Beggars' Row to bring Celtic groove to the holy land

Celtic band combines traditional tunes with party atmosphere.

beggars row 88.298 (photo credit: )
beggars row 88.298
(photo credit: )
They say beggars can't be choosers, but Beggars Row members do just as they please. The Row in question is a five-member Celtic group based in Glasgow which performs a merry mix of Irish and Scottish music seasoned with extraneous cultural influences. Next week the quintet will be here to perform at the annual Murphy's Irish Music Festival (February 4 at 10:30 p.m.) at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, with further shows scheduled for Jerusalem's Hamaabada on February 3 at 10 p.m. and at the Zappa Club on February 1 at 8:45 p.m. Beggars Row started life in 1997 and evolved - as often is the case with such matters in Scotland - through kinship and natural recycling of personnel. "Bob Ferguson, the main singer, formed the band," explains David Ritchie, who plays bass, highland bagpipes and sings. "It was really formed just for one festival and grew through the other singer's brother joining the band. Then a drummer came in and the other drummer's brother left, and so on." Ferguson and Ritchie are the only two remaining founding fathers, the newer members being keyboardist, guitarist and singer Neil Nicholson, fiddler and highland bagpiper Farquhar MacDonald and percussionist Ricky Murray. By all accounts Beggars Row seems to be doing very well for itself. In eight years it has put out a couple of albums and toured Europe and Russia extensively, besides being kept busy around Britain. But the band has more to offer than merely providing audiences with an hour or two of aural pleasure. "We are coming to Israel to entertain and laugh," declares Ritchie. "We have fun at our shows. We get up to all sorts of antics, and like to create a party atmosphere." These "antics" including leaving the stage to play among the audience, while esthetics are not overlooked. "We come down to the audience and wear kilts - it's a very traditional Scottish-Irish show," Ritchie explains. "For old men, we're quite agile." Actually, they're not that old. "I'm the oldest at 56, and the youngest is only 30. I'm aging gracefully." Considering the traditional nature of the band's output, it is surprising that Beggars Row maintains such a busy offshore touring schedule. "We've been very well received in Denmark, Holland and Russia," Ritchie continues. "But they're amazed when we come down into the audience; they've never seen anything like that before. People dance at our shows; they don't just sit there." Besides traditional airs, Beggars Row also performs its own songs, and even one piece in Russian. "It's called 'Daroga Dleen Ayou'," says Ritchie. "That means 'The Long Road'. It's an old gypsy song we learned from a choir in Russia. The problem was they didn't know any English." But while the words may have been incomprehensible, the melody was instantly recognizable. "Not many people know that the music for the Mary Hopkin [1968 pop hit] song 'Those Were Days' was not written by Paul McCartney but is in fact a 200-year-old gypsy tune" Sounds like audiences in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be burning up some calories next week while they get into some dynamically delivered Celtic grooves. MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE ON THE MURPHY'S Irish Music Festival agenda there will be more entertainment from the Emerald Isle, from the David Munnelly Band and piper Paddy Keenan, with sidekick singer/guitarist Tommy Sullivan. Fans of Irish and world music rhythms will no doubt be happy at the inclusion of the Different Drums of Ireland combo, which uses a wide range of traditional Celtic and African drums, as well as custom-built drums overlain by string and wind instruments. Among the local acts the names Evergreen and Kahol stand out, while the confluence of the latter with soft rockers Etti Ankri and Leah Shabbat looks particularly intriguing. Evergreen's show will also include a pianist, a violinist and cellist from the Israel Philharmonic, a vocal foursome called Troubadour, bagpiper Uri Schleifer and artistic narrator Tal Rockman. Paddy Keenan and Tommy Sullivan will appear at Murphy's Pub on February 1 at 8 p.m., Hemdat Yammim on February 3 at 8:30 p.m. and at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on February 2 at 11 p.m. The David Munnelly Band will play at the Camelot Club in Herzliya on February 1 at 8:30 p.m., at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on February 3 at 9 p.m. and at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on February 4 at 8 :30 p.m. Different Drums of Ireland will appear in Shuni near Binyamina on February 1 at 8:30 p.m., at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on February 2 at 8:30 p.m. and at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on February 3 at 11:30 p.m. For ticket information, call (03) 691-7181