Ric Blair was a promising jazz major at the University of Cincinnati's prestigious College Conservatory of Music when a chance encounter changed the entire course of his life. "A buddy of mine said, 'Hey there's this Irish group playing downtown tonight,'" Blair remembers. It took a little prodding, but he agreed to give the concert a shot. "I opened the doors, and people were literally dancing on the tables," says Blair. "The music was so happy. As soon as I heard those pipes and the Irish whistle, something in my blood hit me: this is what I want to do."
Today, Blair reigns as one the country's most respected purveyors of Celtic music. He and his band, The Celts, pack concert halls around the world and headline festivals in front of 80,000 fans. The American-born Blair credits the group's popularity to their unique blend of Celtic tradition and 21st century sounds. "I'm proud of my Irish/Scottish roots, but I'm equally proud of my American roots," he explains. "Our music is kind of a hybrid that's evolved between the two."
That hybrid is on full display on the band's new album and live DVD, 'Christmas with The Celts,' which combines Uillean pipes (traditional Irish bagpipes) and bodhrans (ancient Irish drums made of goat skin) with guitars, electronic drum loops, and synthesizers. The Celts' lineup features Blair on vocals/guitars/bodhran/mandolin/piano, plus Deb Shebish on Scottish Fiddle, Patrick D'Arcy on Irish whistles, Ivan Goff on the Uilleann pipes/Irish whistle, Kimberly Barnes on the Irish Fiddle, Tony Marvelli on the 8 string bass guitar/vocals, Rich Cortney on drums, and Jeff Durham on percussion. Piper/whistler Eric Rigler, whose work appears on numerous film soundtracks including "Braveheart" and "Titanic," also frequently performs live with the band.
Event: Music, Alternative/Rock