Pittsburgh’s Celtic Treasure: Carnival of Souls Band




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What happens when you take a mixture of musicians that includes an Air Force Colonel, a family physician, a research computer expert, and a homeschooling mom? You blend them all together, give them instruments such as a hammered dulcimer, a bodran, tin whistle, and mandolin and then you have the rich, lively sound of Pittsburgh’s own distinctly “ Christian Celtic” band, Carnival of Souls. Originally started by Bob Hartman, Chuck Alston and Rob Grano in 1992, the band continues its metamorphic journey with its current members of Daryl Hartman, Roy Abbott, Ben Abbott, Jody Abbott, Brian and Kelly Lowry, and Dave Morris. The band is “about family and faith” says Dave Morris, and it is evident in the fact that all of the members of the band are related except one. The exception is the personal physician for many of the other members. The faith aspect demonstrates itself in the fact that they don’t play in bars, but in bookstores, churches and the outdoors, yet their usual performance schedule is busy and this Saint Patrick’s Day is full. Their goal is that, Morris comments, “We try to make good music. We hunger to sing songs about our faith. We trust that it will come through. We sing songs, for example, “Wild Rover”, “Orphan Train” and “Lord of the Dance”, where some songs would never go.”
Carnival of Souls maintains a faithful following because of the band’s family friendly performances and music that touches the soul, Irish or not. Band member Kelly Lowry says that sometimes when she is performing she” has seen God is working in someone’s heart during a particular song”. She will then “see tears in their eyes or a smile on their faces, but their eyes are closed.” Lowry relates a story about a song she sang called “Summer Before the War”. She recounts that before 9-11, “older generations were simply supposed to tough it up and deal privately with the horrors of war that they may have experienced and the grief over the loss of their own innocence. After the gig that night, an elderly gentleman came to me with tears in his eyes and thanked for giving him permission to feel these things. He had been a young boy in England during World War II. When the bombs fell, he clung to his mother in the darkness, but the next day nothing would be said about what they had all experienced, and in fact, nothing was ever said as the years went by. …. Making music is all about …touching hearts.”
Carnival of Souls has recently been involved as one of the bands on a Celtic music compilation called “New England Talent”. It is a Celtic CD that is being put together for an organization that provides training opportunities for musically talented children who are from poor or foster homes. Carnival of Souls’ contribution is “Bonnie, Ship the Diamond”.
Their first CD, “No Scone Unburned”, includes the following songs: “ Paddy Fagin”, “Angel of Avalon”, “Lagin Love” and “Shenandoah/ Wexford Carol”. The most recent CD, “Sconehenge” is a assortment of celtic music, such as “Are Ye Sleepin’ Maggie”, “Spancil Hill”, “Skye Boat” with a bit of southern exposure thrown in, with “Appalachian Pie”. To purchase their CDs on the Web, go to cdbaby.com/cd/cofsouls. To learn more about the band, go towww.carnivalofsouls.com. You’ll be tapping your feet in no time!
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