Shamrock serves up Irish jigs courtesy of Wherligig
By Nathan Oravec - The Frederick Gazette

Celtic band Wherligig will help audiences celebrate St. Patrick's Day
from 12-3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. today and 5-9 p.m. Saturday at
The Shamrock Restaurant in Thurmont.
Wherligig, said bandleader Ken Koons, is a family enterprise,
comprised of him; his wife, Stephanie; his brother-in-law, Mark
Yount; and the Koons' 17-year old son, Ryan.
This year will be the Carroll County band's 18th holiday appearance
at The Shamrock, Koons said. In the 19 consecutive years that the
band has been invited to perform at the restaurant, only one has
been missed - the year Ryan was born.
Interestingly, while known for their lively jigs and reels, the family's
history is not rife with Irish heritage. Instead, the music was spurred
by a requisite need for something pure.
"It was the 1970s, and I was becoming disenchanted with what
I was hearing on the radio," Koons said. "It wasn't from the soul."
He first looked into bluegrass, but "wanted to go back even further."
He shared an interest in American old time music with his wife,
Stephanie, whom he met during that time and married in 1979. A
skilled craftsman, Koons built a hammered dulcimer and a guitar
shortly after they met, and before long, a band began to form.
"We did some research and discovered that ... Celtic music [was
the root of] old time and bluegrass," Koons said. "We traced the
music back through manuscripts, and Celtic music just said
something much more to us than that which came afterward."
In 1985, Wherligig had taken shape with the accompaniment of
fiddler John Winship. When Winship left the band two years later,
Stephanie's brother Mark took his place, bringing to the table his
deft talent on the mandolin.
Over the next several years, Wherligig -- Christened with the 1600s
spelling of the word -- would tour throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania
and West Virginia, while Koons perfected additional instruments for
the band. With the incorporation of the harp, the Irish drum, the Scottish
small pipes, and the tin whistle, Wherligig's signature sound grew
The band gained an invaluable member when the Koons' son, Ryan,
became interested in his parents' music.
"My son started going with us to performances when he was about
3 or 4 years old. He'd sit in the back and read while we played," Koons
said. "When he was 10 years old, he asked if he could look at the tin
Like that, the band's roster increased to four. Ryan began playing,
Koons said, as though he had been on stage with the rest of the
band all along. "He had heard our music for so long, he had it in
his head."
Since its inception, Wherligig has released three albums and
continues to tour throughout the tri-state.
According to Koons, each St. Patrick's, they can be found at The
Shamrock, a holiday homecoming year after year.
"The Fitzgeralds are great people," Koons said. "They've really
kept us going as a band for so long."
Also, with Wherligig, the Celtic music they share is simply part
of the family spirit.
"My son said to me the other day, 'I play classical music for the
challenge. I play Celtic music for my soul.'"
Where: The Shamrock Restaurant, U.S. Route 15 and Fitzgerald
Road, Thurmont
When: 12-3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. tonight, 5-9 p.m. Saturday

For information: 301-271-2912 or

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