The Siamsa Montreal Céilí Band
Montreal's Irish céilí band is made up mainly of present and former Siamsa teachers, with occasional star guests.
The band plays traditional and modern Irish dance tunes in an authentic céilí-band style, injecting into the tunes the lift and drive that dancers love.
We include “Montreal” in the name to dispel any possible confusion with the Siamsa Céilí Band that was well known in Ireland up to the 1960s.
This season's céilís are likely to find a selection of the following musicians on stage: Steve Jones (leader, accordion); Philippe Murphy, Brad Hurley & Sophie Gagné (flutes); Thomas Brenneur, Marie-Claire Saindon, Sarah Crawford & Emily Andrews (fiddles); Martine Billette & Gareth Jones (piano); and Fred Graham (drums).
From time to time distinguished Irish musicians have sat in with the band, including veteran céilí band musicians from County Clare, Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin and (on one memorable occasion!) Martin Hayes.
The band at Celtic Harmonies festival, 2015. Photo: Sylvain Lair
This video shows Bill White and the Siamsa Céilí Band (augmented with members of Irish band Comas)
playing at a special "Veillée Québec-Irlande" at La Grande Rencontre Festival on May 9, 2015.
In the late 1980s a group of musicians led by Steve Jones, David Papazian and Jean Duval played for céilís organized by various Irish organizations in Montreal. Championed by Willy Fahy (who with his wife Anna has been a loyal supporter of Siamsa ceilis of the years) the group, despite a shifting membership, became known as the Montréal Céilí Band, and eventually played for the grand Friday night céilí at the 1992 North American convention of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann, held in Montreal.
The same group of musicians began playing for Siamsa céilís in the early 1990s. Membership remained fluid, rehearsals were utterly unknown, and yet the band always came through to provide great dance music. In the late-2000s, under the direction of Steve Jones, the band's sound moved closer to that of a traditional céilí band, with a rhythm section of piano and drums (Kelly Symons and Fred Graham respectively). More Siamsa teachers joined and (shock horror!) regular rehearsals were introduced.
Among the many musicians who have played with the band (some of whom may join us occasionally) are Jean Duval, Kelly Symons, Sarah Frank, Théo Baumard, Finola Hackett, Marjorie Deschamps, Christophe Comte, Marc-Antoine Bérubé, Golo Goerner, Jocelyne Goerner, Karen Iny, Yann Falquet, Kara Doyle, Dorothée Hogan, Guy Berniquez, Guillaume Métayer, David Papazian, Jessica Gal, Paul Legrand & Bob Cussen.
St Patrick's céilí 2013. Photo: Brad Hurley
At La Grande Rencontre, May 2011. Photo: Barbara Vogt
The band in 2012. Photo: Caroline Wathier
Special guest at La Grande Rencontre. Photo: Marilyn Aitken