BCMFest 2017 Preview: The Younger Crowd — Q&A with the Rockport Celtic Duo

Part of a series of semi-regular posts in the coming weeks to acquaint you with the people, events and happenings at BCMFest 2017 (January 13 and 14). For more information, and to purchase tickets, see the BCMFest website.

BCMFest is an all-ages affair — up on stage as well as in the audience. The festival has always held a place on its schedule, and in its heart, for performers who are under the voting age. And over the years, BCMFest has been happy to see many of these young musicians, dancers and singers, as they pass into adulthood, continue to uphold the traditions on which the festival is built; in fact, some have become teachers and mentors in their own right.

Among the 2017 performers will be Scottish Fish, who are practically grizzled vets by now (here’s a Q&A we did with them a couple of years ago); the Keltic Kids, part of the extensive Greater Boston Irish music community and a fine testimonial for the Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann Music School; and the Rockport Celtic Duo, which is sisters Elizabeth and Mary Kozachek, who seem to have done a little of everything.

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The Rockport Celtic Duo: Mary and Elizabeth Kozachek

Here are a few thoughts from Elizabeth and Mary:

Q: You’ve both been involved in not only traditional music but also dance — which of these interests came first, and how? And how did one lead to the other?

Elizabeth: We starting dance first — with Emerald Rae then Jackie O’Riley, about eight years ago. Fiddle came next. I started learning from my mother. When I was nine I started lessons with George Keith. After three years of fiddling, I added concertina lessons with Florence Fahy. All the while, I continued dancing with my sister. I don’t think of music and dance as entirely separate activities.

Q: You two also had some memorable experiences through the CCE School, what with qualifying for the All-Ireland Fleadh, and being involved in the Trad Youth Exchange. Looking back, what did these kinds of experiences do for you, personally as well as musically?

Elizabeth: We’ve had a chance to perform and travel, and we’ve made good friends through music.

Q: As much as you’ve been active in the Irish music scene, you’re also going great guns with Cape Breton and Scottish music. What are the things about these individual traditions you like most?

Elizabeth: Having traveled to Cape Breton several times, I’ve really fallen in love with the culture. The music is exciting — there is so much power and expression in everything — the bowing, ornamentation, phrasing.I enjoy how much the music is connected with the dance. That is something all these traditions share. I’m trying to become fluent in several styles, and it is a fun challenge to work on Scottish and Irish fiddle at the same time. George hears Cape Breton in my Irish fiddling; Emerald hears Irish in my Scottish fiddling. Of the Irish traditions, I particularly like playing the Clare and Donegal tunes — very different, of course. I like to experiment with ornamentation and find ways to be creative. I’m happy to be helping to keep these traditions going, and someday I’d like pass on the things I’m learning now.

In addition to playing traditional tunes, I like playing the tunes that Mary composes — she is a prolific tune writer.

Q: We hear how important it is to pass traditional music/dance from one generation to another. From your experiences, what things need to happen to get young people interested in trying to play music or learn dancing — and stay with it? 

Mary: My own feeling on getting kids interested in trad music/dance is that you simply need to expose them to it and not pressure them at all. Forcing things on them will do nothing but make them lose interest. I would say taking them to see inspirational trad performers is a good way to expose them. Motivation is something that they have to find on their own. As for keeping them interested, encouragement is always a good tool, as long as you don’t annoy them. Fresh inspiration once in a while is great.

You can catch the Rockport Celtic Duo, along with Scottish Fish and the Keltic Kids, at BCMFest during DayFest — they’ll each play a set in the morning, and then share a slot at 3:30 p.m. in The Parlor. Check the BCMFest website for further details.

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