the U.K. to play at a wedding for a couple they met at a show on Salt Spring Island. They turned that trip into a two-week tour.
“It was really cool to sing to audiences who know all the words to the songs,” Churcher said.
She said Knacker’s Yard played at some of Ireland’s most popular tourist areas, and in many cases performed for their own compatriots.
“We ended up just mostly playing to other Canadians and to Americans a lot of the time,” Churcher said. “But there were Irish people as well there and they loved it. They were really surprised that we weren’t actually Irish.”
This spring the band released their latest album, entitled Jigs and Reels. Recorded in one day, it’s their first record exclusively comprised of traditional instrumental pieces dating as far back as the 13th century.
Churcher said it was interesting to discover that those tunes are still heard in the towns they visited.
“They’re being passed along, but a lot of the stuff is still kind of obscure and the older generation remembers it but there are not a lot of young folks who necessarily do,” she said. “So people were quite surprised that we were bringing back this old stuff and that we were doing it in as authentic of a way as they were used to.”
Churcher said performing Celtic music in Ireland as an outsider was intimidating at first, but Knacker’s Yard were received with enthusiasm and respect.
She said it was a reaffirming experience and they left inspired to keep up the Celtic tradition on Vancouver Island.
“We went to some really incredible instrument shops and just thought about expanding the instruments that everybody plays,” Churcher said. “It just opens up so many doors it just really re-excites all of us about the next steps.”
Since returning home, the band has been performing across the Island. On Aug. 30, Knacker’s Yard closes out the Old City Quarter’s Sounds of Summer series with a two-hour show at Heritage Mews, and in the evening they play a sold-out backyard show on Protection Island, home of band member Stephen Johnson, who plays the accordion and tin whistle.
Churcher said Knacker’s Yard often play late-night pubs, and outdoor shows allow them to reach a different audience. She said they recently played at an outdoor festival in Parksville.
“Just the number of kids getting up and just dancing because they couldn’t help themselves is pretty incredible to watch,” she said. “There’s a lot of fun with those outdoor concerts and we don’t get to do them for the rest of the year so we really put everything into it.”
WHAT’S ON … Knacker’s Yard performs at Heritage Mews, 321 Wesley St., on Friday, Aug. 30 from 12 to 2 p.m. No cover.