The Rakes to perform for Wilton food pantry benefit

WILTON – Close to 20 years ago, a group of musicians decided they should get together once in awhile and just play music – whatever kind of music they liked.

“We decided to have a jam session,” Sandy Lefleur said. “So I went to the Colonel Shepherd House and asked if we could use a back room. About 20 people showed up.”

That group became The Rakes of Milford.

“We took our name from ‘The Rakes of Mallow,’ from the movie ‘The Quiet Man,’ “ she said.

“Rakes” have nothing to do with garden tools, she explained, but is an old English term for a profligate, a dissolute playboy, as in “rakes, rogues and rascals.”

At 2 p.m. Saturday, March 11, The Rakes will be at the Town Hall Theatre with a program of mostly traditional Irish music as a benefit for the Open Cupboard Food Pantry. They will be joined by the In The Field Irish Dancers, a group from the Concord area.

Admission to the program is by donation. This time, cash donations are asked in order to help the food pantry move to its new location in the Wilton Falls Building.

“Our group is very inclusive,” Lefleur said. “We come from a wide variety if backgrounds, and all cultures are welcome. While we typically play music from many cultures and styles, for the March 11 concert, we will focus on Irish music.”

She added, “Real Irish music, not what Americans have come to think of as Irish music from the movies. The reels and jigs as played in Ireland, in the Irish style.”

“Danny Boy,” for instance, isn’t an old Irish song, although it’s based on an old melody. It was written by an Englishman.

Over the years, the group has gathered at Mile-Away, the former Knights of Columbus in Milford, and now at Foodees, where they get together at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.

They have performed at the Acoustic Cafe at the Wadleigh Memorial Library in Milford, Nashua’s Wild Irish Breakfast, the Pumpkin Festival, farmers markets, and at senior centers and elderly housing.

Among the instruments they play are accordion, concertina, fiddle, guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, Appalachian dulcimer, cello, bass and bodhran, the Irish frame drum.

The concert will feature “lively, toe-tapping sets of jigs and reels, some evocative slow airs, as well as singing,” Lefleur said. “Some of the tunes are centuries old. We will be playing some music composed by the blind Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan,” 1670-1738.

The Irish dancers are a noncompetitive group offering fun, exercise, discipline and a respect for the Irish culture. Director Jean Ver Hoeven teaches adults and children three types of Irish dance: Step, or solo dance; Ceili or social folk dances; and Set, an ancestor of the modern square dance.

“They focus on the authentic Irish dance culture,” Lefleur said, “rather than the pretense that many Americans have come to believe is Irish dance. We are delighted to be joining with them.”

All donations go directly to the charity, Lefleur said.

“We have no treasury,” she said.