This story by Paul Reichart appeared in the Aug. 13, 2008 issue of The Patriot-News.

Band provides a few sparks for McClain
Celtic Festival coming to Two Mile House

Fire in the Glen started a fire in the glen outside the Two Mile House on July 26 that organizers hope will burn until the annual McClain Celtic Festival on Aug. 30.

"We thought we'd try something different -- a prefundraiser to lead into the festival," said Joan McBride, manager of the historic home on Walnut Bottom Road that sits exactly two miles south of the square in downtown Carlisle.

Fire in the Glen, a duet from the Lancaster area that specializes in Irish and Scottish music, had performed at the festival in past years and seemed a logical choice for the July event.

"They've always been very well received," said Kim Laidler, who heads marketing and development for the Cumberland County Historical Society, which owns the Two Mile House.

The outdoor concert also was used to unveil the glen behind the house, which has been cleared of snarly underbrush and outfitted with a wooden stage.

"It was all overgrown. It was a mess," McBride said. "We worked years and years to bring it to what it is today."

It was a grassy, tree-shaded slope surrounding the stage on two sides where more than 200 music lovers set up lawn chairs to watch the duet perform. Behind the stage was a cornfield.

A few people brought coolers but seemed to have little opportunity to enjoy their refreshments as they stomped their feet, clapped their hands and sang along to the sometimes-frenzied songs Fire in the Glen performed.

Two small girls next to the stage whirled to the fiddle music until they got dizzy and fell down, then got up to whirl some more.

Starting with "Reilly's Daughter" and ending with "I'd Stop Drinkin,'" the concert featured classic Irish drinking songs and a couple of Irish-style tunes with a local bent written by the duet's fiddler and bodhran player Tom Knapp -- "Susquehanna Pirates."

Playing guitar and offering lead vocals was Jason Mundok. Knapp has been part of Fire in the Glen since its inception in 1999; Mundok is Knapp's third partner, coming onboard about a year ago. He was making his first appearance at the Carlisle event.

"He lives across the street from me," Knapp said after the performance. "When he moved in, he recognized me because he'd seen Fire in the Glen."

Though Mundok's experience was largely in folk and country music, he had lived briefly in Ireland and was interested in the genre.

"He took to it like mad," Knapp said. "Irish seems to be a culture of extremes."

Besides the often-humorous drinking songs, there are "a lot of sad songs that we mostly avoid," he said.

Knapp said his own introduction to music was as a classical violinist, "but it wasn't for me. I let my violin collect dust for several years," he said.

"But then one day I just decided to call it a fiddle and play Irish tunes."

Fire in the Glen performs almost exclusively in south-central Pennsylvania but won't be seen again for a while, Knapp said.

"We're taking a couple months off to focus on a new recording," he said.

Knapp said the duet's three previous CDs -- On the Road to Lisdoonvarna, Pirates, Wakes & Whiskey and Let The Wind Blow High, featured traditional Irish and Scottish music.

"This time we're working on new things that are going to surprise people a little bit," he said.

Knapp said they'll be eager to get back to live performances, especially for events like the McClain Celtic Festival. He said the Carlisle gig "was nice because everybody was there to listen," as opposed to doing a show at a pub where the audience sometimes gets distracted.

"And people who like to sing along definitely add something to the program," Knapp said.

• The McClain Celtic Festival will be held Aug. 30 at Two Mile House near Carlisle.
• The festival will include a variety of musical performances, Irish and Scottish dancers, Highland athletic events and a border collie demonstration.
• The festival was launched after the Two Mile House was bequeathed to the Cumberland County Historical Society by J. McClain and Mary Wheeler King in 1992. According to society spokeswoman Kim Laidler, the event pays tribute to the Scottish and Irish immigrants who settled in the Carlisle area, many to escape religious persecution.
• For more information, visit

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