Wanting to give his students the opportunity to experience a new form of music, Murray County Central High School choral instructor Ryan Werdon remembered a quartet of musicians from his college days.
McInnis' Kitchen, a Duluth-based group that performs Irish music of Newfoundland, Ireland and the Canadian Maritimes, will be at Murray County Central Schools for a two-day residency next week. The group will do a concert at 3:30 p.m. Monday at the Slayton Public Library and a full show with MCC choirs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the MCC auditorium.
McInnis' Kitchen consists of Mark Monroe on the fiddle, Chuck Butler on the fiddle and button accordion, Sue Spencer on vocals, guitar and button accordion and Jim Ofsthun on vocals, bodharan, guitar, pennywhistle and accordion. The group has been featured at festivals and concerts around the world and has been on television and radio programs in the United States and Canada.
Werdon said he went to college at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and was familiar with McInnis' Kitchen. He worked with the Lake Superior Youth Chorus, which once did a collaboration with McInnis' Kitchen.
"I thought 'oh man, it would be really cool to get them down here,'" Werdon said.
So Werdon wrote a Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council grant to bring the group to MCC to work with the students and perform a concert. He said McInnis' Kitchen does a mix of music.
"(It does) traditional Irish tunes, kind of seafaring songs, (songs from) Newfoundland," he said. "Not all of their songs are vocal." He said the group also tells stories during its performances.
Werdon said members of McInnis' Kitchen also wear traditional Irish costumes for their shows.
"They kind of go all out with it," Werdon said.
During its stay in Slayton, McInnis' Kitchen will work with the 7-12 choirs at MCC and elementary children in grades K-2. For Tuesday's concert, all the choirs will perform, followed by a set by McInnis' Kitchen. Then the choirs will join McInnis' Kitchen for a few pieces, Werdon said.
"They'll (McInnis' Kitchen) sing the verses and the choirs will sing the chorus (of the songs)," Werdon said.
Although it's not the type of music the students listen to on a regular basis, Werdon said that having that exposure to such a group, like McInnis' Kitchen, is good for them.
"I've tried to pump them up a little bit," Werdon said.