Artistically Speaking: Aurora Celtic — Local Roots Planted in Traditions

Last Updated on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:34am | Arts & Culture

"Artistically Speaking" is a regular feature of The Lake-Front magazine, in cooperation with the Garrett County Arts Council, and is being reprinted here in its entirety with permission. This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue.
Every year on March 17th, people all over the world commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday in celebration of Irish traditions, folk lore, and culture. Although this only happens once a year, there are some people who keep those traditions alive year round, including local band Aurora Celtic.
The group consists of four members, including Chris Bern on bass, Jake Pitzer on vocals and guitar, Alice Fleischman on flutes, whistles, and banjo, and Michael Broderick on fiddle and mandolin. The current lineup has been performing together since 2014, but Michael and Alice have been playing together in several bands and duos for almost 20 years.
It all started when Michael and Alice met. Although they both reside in Aurora, WV, they didn’t know each other until they were introduced by mutual friends who knew they both shared a love for instrumental music. They were reacquainted sometime later while taking some workshops at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College. Ever since, the friends have gone on to play with many talented musicians, founding the bands Sang Run and Wolf Creek Session prior to Aurora Celtic.
When creating their music, Michael said, “For me, composing instrumental music can start with one of many small inspirations- a rhythm, snippet of an exotic scale or just something I see or hear in my beautiful mountain ecosystem.” The band also bases a lot of their music on Celtic traditions from Ireland, France, and Cape Breton. They tend to incorporate an eclectic mix of world music influences as well, including unusual scales and different time signatures from Eastern Europe. They love playing and stretching the limits of tradition to create their own, unique style of music.
When it comes to musical training, both Alice and Michael frequently attend Celtic music workshops around the country each summer. However, the music Aurora Celtic performs is primarily done by ear, which can be more of a challenge but also liberating and fun at the same time. 
The band regularly performs concerts at venues throughout the area, including the Garrett County Celtic Festival in Friendsville, MD, The Mountain State Arts & Crafts Fair in Ripley, WV, The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV, and Tamarack Theater in Beckley, WV.
They also performed last year at the grand opening of The Gallery Shop, owned by Garrett County Arts Council. Aurora Celtic’s CDs are available for purchase at The Gallery Shop, as well as the Tamarack Gallery in Beckley, WV, Highlands Artisan Gallery in Davis, WV, and online at CDBaby, Amazon, and ITunes. They are also sold during concerts.
The band’s music is constantly evolving as they continually try to push the boundaries of what is considered traditional Irish music. They strive to maintain a sense of humor and humility in their work, while incorporating aspects from their favorite traditions. Michael says, “Fortunately, we still fit just snugly enough in the Irish genre that our favorite NPR music program, Fiona Ritchie’s “The Thistle and Shamrock,” has featured tracks from all three of our CDs over the past five years and on her New Music for the New Year shows in 2018.”
Although music plays a major role in all of their lives, all four members have day jobs and families that keep them busy as well. Alice’s career resides in the arts realm as a professional graphic artist. She is the owner of East West Printing, a t-shirt printing company located in Davis, WV. She is also the layout designer of Aurora Celtic’s CD covers.
When the band members have free time, they all enjoy spending time outdoors doing various activities. Chris is an avid fisherman and boater. Jake lives on and takes care of a family farm. Alice enjoys cross country skiing, gardening, and hiking with her dogs. And Michael likes to take long walks and spend time with his five grandchildren.
“There is never a better time than right now to support local live music and all working artists,” said Michael. “We look forward to seeing Garrett County folks and other music lovers at one of our upcoming shows.” To learn more about Aurora Celtic and their future performances, visit or visit the Aurora Celtic Facebook page.
To find one of Aurora Celtic’s CDs and see the work of many other local artists, visit The Gallery Shop at 108 S. Second St, in downtown Oakland, Maryland. The Garrett County Arts Council is funded by the Maryland State Arts Council, Garrett County Government, and through membership support. For more information or to become a member, contact GCAC at 301-334-6580 or visit