The Gentry are:
Irish Flute / Whistles / Vocals
Sam wandered in and out of music through the years until he found his musical (and ethnic!) roots at the local Irish music session in Athens, Georgia while attending the UGA School of Law. Not content with just one instrument, Sam started exploring traditional Celtic music on the pennywhistle, but was quickly ensnared by the unique, evocative sound of the wooden "Irish" flute - and picked up the hammered dulcimer along the way! As the singer and lead melody player for The Gentry, he seeks to draw from the deep well of traditional music and, through his instruments and fine tenor voice, to find melodies and lyrics that set your feet to tapping and your heart to singing!
Tracie comes from a background in early music and is a veteran performer on the lever ("Folk" or "Celtic" ) harp. She has competed abroad (including in Ireland), has performed and recorded with some of the finest musicians in the genre, and has graced many a music session up and down the East Coast. Whether it be her innovative and rhythmic backing of the tunes or soulful playing of airs and songs, Tracie's dancing fingers and mastery of Irish music lend a rich and unique dimension to The Gentry's sound.
Guitar / Percussion
John is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and professional musician across several different genres, from Celtic, to Jazz, to Experimental. His love for the Celtic musical tradition was kindled after first hearing the lively and subtly complex rhythmic tapestry that gives life to the instrumental tunes, as well as the evocative stories and striking melodies of the songs. As the guitarist for the Gentry, he endeavors to weave a texture and rhythm into the music that imbues it with the elusive quality of "lift."
...but who are The Gentry?
Why do we call ourselves The Gentry? After all, members of the landed aristocracy are not exactly heroic figures in Ireland! But the “Gentry” of Irish folklore are far more than just the idle rich, and have roots as deep as those of the land itself…
An Ancient Legend
Long before the written annals of history, a series of six invasions broke over Ireland like the wild North Atlantic waves. First came the Muintir Cessair – descendants of a son of Noah who came to Ireland to escape the Great Flood but perished in its tumultuous depths. Then came the Muintir Partholóin: sons of the hero Partholon, who journeyed from Greece to settle the western isle but soon succumbed to a mysterious plague. The first successful group of invaders arrived thirty years later – the Muintir Neimhidh, who called lakes forth from the ground and built many forts to guard against Ireland’s mysterious supernatural natives, the Fomoire or Fomorians.
As the years rolled on, the Fomorians defeated and oppressed the Muintir Neimhidh until at last they rose up in rebellion. The Muintir Neimhidh were doomed, however, and were utterly destroyed in a great battle when the Fomorians called up a great wave to smash their opponents asunder. Only thirty of the Muintir Neimhidh survived, and scattered to the winds.
One group of survivors fled to Greece; one to Britain; and the last group fled to the North of the world. Later, the Grecian survivors returned to Ireland as the Fir Bolg and settled in the ruins of the earlier war. The Fomorians remained quiescent and the Fir Bolg spread through the island.
Meanwhile, the survivors of the Muintir Neimhidh who fled north grew and flourished under the lights of the aurora borealis, gaining great craft, beauty, and supernatural powers. They called themselves the Tuath Dé - the people of God. The Tuath Dé bided their time and grew in strength and wisdom – but then they swept down out of their four cities of the North and broke upon the coast of Ireland as the fifth invasion wave.
The Tuath Dé quickly crushed the Fir Bolg at the First Battle of Magh Tuireadh and took possession of the island. Sensing an age-old foe, the Fomorians rose from their slumber and fought against the Tuath Dé – but the invaders defeated the Fomorians and slew their king Balor at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. With their lands secured, the victorious Tuath Dé spread out among Ireland’s hills and fields and filling the island works of great craftsmanship and their own unique and beautiful music.
But the peace of the Tuath Dé did not last, for the sixth and final wave of invaders soon flowed up from the south. A force of men from what is now the Spanish province of Galicia – the Míl Espáine or Milesians. After a series of battles, the Tuath Dé asked for a truce of three days, in which the Milesians would retire to their ships off the Irish coast. However, in a fatal moment of hubris, the Tuath Dé broke the truce and called up a supernatural storm to destroy the Milesians. Among the Milesians was the bard Amergin, who sang the waters into stillness – and then the Milesians, full of righteous anger, swept ashore and defeated the Tuath Dé at the Battle of Tailtiu.
Amergin met with the defeated leaders of the Tuath Dé and cleverly brokered an uneasy peace by dividing Ireland between the two groups. Under the agreement, all of Ireland from the ground to the sky was granted to the Milesian men; the Tuath Dé reserved to themselves all the dark and secret spaces below the ground as well as the supernatural realm of Tír na nÓg.
The Tuath Dé were led into their underground realm through the ancient burial mounds known as the sídhe, and there they remained while the Milesians gradually became known as the original Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. With the passing centuries came the Christian faith, and the monks of Ireland reduced the old legends to writing in such books as the Annals of the Four Masters and the Lebor Gabála Érenn – the “Book of the Takings of Ireland,” which recorded the six invasions of legend. Of course, the monks already had a “people of God” – the Israelites – so they altered the name of the Tuath Dé to “Tuatha Dé Danaan”: the people of the Celtic goddess Danú.
Through the ancient and modern recorded history of Ireland, the descendants of the Milesians have known that the Tuath Dé still coexist with men and women, underneath the green fields and peat bogs. They have taken on other names as well: the Aos Sí or Aes Sídhe (the people of the mounds); the Bean Sídhe or “Banshee”; the Púca; and the Leannan Sídhe, among others. And of course, the Tuath Dé do not always abide by the terms of their ancient treaty – they have been known to emerge among the worn-down sídhe mounds or standing stones, and often work mischief among their old rivals in the above-ground world.
The country folk of Ireland know that the surest way to invite a visit by the Tuath Dé is to call them by any of their ancient Gaelic names, so a whole assortment of euphemisms has grown up in their place: the Good Folk; the Fair Folk; the Fairies…and The Gentry.
A Modern Tribute
We choose to call ourselves The Gentry not to invoke a legacy of changelings, magic, or stolen brides, but rather to honor their legend as the source of Celtic music. The music of Ireland and Scotland is said to stem directly from that of the Tuath Dé, who possessed a unique and transcendent skill with music and song. The legend goes that this music is still played in the subterranean halls of the Sídhe, and rises up to suffuse the landscape and people of these lands with its beauty.
We hope to capture a glimmer of this rich history in our music – and we hope that our lively dance tunes, ballads, and poignant airs will set your feet tapping and your heart stirring as the music seeps up from the ground and through our instruments, passing from the deep wells of tradition into your memory and soul.
-Sam, Tracie, & John