The Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara plays two Irish programs March 11-12 | Credit: Courtesy

Start your St. Patrick’s Day celebration early this weekend at Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara’s Irish shows, March 11 and March 12. “This is essentially the concert that we were supposed to play in March 2020,” says founder Adam Phillips. “We were sold out and had to cancel the day before.”

Lucky for us, this talented group of entirely local musicians — a 30-piece orchestra — is back in action with an all-Irish program that Phillips describes as “all the orchestral strings, plus Irish bagpipes, harp, whistles, mandolin, accordion, acoustic guitar, and more.” Plus, he’ll be singing some classics: “Danny Boy,” “The Fields of Athenry,” “Give Me Your Hand,” and a few others. 

“We have a great mix of tunes in general,” says Phillips, who arranged all of the orchestral music. “We have a few wonderful small ensembles made up from members of the orchestra as well.” 

I can personally attest to the truth of the Folk Orchestra’s marketing materials, which state, “As you know, once you have seen one show … you want to see them all!” As I wrote back in December, when I first saw them as part of Grace Fisher’s Annual Winter Concert, I was blown away by their set. Until then, I had never actually seen Phillips lead this massive and energetic ensemble of bagpipes, whistles, bodhráns, bouzouki, smallpipes, mandolin, fiddles, cellos, and more, and I vowed not to miss another opportunity. 

As Shane MacGowan describes it, “Irish music is guts, balls, and feet music, yeah? It’s frenetic dance music, yeah? Or it’s impossibly sad like slow music, yeah? Yeah? And it also handles all sorts of subjects, from rebel songs to comical songs about sex, you know what I mean, yeah? … I don’t think people realize how much innuendo there is in Irish music.”

No innuendo here — and probably not any of The Pogues tunes either — you don’t want to miss this fun show!

IRISH Music by the Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara on Saturday, March 11, at 4 p.m. at The Presidio Chapel, 123 E. Canon Perdido St.; and on Sunday, March 12, at 4 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


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