The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat is sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival which celebrates its 11th anniversary in 2015. The Festival owes its existence to Jack and Barbara Yule who retired and moved here from Scotland in December 2000. Jack is a well known maker of Celtic harps, and a melodeon player. Barbara is a well known folklorist and storyteller, having earned her Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Edinburgh. Their daughter, Heather Yule, is a professional harpist and still lives in Scotland.
Following their move to Huerfano County, summers saw a number of their friends traveling from Scotland in order to visit Jack and Barbara and experience this very different landscape. Many of those visitors were traditional musicians in their own right, and these summer visits often featured impromptu ceilidhs with Jack, Barbara, their friends from Scotland, and a few fortunate local friends. These were so popular that Barbara took it on herself to organize a full-fledged Celtic Music Festival! Thus, the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival was born in 2005!
Barbara envisioned a festival similar to the traditional music festivals back home in Scotland. Those festivals are smaller than the mega-festivals we see so often in the US. The smaller size allows for the artists and attendees to interact closely. There are no thousand-seat auditoriums at this festival! Our artists perform at concerts, play at an open session at the pub, and teach a workshop the next day! Our festival places equal emphasis on both “entertainment” and “education”, thus the number of workshops that focus on various instruments (harp, fiddle, whistle, pipes, bodhran, etc.) as well as dancing, singing and storytelling.
Jack and Barbara insist that the lead artists be tops in their fields. Over the years we’ve featured many world-class artists such as Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Aine Minogue, The Tannahill Weavers, Jerry O’Sullivan, Ed Miller, William Jackson, Maire Ni Chathasaigh, The Old Blind Dogs, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, John Doyle, Fullset, Liz Carroll and many others.
The Festival also features a community outreach component as artists conduct workshops in the local schools. Additionally, events are held in various locations around the county, strengthening community connections through the best of Celtic music.
The Festival has no paid staff. It’s a labor of love and volunteers work throughout the year to insure that the Festival lives up to its reputation for providing the best of traditional Celtic music, emphasizing education and entertainment.