For the past 36 years, Modesto-based Celtic folk band Golden Bough have toured the globe, playing haunting melodies reminiscent of traditional Irish folk songs and have gained fans in several corners of the world.
One of those places happens to be Benicia, where the trio will play at the Historical Museum, Jan. 16.
Golden Bough- fronted by husband and wife Paul Espinoza and Margie Butler and rounded out by Kathy Sierra- formed in January of 1980 with the goal of combining the traditional music of the six Celtic nations- Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Man and Brittany- with their own contemporary songwriting. The group utilizes several diverse instruments, including a Celtic harp, mandolin, accordion, violin and penny whistle, and their harmonizing has become a hallmark of their music.
Golden Bough have performed all over the world, including in countries like Holland, Germany and Ireland. In just a week, they will bring their traditional Celtic sound to Benicia.
According to museum curator Beverly Phelan, the trio first performed at the venue in 1998.
“It was the first time we had a Celtic concert,” she said. “They were very well-received.”
The museum has since had several Celtic bands play, including The Black Irish Band and Men of Worth. Phelan says Golden Bough stand out for their strong instrumental abilities.
“They’re the only group who plays the Celtic harp,” she said. “And their violinist (Sierra) is one of the best that I’ve heard.”
With their performances at the museum, Golden Bough have gained a bit of a following in Benicia.
“Last year when we had them here was a sellout,” Phelan said. “They’re very popular, and the reason we have Celtic groups is because they are popular. They have a following that goes up the Gold Country.”
Having toured for 36 years, the band has amassed a large amount of stories that they like to share at performances.
“Margie’s father was an Irish tenor, and she tells lovely stories about her father and his experiences singing all over California and the United States,” Elizabeth D’Huart, executive director of the Benicia Historical Museum, said.
D’Huart also praised Golden Bough for their authentic sound.
“A lot of the songs that they sing are familiar to the folks who came to work on the railroad in California,” she said. “A lot of the songs have a historical tie-in to the area because of that.”
Phelan believes that even those who are not fans of Celtic folk music will come away with an appreciation of the genre, and those who already enjoy it will have fun as well.
“People get what they expect, and that is quality Celtic music,” she said.
The concert will take place in Stone Hall at the Benicia Historical Museum is located at 2060 Camel Road. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the concert will run from 8 to 10. There will also be a no-host bar with beer, wine, coffee and water, and attendees will be allowed to explore the museum during intermission. Tickets are $20 for general admission and are available at the museum. They can also be picked up at Bookshop Benicia, located at 636 First St. or online at BrownPaperTickets.com. For more information, call 745-5435.