Traditional Irish music is instantly recognizable — the trill of the tin whistle, the soft boom of the bodhran, the cry of the fiddle. The instruments blend together, evoking images of the old sod. Fortunately, you don’t have to be in Ireland to enjoy the country’s music as it is performed in most corners of the world, including Santa Barbara.
Shepherd’s Pie is one area band that keeps the musical heritage of Eire alive. Formed nearly six years ago, the group was assembled to fill a niche. “We got started in 2007, when a Dargan’s needed an Irish traditional band,” said Frances Malinoff, the group’s fiddle player. “[A few of us] had played together at sessions, so we picked up the challenge to practice, practice, practice and start to play as a band. … We got comfortable working closely with each other, and we realized it was an intense experience, different than just playing together at sessions.”
Since its beginnings, the band has been fleshed out, doubling in size. “We started out as just a trio — Robert Winokur, Bill Hotten, and me — and then were able to add some extraordinary musicians as they heard about our band and came to us. Some of us have known one another for over 20 years!” Now the group boasts an impressive lineup that includes Treasa McGettigan (singer), Winokur (whistles), Gary Jensen (banjo and octave mandolin), Jim Garcia (guitar), Becca Holehouse (fiddle and dancer), and Alan Wood (bodhran and lowland pipes). “We have a unique mix of talents, and we enjoy making arrangements that display the instrumental, dancing, and vocal skills in the band,” said Malinoff.
While Shepherd’s Pie’s repertoire is steeped in traditional tunes, they put their own interpretative twist on the songs they play. “We play lots of traditional and newer tunes written in the traditional Irish and Scottish styles, but we like to throw in riffs from different genres when we can and they fit,” said Malinoff. “We love to finish up with ‘Mason’s Apron,’ ‘Frank’s Reel,’ and ‘High Road to Linton’; it’s a mix of older and newer tunes with that high, fast wailing that gets everyone clapping.”
If you want to get in on the celebration, you can catch Shepherd’s Pie at the Calle Real Farmers Market (7000 Camino Real Marketplace) this Sunday, March 17, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more on the band, call (805) 969-4974 or visit mysheps.com.