Switchback brings Irish sound to Sandwich
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media March 14, 2013 11:26AM
Switchback will perform at the Sandwich Opera House. | File photo
♦ March 17
♦ Sandwich Opera House, 140 E Railroad St., Sandwich
♦ Tickets, $15-$25
♦ (815) 786-2555
Updated: March 14, 2013 11:26AM
On the most Irish of days in America, a Celtic band from Chicago will bring the luck o’ the Irish to Sandwich.
Switchback, a duo that’s been together for two decades, will bring their mix of Celtic soul and American roots music to the Sandwich Opera House for a 7 p.m. show March 17.
Switchback is comprised of Brian FitzGerald on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Martin McCormack on bass, guitar and vocals. They play modern and traditional Celtic music, alongside Midwestern folk music.
McCormack, who has both U.S. and Irish citizenship, said that their interest and passion for Celtic music began with their families. The well-known FitzGerald’s nightclub in Berwyn is owned by Brian FitzGerald’s family. It was there that the pair was introduced to the music of their forefathers.
“We were approached by man by the name of Cuz Teahan, who was from County Kerry (Ireland),” McCormack said. “He was the last of the old-time Irish musicians, in the sense that he was taught in Ireland by traveling musicians. For bed and board, he would teach your child music or songs or stories. We were lucky we got that training, from a guy like that. That made our Irish music very authentic and very old-country.”
Coupled with the duo’s Midwestern sensibility as well, their music easily spans the two worlds of Irish and American music, he said.
“Irish music is the great-grandpappy of bluegrass and country and even rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “With that in mind, our music made a lot of sense for us to embrace our heritage because it is America’s heritage, musically speaking.”
The pair met when their bands shared a double bill at a club in Palatine, McCormack said.
“We both realized we enjoyed song writing and working together crafting songs,” he said. “Not only were we writing our Americana style of music, but traditional Irish pieces and modern Irish pieces as well.”
Some of that music has been featured on PBS, in a special called “Celtic Sessions with Switchback.” Another special called “The Americana Sessions” is also still airing on PBS, he said.
Not only will Sandwich audiences be treated to Switchback’s vocal harmonies and lively music, they will have step dancers from Colleen’s School of Irish Step Dancing with them, FitzGerald said.
“There’s going to be a lot of fire power on stage,” he said.
Another treat for the audience will be a guest musician named Takeshi Horiuchi from Japan, McCormack said. He will play the bodhran, an Irish drum.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the group will play mostly Irish music.
“We can play Celtic music for 9 or 10 hours without repeating,” FitzGerald said. “It’s what we like the most. You’ll see Marty and I performing traditional Irish music with our stamp on it. Strap your seat belt on and hold on tight — this is going to be one hell of a show. Even if they aren’t Irish, they are going to feel Irish after this one.”