On Friday and Saturday, coinciding perfectly with the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, INISH and Ceol gave their annual spring performance at the Adams Memorial Theatre in the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. INISH was established at the College 10 years ago as a collaboration of musicians and dancers with the purpose of celebrating the traditional Celtic performing arts – this not only includes dancing, but also poetry, story telling and singing. In line with this tradition, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the INISH show was the diversity of the various performances – although they were all unified under the umbrella of the “Celtic tradition,” each act was unique in terms of what it expressed.
On both Friday and Saturday nights, the show was completely sold out – demand for tickets was so high that the back wall of the auditorium was lined with eager individuals willing to stand through the entire show because they weren’t lucky enough to get an actual seat (I was one of them).
The first performance, “The Parting Glass,” established the diversity of the Celtic tradition immediately with its unique combination of poetry, dance and music. The steady rhythm of the dancers’ movements combined with the hearty instrumentals of the Celtic music created a sense of raw joyfulness that lasted through the rest of the night.
The rest of the acts followed suit, and with each act that passed, the excitement in the room only seemed to gain momentum. All the performances heavily incorporated the Celtic oral tradition of reading poetry to the background of music and dancing. This aspect of the show created a sense of reality and human emotion without taking away from the surreal aspect of the show. Even aesthetically, the performance was completely in sync with its content – everything from the lighting, to the set design, to the costumes conveyed a distinct Celtic feeling.
The performances were the ultimate form of artistic expression because they included every part of the artistic spectrum – oral, musical, physical and material art. In this sense, the medium by which the performances evoked human emotion is entirely unique to the Celtic culture. There was no sense of separation between the audience and the performers, making the performance seem more genuine and fostering a feeling of intimacy.
The communal spirit is one of the most important aspects of the Celtic tradition. The music especially added strongly to this, as it was very intuitive for the audience members to clap, hum and dance along to the action on stage. Celtic music is rhythmically strong, and the instrumentals follow a similarly rigid structure, which made it easy for the audience to pick up the pattern of the music relatively quickly. Not only did this communality manifest amongst the audience, but also between the performers and the audience – it seemed as if each performer was performing especially for you.
INISH and Ceol performances are not for everyone. They are different from many of the other artistic events that take place at the College: The Celtic reliance upon the value of the “communal spirit” takes away value from the performers themselves. After all, regarding technicality, Celtic music itself lacks the wisdom of higher musical forms.
Enjoying the INISH show requires enjoying the overall setting of merriness and simplicity that defines it. I would not recommend going to a show like this alone – perhaps the only way to truly enjoy the INISH show is to share in the joviality of the Celtic spirit with another person.