Ireland, land of green hillsides. Full of culture, mythology, and mysterious wonder…

I’ve never been there, but lead singer/songwriter for Ha’Penny Bridge, Mark McKinnon, certainly has. He says the experience changed his life, and further changed his songwriting and musical style.

“Before I visited, I never had thought about playing Celtic music,” said McKinnon. The overwhelming combination of the nation’s beauty and culture with the musician’s personal connection to his lost heritage was enough to spark drastic creative change in his life. Hence, Ha’Penny Bridge formed. The band have since become veterans of the Chico music scene, with many members having separate bands under their belts as well.

Saturday night was the debut of their new singer, Maya Sieminski-Prosvancz, who very courageously took the place of Molly Paul. Now, I never was able to catch Ha’Penny Bridge when Ms. Molly sang, but from what I heard from various fans, she left some mighty big shoes to fill.

From what I saw and heard, Maya did an amazing job. Alone, both Mark and Maya’s voices sounded beautiful, but when they joined in harmony, it was truly captivating. The band managed to hold a fairly crowded café’s attention throughout the night, with many enraptured by the soothing melodies.

The band’s full acoustic sound filled the small venue nicely. People were able to hold conversations, but the music was the center of attention. Their soaring harmonies created images of rolling country landscapes while lush melodies painted brushstrokes of green fields one can only imagine. The combination of violin, mandolin, bass, guitar, Irish whistle, and drums blurs the barrier between Irish and American folk music fusing the two effortlessly. When I asked Mark of the imagery he writes of in his music, he said they have to be honest stories, which means a lot of research into Celtic mythology and culture for McKinnon, “So people can’t call BS.”

Along with merry tales of mountain valleys, open skies, and Celtic folklore, most Ha’Penny songs are filled with uplifting messages about humanity, hope, love, magic, and otherworldly subjects. Through years of playing other styles of music, including country, reggae, folk, and many world influenced rhythms, Mark began to play what has been dubbed by fans abroad as “California Celtic.” And after seven years of hard work sculpting the music behind the name, it’s starting to pay off.

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Tommy Diestel can't remember life without music and writing. He began writing for the Synthesis at the ripe age of 19, and aspires to be a life-long writer.