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Hanover-Adams Irish band gearing up for St. Paddy's

It's just days away: the holiday riddled with green beer, corned beef and cabbage, leprechauns and unobtainable pots o' gold.

If you're still looking for ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day 2016 in the Hanover-Adams area, a McSherrystown band will soon deliver authentic Irish entertainment at two local venues.

Irishtown Road is set to perform its varied repertoire of traditional music from the Emerald Isle at the Ancient Order of Hibernians' St. Patrick's Day Party on Saturday at the McSherrystown Knights of Columbus. The band will also appear at the Bay City Restaurant and Lounge's St. Patty's Party on March 17.

Irish music isn't just jigs and fiddles. Here are three things to know about the genre and its heritage, as told by Brian Colgan, who plays guitar and flute in Irishtown Road.

1. A jig isn't only a dance.

Though many people refer to Irish jigs as a sort of lively dance, the word actually refers to an Irish song's time signature, or the number of beats in one bar, Colgan said.

"It's a meter," Colgan said. "Jigs are usually in triplet form, in threes, like 6/8 meter or 9/8 meter."

Reels are another popular form of Irish music and dance. Colgan said reel tunes are typically played in 2/2 or 4/4 meter.

Irishtown Road performs both types of songs, as well as traditional ballads and rebel songs. They perform many original compositions, written in traditional Irish style.

"We have two CDs out now, and we're working on a third one," Colgan said. "There's a lot of creativity going on in our bunch. We enjoy playing our own stuff."

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2. The Irish language doesn't sound the way it looks. 

The members of Irishtown Road know a bit of the Irish, also known as Gaelic, language, and the words are not pronounced the way they appear, Colgan said. It's a tough language to learn.

"I think it's close to ancient Phoenician dialect or something like that," he said.

The Irish phrase for the greeting "Good day" or "Hello" is one example of the perplexing language. It is spelled "Dia Duit," but is pronounced like "gee-a-ditch," Colgan said. Its literal translation is "God be with you," he said.

Aside from the language, Irishtown Road also incorporates elements of their Irish heritage in their music. Their lyrics often make references to the Colgan family's ancestry. Colgan's paternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1847 during The Great Famine in Ireland.

The band itself is a bit of a family affair. Colgan's son, Jesse Colgan, and his sisters, Eileen Colgan Bowling and Lynn Colgan Cohen, all perform in the group. Cohen's husband, Henry Cohen, will also play with the band during their St. Patrick's Day engagements.

The group's name is inspired by Irishtown, a village in between New Oxford and McSherrystown, where the Colgans settled. There are Irishtown Roads throughout the world, Colgan said, marking where Irish families made their homes.

"They stuck together because they were kind of misunderstood and looked down upon, so they hung out with their own," he said.

"(The band name) is symbolic for our family, but also symbolic for a sort of a microcosm for Irish people of the world," he said.

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3. There's the flute, and then there's the Irish flute.

The Irish flute is devoid of the shiny metallic structure, finger pads and bright sound of a modern flute, said Colgan, who plays both instruments occasionally. It is wooden, with padless finger holes, and it emits a dark sound.

The tin whistle, which is higher-pitched and smaller than a regular flute, is often heard in Irish music, Colgan said. Bagpipes have also become synonymous with St. Patrick's Day celebrations and Irish music. In Irishtown Road, Rodney Williams plays the uilleann pipes, which involve pumping a bag with your elbow, Colgan said.

Some of the other instruments audiences can expect to hear in Irishtown Road's performances include the bodhran, percussion, guitar, fiddle, banjo, banjola, bass, guitar and mandolin.

If you go

What: Ancient Order of Hibernians St. Patrick's Day Party

When: 7 to 10 p.m. March 12. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. 

Where: McSherrystown Knights of Columbus, 342 Main St., McSherrystown

Tickets: $20 for adults and $7 for youth ages 7 to 12. Children under 7 receive free admission. Tickets may be purchased at the Garryowen Irish Pub at 126 Chambersburg St. in Gettysburg, or the McSherrystown Knights of Columbus. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. Proceeds will benefit several local hunger relief organizations through the Ancient Order of Hibernians' Hunger Project.

Includes: Lights snacks, a cash bar and raffles of Irish goods. 

More: 717-637-6229. 

Additional show: Bay City Restaurant and Lounge's St. Patty's Party, 110 Eisenhower Dr., Hanover, from 6 to 10 p.m. March 17.