Pittsburgh's Callán Rooted in Diverse Musical Backgrounds

Dec 18, 2013

Band members in Pittsburgh's Celtic folk ensemble Callán come from diverse musical backgrounds.
Credit Larry Rippel / Courtesy of the artist

Callán, a Pittsburgh-based traditional Celtic folk ensemble, is comprised of artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

Percussionist Kip Ruefle found his way to traditional music by following his interest in the bodhran, the traditional Irish drum. He brings decades of performing rock and jazz into the mix.

Sheila Liming, however, grew up with traditional music. She remembers her Scottish grandmother singing songs when she was growing up in Seattle. Liming played several instruments before beginning with bagpipes in high school. She attended college on a bagpipe scholarship, and when she came to Pittsburgh for graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University, she was happily surprised to find a community of pipers there. In addition to bagpipes Liming plays the accordion, whistles and sings.

Band member Cara Masset said she is going through a transformation in how she describes herself. Trained in classical music but exposed to traditional music since childhood, she is coming to see herself as a fiddler rather than a violinist. She also sings.

Steve Seel adds to the vocal mix too. His background is rock and roll, but playing guitar and bouzouki in Callán reveals his love of tradition too.

Chris Klehm was a bluegrass musician until taking a trip to Ireland. He fell in love with the music and has been playing nothing else for the past 35 years. He plays guitar and mandolin in addition to singing.

They approach their music with a deep respect for the traditions they follow and look forward to adding something of their own.

”It’s nice to start to add new and original compositions to a repertoire of traditional music still written in the traditional idiom,” Liming said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Sheila Liming's name was misspelled. The story has been updated.