Celtic, Native American musical styles intertwine: Arvel Bird at Tanner Amphitheater

Recording artist Arvel Bird, circa 2013| Image composite by St. George News

SPRINGDALE — Recording artist Arvel Bird returns to Southern Utah to perform his unique mix of Celtic fusion with a Southern Paiute twist in a performance at the Tanner Amphitheater, 225 South 700 East in Springdale, Saturday at 8 p.m. as part of Dixie State University’s Summer Concert Series.

Bird’s musical stories combine historical fiction and nonfiction reflecting his dual ancestry of Southern Paiute and Clan Kennedy of Scotland, something rather reminiscent of “Brave Heart” meets “Last of the Mohicans.” His stories are said to move the audience from tears to laughter and back again.

Bird chose Zion National Park to debut his new production of “One Fire — Many Clans, Many Tribes” because he thought it was an inspirational setting and is part of his ancestral native homeland.

Many of the compositions Bird will perform derive from his Celtic and Native American concerto, “Tribal Music Suite, Journey of a Paiute,” which took him 33 years to finish and another year-and-a-half to record.

Recording artist Arvel Bird, June 2013| Courtesy of Arvel Bird, St. George News
Recording artist Arvel Bird, June 2013| Courtesy of Arvel Bird, St. George News

“I call the ‘Tribal Music Suite’ my soul song,” he said. “I gained my skill level through classical training but I gravitated naturally to Celtic. I had to unlearn some of my classical teachings.”

Bird first came to prominence as a four-time Indiana State Fiddle Champion and later toured with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn and Louise Mandrell.

Yet, his musical roots started much younger when he began playing the violin at 9-years-old. Bird took classical lessons he described as “magical” from Olea Kinke in Salt Lake City. The violin had been a gift to his grandmother from a violin-maker who was in love with her.

“I wanted to play the trumpet but my mom said there was a violin under the bed,” Bird said. “She said I could either play that or not play anything. From then on I needed to play. The violin became a refuge from the chaos, confusion and turmoil. I grew up with a lot of fear.”

After losing a friend in 2001, Bird finally let the music inside him come out; and since then, he has recorded 23 CDs — and it keeps coming out. With the violin, Celtic whistles and Native American flutes, Bird’s music creates a powerful tapestry of Celtic, rock, folk and Americana genres. The rhythms and harmonies of his music reflect the union of his Native American soul and Scottish heart.

When people come to his shows, he wants them to feel the passion, the energy and not just the music, but exchanging that energy with the audience. He’s the rare performer that appeals to audiences from 8 to 80 years old, as he weaves stories throughout his songs in a style that is entirely his own.

Bird’s most recent album, “Secret of Cave Lakes,” was recorded in 2013 at the Cave Lakes, located near Kanab, using only the natural acoustics of the caves to create a soothing auditory experience.

Although he was raised in northern Utah, Bird has always felt more at home in Southern Utah where his mother and grandmother were born. He returns annually midsummer to reconnect with the desert, red mountains, friends and family, he said. Then he heads east for the rest of the year.

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