Choir students at West Central Area Secondary School in Barrett are seeing green. For the third quarter of the school year, the choirs are studying Irish folk music in preparation of a big St. Patrick’s Day concert on Monday, March 17th.
Director Bryan Poyzer, in his 13th year at WCA, said, “Every grade studies folk music from around the world, but in a classroom setting, there is limited time to explore the origins of a specific country. Other than American songs, there has not been a chance to research, prepare and perform folk songs.”
That’s why Poyzer applied for and received a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council to bring the popular Irish trio “Skilly & Duff” to the students for two weeks prior to the concert to learn about Irish folk songs and rehearse for the concert.
“Skilly & Duff is a wonderful trio that perform Irish folk music at a very high level,” he said. “Although they are from Minnesota, they have traveled abroad and actually won an Irish band contest. I am happy to have this opportunity to bring these outstanding musicians into the classroom and let them share their talents and experiences with my students.”
“Skilly & Duff” consists of Mikko Cowdery of Osakis on guitar, Bruce Kelly of Elbow Lake on bass, and Annie O’Flynn of Elbow Lake on accordion. The name Skilly & Duff comes from an old recipe of potatoes and eggs topped with the catch of the day. Kelly, who came up with the name, says he is “Skilly”, Cowdery is “Duff” and O’Flynn is “the catch of the day.” They play traditional pub tunes, ranging from rollicking ballads about outlaws and hilarious novelty tunes, to sentimental ballads.
The group has performed in countless concerts across the region, including St. Patrick’s Day extravaganzas over the past eight years. They were first place winners of the Celtic Music Competition at the Irish Fair of Minnesota in St. Paul in 2009.
In 2009, the trio traveled to Ireland where they were guests of Tony Sheedy, proprietor of the Duke of Ormond Estate, a vast hunting preserve in the heart of southern Ireland. Skilly & Duff shared their music with pub-goers and fellow musicians across the south of Ireland. One of their favorite pub performances was at John Delaney’s Pub in Tullahought — a favorite haunt of the legendary Clancy Brothers at Carrick on Siur.
In 2011 the group traveled to the maritime provinces of Canada, playing tunes across Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
The public is invited to a free St. Patrick’s Day Irish music concert in the West Central Area Secondary School auditorium in Barrett, on Monday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m.
“It will be an evening of entertainment for the whole family. Parents, grandparents, and their grandchildren, will all have a great time,” said Poyzer. “Skilly & Duff will perform as a trio, and also with the 7-12 grade choirs.”
In addition to free admission, there will also be free rides from both ends of the school district. Shuttles will leave the Wendell Community Center at 6:15 p.m. with a 6:30 pick-up stop at the Elbow Lake Library. Shuttles will leave Kensington Community Center at 6:15 p.m. with a pick-up stop at the Dew Drop Inn in Hoffman at 6:30.
Poyzer said this is one of the most satisfying musical programs he’s been involved in. “The kids are in great form,” he said, “and we know Skilly & Duff will, as always, bring their own unique approach to laughter and song.”
The program is made possible by a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council, through a Minnesota State Legislature appropriation.