Last January, Patrick Ball performed in Fiddlers Crossing to a sold-out audience. Considered one of the premier Celtic harp players in the world, Ball will return to Tehachapi January 5 and 6, 2013, in “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music,” a one-man show presented by Fiddlers Crossing in the BeeKay theatre. Written by Patrick Ball and Peter Glazer, the play brings to the stage the legendary life, turbulent times and captivating music of Ireland’s most celebrated artist.
Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries was a troubled, tumultuous place. The old Gaelic order had been shattered by the English invaders, and the poets, the bards and the harp players were set out to walk the roads from place to place in search of shelter and patronage. Yet this dark period of Irish history produced, in Turlough O’Carolan, a Celtic harper and composer of such brilliance, grace and character that he is to this day regarded as the country’s greatest and most beloved musician.
In “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music,” Patrick Ball tells the blind harper’s story through the character of poet and fellow harper, Charles MacCabe, O’Carolan’s life-long friend and traveling companion. Through MacCabe’s eyes and 14 of Carolan’s tunes played on the rare wire-strung harp, we are drawn into this storm-tossed chapter of Irish history. The play is filled with Irish wit and pathos, and demonstrates both the power of friendship and the vital role of the artist in troubled times.
Although of Irish heritage, Ball was actually born and raised in California and thought he would grow up to be a lawyer like his father. While he studied music during his younger days, playing piano and guitar and annoying his college roommate with his tin whistle, it was his study of the lyrical, turbulent history of Ireland that fully engaged him. On a visit to the Emerald Isle, he fell in love with the eloquence and fire of the Irish oral tradition, and with the Celtic wire-strung harp with its crystalline, bell-like voice. In his words, he “came to know that marvelous unity of Irish words, music and history” that would become his passion and livelihood.
Upon returning to California, he received a Masters Degree in History from Dominican College and then set off to see the country. In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, his love for the spoken word was rekindled when he encountered the living oral tradition of the Appalachian storytellers. After another trip to Ireland, Ball was ready to create his vocation by combining the things he loved most — Irish history, the spoken word and music. His first step was to find a maker of the wire-strung Celtic harp and teach himself to play.
Ball now tours extensively, performing in concert as well as in his theatre piece. He has recorded nine instrumental and three spoken word albums that have won awards in both categories.
Performances are Saturday, January 5, at 7:00 p.m., and a Sunday matinee January 6, at 3:00 p.m. at The BeeKay Theatre, 110 South Green St., Tehachapi. Tickets may be purchased at Mountain Music, 206 East F Street, at The Apple Shed, or with a credit card by calling 661-823-9994. Tickets are $25. Doors open one-half hour before the performance. For last-minute ticket availability on the day of the performance, call 661-823-9994.