Southern Illinoisans looking for ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage are in luck this weekend, as a plethora of activities throughout the area seek to help usher in the return of spring with the familiar festive greens of the season.
Carbondale happenings include a weekend of food and music at area bars, as well as a brunch performance at Cristaudo’s by Tim Crosby. Returning for its 32nd year, the annual Murphysboro St. Patrick’s Day Celebration lasts all weekend with a parade, movies, a 5K walk/run, an Irish Stew cook-off, a children's festival, as well as bocce, beer and wine tastings, and more. For more information, visit murphysborochamber.com/events.
Also celebrating an eventful St. Patrick’s Day weekend are Southern Illinois’ longest-running — and at times only — traditional Irish band, the Dorians. The band has a weekend full of performances culminating with their 30th anniversary St. Patrick’s Day performance at Pinch Penny Pub in Carbondale.
With a set list including traditional Irish jigs, reels, and other festive dance tunes and familiar vocals, the group promises a fun time for all. Taking their name from the Dorian mode — a musical mode that a lot of the Irish tunes they play fall into — the group grew out of the living rooms and local jam sessions that Carbondale natives are familiar with, to emerge as a lasting tradition in the Southern Illinois region and beyond.
During their decades playing together, the group has been invited to play in neighboring states, even being requested and flown out to play as far away as Alaska.
“Most of us had some experience playing in Ireland at different points in our travels,” said Brian Kelso Crow, who plays Irish whistle, flute, keys, and vocals for the group.
“Brian and I started playing together in 1986,” said Mike Shanahan, who plays guitar and banjo, and sings.
Crow similarly recalled the events leading up to the band’s formation.
“If you play Irish music in a town the size of Carbondale, you tend to find each other," he said. "I had just returned from a teacher’s exchange in Belfast ... Mickey found his way to us through local jam sessions, too, and once we found Elana the lineup was sort of set.”
Crow recounted various incarnations of the group —before securing Elana Floyd-Kennett on vocals, keyboard, and bodhran, the group went by The Dorian Brothers — which included many an SIU student on fiddle as they passed through the area before moving on after graduation. It was after one such transition that the group was pleasantly surprised to learn their longtime mandolin and guitar player, Mickey Soltys, could also play fiddle. With their lineup set, the group went on to spearhead an Irish Festival in Carbondale for a number of years.
“It was always fun to play Shryock,” Shanahan said. “But the most memorable for me was probably Sheldon Auditorium.”
Remembering their first show as possibly having been at the First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale for St. Patrick’s Day many years ago, the band looks forward to returning to Pinch Penny this Sunday for their 30th anniversary performance in that venue.
Those unable to make the 7 to 11 p.m. show in Carbondale on Sunday will also be able to catch the band from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at their first-ever performance at Owl Creek Vineyard in Cobden, at its new location, 1600 Cobden School Road. The Dorians will also grace the corner stage at PK's for the first time from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.