Winter Roots Fest brings Finnish and Scottish music to Marquette


Photo courtesy of Martin Gillespie

SCOTTISH ROCK – Martin Gillespie from Scottish folk-rock band Skerryvore plays the bagpipes at one of their shows. Skerryvore will be headlining the Winter Roots Festival on March 19 at the Forest Roberts Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

Olivia Apa, Features Writer

For four nights this week, bands will perform at a different location around Marquette for the Winter Roots Festival. It will feature music ranging from Finnish inspired reggae-pop to jazz and rock & roll to Irish folk to intricate and exploratory songwriting. 

Headlining the festival is Scottish folk-rock band Skerryvore playing a variety of instruments from bagpipes, whistles, accordions, drums, vocals and fiddles. 

The Winter Roots Festival is an event to bring more wintertime entertainment to Marquette just when people are starting to get cabin fever, Daniel Truckey, director of the Northern Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center, said. Truckey will also be singing and playing guitar and Irish bouzouki at the festival with his band, The Knockabouts. 

“We were originally going to call it the ‘Cabin Fever Festival’ but that was already taken,” Truckey said. “We decided to call it the Winter Roots Festival because we wanted to focus on roots music.”  

Beginning in 2019, the festival is a collaboration between many groups in the community including the Beaumier Heritage Center, Hiawatha Music Co-Op, Peter White Public Library, the City Art Center and the Downtown Development Authority. Winter Roots was held for two years with workshops for kids, dances and music lasting all weekend, but COVID-19 hit and they were not able to have it in 2021. 

This year will be a series of evening concerts from Wednesday, March 16 to Saturday, March 19. Tickets are sold separately for each of the performances; from the 16-18, tickets are $5 for Hiawatha Music Co-Op members and $7 for non-members. Tickets can be found on MQT Compass

Tickets for the Skerryvore performance are $15 in advance and $17 at the door and can be found on NMU ticketing, at the Forest Roberts Theatre, NMU Bookstore or the Berry Events Center. Truckey suggests people buy tickets in advance because they are selling quickly. 

Masks are required for the performances Wednesday through Friday but they are not required for Skerryvore’s concert. 

Kicking off the festival on March 16 at the Ore Dock Brewing Company from 6-8 p.m. is Hiawatha Traditional Acoustic Performances of St. Urho’s Day concert featuring Wil Kilpela with Cliff Porter and Conga Se Menne. St. Urho’s Day celebrates the fictional legend of St. Urho who chased all of the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, saving the grape crop and the jobs of the vineyard workers. 

Kipela was raised on a small farm in a Finnish community in the Upper Peninsula. He is a skilled accordion player who favors Finnish tunes, performing polkas and minor key waltzes. 

Conga Se Menne is a musically diverse band with Derrell Syria on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Ziegner on backup vocals and bass, Gary Parkkonen on keyboard and Ethan Syria on congas. Their songs are presented in the form of reggae, blues, rock and funk, all blended with the rhythm and melodies of traditional Finnish music. 

On March 17 at the Ore Dock Brewing Company from 7:30-9:30 p.m. is the St. Patrick’s Day Concert featuring The Knockabouts and Michael and Erica Waite. 

The Knockabouts are a local Celtic Folk band with Barb Rhyneer on fiddle and vocals, Tim DeMarte on bodhran drum and vocals and Truckey on guitar and vocals. Each has decades of experience performing rock & roll, classical, jazz and traditional folk. 

Truckey said his band is happy to get to play at their first actual St. Patrick’s day show in two years. 

“It is going to be a rollicking and celebratory event,” Truckey said. 

Michael and Erica Waite, also Marquette locals, perform Michael’s songs ranging in style from Irish folk to popular music. 

The Songwriters In the Round Concert will be held on March 18 at The Fold, 1015 N Third St. #9 from 7:30-9:30 is featuring John Davey, Lena Maude and Michael Waite. 

Davey is a songwriter based in Marquette who founded Late Bloomer Entertainment which houses various artists’ recordings of his songs. Maude is a Michigan native visual artist and songwriter, whose work is influenced by her rural upbringing and interest in mythology. 

Finishing up the festival on March 19 at the Forest Roberts Theatre at 7:30 p.m. is Scottish folk-rock group Skerryvore traveling all the way from the island of Tiree off the western coast of Scotland.  

Truckey discovered Skerryvore by searching for bands touring the Midwest around St. Patrick’s Day to see if any could come to the U.P. He saw that they were playing in Wisconsin and that they had an opening at the end of their tour, so it just worked out, Truckey said.

With Alec Dalglish on lead vocal and guitar, Daniel Gillespie on accordion, Martin Gillespie on bagpipes, whistle and accordion, Fraser West on drums and vocals, Craig Espie on fiddle, Alan Scobie on keyboard, Jodie Bremaneson on bass and Scott Wood on bagpipes, their music is a fusion of rock, pop and traditional music.

On the small island with a population of about 500, Skerryvore began as a band of four; West, Dalglish and the Gillespie brothers. The band expanded when they went to university and have since traveled all around the world. Martin Gillespie said that the U.S. is one of his favorite places to tour because it is so vast with many different places to visit.

Martin said that he is happy to go anywhere with sunshine and good weather, but before the pandemic they traveled to the Midwest in January which was a lot colder than Scotland. 

“We’re a lively band and very energetic and we like to get the crowd involved,” Martin said. “They can be prepared to dance and stand up and clap.” 

Truckey said this is the first big concert at Northern since COVID-19 and will be a full production with lighting and sound.

The Winter Roots Festival should offer refuge from cabin fever with live music for the Marquette community.

“Students are like anybody else,” Truckey said. “They’re desperate to hear some live music and have some fun and I think that all four shows are going to offer something different to different tastes.”