Burning Bridget Cleary Celebrates 10 Years

It has been a decade since a pair of sprightly teenage Irish fiddlers stepped into the local musical limelight with joyously energetic live performances at Celtic Classic and Godfrey Daniels and an impressive debut album.

For the leader of Burning Bridget Cleary, none of the enthusiasm for the band or traditional Irish music has waned.

"I feel like I'm more excited now," says Rose Baldino, singer and fiddler, extraordinaire. "I feel like I have a better grasp of things concerning the music industry. I'm older now, so I'm taking a lot more control, promoting myself and pushing our brand. I still love it. I still feel like it's still the number one thing in my life that I enjoy."

The band will celebrate the release of its fifth CD, "These Are the Days," as it also celebrates St. Patrick's Day and its 10th anniversary during a performance at the MusikfestCafé in Bethlehem on March 17.

"I hope everyone is prepared to have fun and to laugh and clap along," says Baldino, during a telephone interview from her home outside Philadelphia. "We're having some dancers come from the Parker School of Irish Dance. We're going to be giving out free T-shirts and CDs.

Despite the macabre roots of the name — Bridget Cleary was a strong-willed and fashionable Irish woman who was burned and murdered by her husband who claimed she was a witch possessed by evil fairies — the band is known for fun, energetic and engaging performances.

Traditional jigs, reels and ballads, along with some original songs of similar style, are at the heart of what Burning Bridge Cleary does. But the new record shows growth and some new musical influences.

This album shows more of a jazz influence in tracks "Return of Skelly Shelly," which was written by Baldino's father, Lou Baldino, the band's guitarist, and "Bill Oja's Waltz," which was written by Brian Buchanan, fiddler and guitarist for Canadian Celtic group Enter the Haggis, and Baldino's boyfriend.

"It's not Celtic at all, but [Return of Skelly Shelly] ended up being one of my favorite tracks on the album," Baldino says. "I just love that style of music. I'm so glad [both songs] ended up on the album, because I smile every time I hear them."

Buchanan has of late been a big influence on her music, Baldino says. They formed a side project, House of Hamill, a duo with an eye on putting a more modern twist on Celtic music. Baldino calls it "alternative pop rock with an Irish influence."

"I feel like I've had ideas over the years where I was like 'this would be cool,' but my band would never perform this because it would honestly be weird," Baldino says. "So this is an outlet we're both having for things we wouldn't do in our own bands."

That said, Baldino, 26, says she has no desire to stop playing traditional Irish music with Burning Bridget Cleary.

"I love it. I'm enjoying it in a different way than I have before," she says. "Before I was obviously excited. I was so new and I so young and probably naïve, but in a good way."

Some things have changed since the band formed in 2006. Baldino's original fiddling and singing partner, Genna Gillespie, left at the end of 2011 to pursue international studies. She's now in another Celtic band, Poor Man's Gambit, which plays down the street March 17 at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem.

Gillespie was replaced with Deirdre Lockman, who had once been Baldino's fiddle teacher. In 2014, Lockman was replaced with Amy Beshara, another experienced fiddler and singer from the New York area.

Peter Trezzi, a percussionist who joined the group in 2008, rounds out the lineup.

"I feel like we have a really strong lineup of players," Baldino says. "Amy is with us almost two years, and she's absolutely phenomenal. Each person who joins, they bring something new to the band, a different style, different influences. It's been really cool."

The band continues to have success.

Released in November, "These Are the Days" became the most-played record on folk radio programs, with three songs off the album being among the four most played during the month of January.

The band's previous album, 2013's "Pressed for Time," hit No. 1 on the Roots Music Folk and Roots Charts, and was among the most-played records for folk DJs. The third album, "Totes for Goats" was formally entered into the Traditional Irish Music Archives in Dublin, Ireland in 2011.

The band is planning its second musical trip to Ireland in April.

Baldino, who is studying for a master's degree in counseling, says she has no plans to stop playing music professionally or to end Burning Bridget Cleary.

"As of right now, we're doing really well and I'm obviously proud of everything we've done," she says. "There's no plan to stop anything right now. But you know I feel like everything can run its course. I'm older now and of course my dad's getting older, and he might not want to play as much.

"It's something I've thought about over the last couple of years. If the band's going to run its course, then that's OK too."

At the same time, music will always be her biggest passion, she says.

"If I ever had to quit everything to do music, I would probably do it," Baldino says. "It's the one thing in my life that I am just so sure of and so in love with. So, yeah, I would say this would be a lifelong obsession."

Daryl Nerl is a freelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, editor


Source: The Morning Call 3-17-16