The Brewery Arts Center is welcoming a band that dives into the rich pool of traditional Irish, Scottish, Breton, and American music.
Cíana, featuring four players from diverse musical backgrounds, is returning to the Brewery Arts Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.
Celtic fiddlers, Holly Sternberg and Tina Carlsen, joined by Joe Bly on Irish flute and penny whistle and Kathy Bly on hard-driving, acoustic guitar, create a musical energy that gets the audience clapping, stomping and hollering. They will be joined by dancers from the Blanchette School of Irish Dance.
Cíana treats the audience to different instrumental arrangements when Kathy Bly swaps the guitar for the Irish accordion and Joe Bly switches from flute to whistle in the middle of tunes. Joe is also one of the few players of the bombarde on the west coast. The bombarde, a diminutive, oboe-like instrument from the Celtic nation of Brittany, has a piercing sound similar to the Scottish bagpipe, except it’s significantly louder.
Carlson and the two Blys met at Irish music jam sessions around western Nevada, Reno, and Lake Tahoe, and they were soon getting together to play in local living rooms and coffeehouse back rooms where they realized their music had much in common. Many local performances later, Cíana caught the attention of Revel Records, who quickly signed them to their label, where they released their debut, self-titled recording in mid-2012.
After finishing its second album, Loneliest Road, in May 2014, Cíana expanded their tight ensemble sound by welcoming champion fiddler, Holly Sternberg, into the group. Holly’s laid-back, Sligo-style playing complements Tina’s driving Donegal style, and the two of them together weave lovely, intertwining melodies and variations. Holly joined Cíana in time to participate in their third recording, Rubicon, due to be released in late December of this year.
After getting Holly dialed into the Cíana ensemble, Tina took a partial leave from Cíana to pursue outside interests, happily jumping back into the lineup to team up with Holly when she’s available.
When Holly was four years old, she discovered an old violin in her grandmother’s closet and knew immediately she wanted to play it. Her teacher, Johny McDonald, introduced Holly to Irish music while ensuring she obtained a well-rounded education in both traditional fiddle and classical styles of music. Over the last several years, Holly has placed multiple times in the top five at the California state fiddle competition, and in 2015, she won the Young Adult title in the Red Bluff Old-Timey Fiddle Championships.
Kathy boasts a long musical career as a jazz and classical woodwind player before discovering she was a natural on rhythm guitar. Before she joined Cíana, she performed and worked in the Colorado Springs Symphony, the Tucson Symphony, and the Virginia Symphony as well as several jazz combos.
Although Traditional Irish and Appalachian music were woven into the fabric of Joe’s youth, he spent his college years playing slide guitar in a rough-and-tumble blues-rock combo in upstate New York. After his rock-and-roll experience, Joe returned to his traditional roots, learning songs and tunes from many different masters of Irish and Celtic music.
A biologist by profession, Tina was a well-known Irish fiddler in the Modesto, Calif., area before moving to the Carson Valley. She studied classical violin from second grade through high school, then she jumped into Irish music after getting her PhD. Her skill and repertoire meant she was welcomed to sit in on Irish music sessions throughout the U.S. and Ireland, where she was known as “Hey, California!”
“Cíana” is an old, Irish word roughly meaning both “distance” and “time,” which evokes the ancient expanse that defines western Nevada. The name “Cíana” seemed like a good choice, the band said, after a particularly long drive across the heart of Nevada’s Great Basin on the windswept stretches of U.S. Highway 50.