REGATTA: Trefoil features Celtic sounds, instruments
WORTHINGTON — An 1840s-era wooden flute, Irish uilleann pipes, tin whistles and a button accordion are among the instruments to be featured when the South Dakota-based Trefoil trio takes to the Unvarnished Music Festival stage at 6 p.m. Thursday on Lake Okabena’s Sailboard Beach.
Jim and Jill Groth and Carol Skallerud play and sing traditional and contemporary music from Ireland, the British Isles and the U.S., featuring numerous tunes devised more than 300 years ago, and one tune that is more than 1,000 years old.
Trefoil is making its first appearance at the Unvarnished Music Festival, although the Groths performed here several years ago with a group of friends.
“We weren’t even a band then,” said Jill Groth. “Then, Jim performed in the Stallions, a blues band, at the windsurfing regatta a few years ago.”
Trefoil formed in 2005 for an Irish fair in Sioux Falls, S.D., though the group’s members have performed the music of Ireland since the 1990s in various groups.
“There aren’t that many Irish players around,” Groth said, adding that she and Skallerud have been friends since the 1970s. “Jim is a rock player but he’s done traditional music, too. He’s played both the acoustic and electric guitar since he was 13.”
Jim Groth is a singer and songwriter, and several of his original songs have been published and recorded by other artists.
Skallerud performs traditional music with the wooden flute, low whistle, guitar and button accordion. Her love of the wooden flute has since taken her to Boston's Early Music Festival to experience Baroque and Renaissance flutes, as well as to Nova Scotia's Boxwood Festival and the Swannanoa Gathering to participate in Celtic music workshops with players from around the world.
Jill Groth sings and plays the tin whistle, low whistle and Irish uilleann pipes — otherwise known as the pipes — in the trio.
The pipes are an instrument people in the Midwest typically don’t play, she said. Considered an indoor bagpipe, the pipes are are softer sounding than the more commonly seen Scottish bagpipes.
Groth acquired uilleann pipes in 2002, but didn’t play them until four years later. She participated in a South Dakota Arts Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship with master uilleann piper Tim Britton and continues regular lessons with him via iChat.
“It’s a lifelong endeavor, that’s why you need a teacher,” she said.
The Celtic sounds of Trefoil include musical selections learned both by ear or written out.
“The tradition comes from sessions where people play together in homes or in a place where people would do Irish dancing,” Groth said.
Visitors to their performance at the Unvarnished Music Festival may also be treated to vocal ballads and perhaps a Beatles song or two.
“We do our own interpretations of a couple of other things, too, that just kind of makes it our own,” she said.
Trefoil is considered a regional band, playing in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota.
“We generally play locally — festivals and some concerts,” said Groth. In addition to their appearance at the Unvarnished Music Festival, the trio will perform at the Dakota Irish Fair in Sioux Falls and the Northeast South Dakota Celtic Faire and Games in Aberdeen, S.D., this summer.
The trio performs at concerts, festivals, pub gigs, weddings, ceilis and special occasions and events. To hear a sampling of Trefoil’s music, visit trefoilcelticband.com.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330