by Dennis Dalman
Joe Linneman, who is a highland bagpiper from Sartell, will join Ring of Kerry and the St. Paul Irish Dancers for a rousing St. Patrick’s Day celebration concert at the Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud.
The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). In what has become an annual St. Cloud area tradition, the concert will be the seventh consecutive year Ring of Kerry and its musical guests have entertained large audiences at the Paramount. It will also be the 50th-plus time in the past eight years the band has performed a show with the St. Paul Irish Dancers.
Linneman is new to the show.
Bagpipers are a rarity – especially outside of Great Britain. Linneman is a long-time exception. Born and raised in St. Cloud, he graduated from Apollo High School in 1972. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam from 1972-75 as a member of a salvage unit. Back in America, he attended law-enforcement school and worked in Ely as a deputy for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. In 2008, he retired from that job and moved to Sartell when he landed a job as a police officer at the St. Cloud Veterans Medical Center. Linnemann and his wife, Cheryl Preusse, have three children and three dogs.
It was in Ely 20 years ago Linneman decided he wanted to play bagpipes, which had always fascinated him. With no Internet back then, he taught himself to play via books. He thought he was well on the way to mastering the instrument. However, he decided to drive to Duluth for lessons where he had a humbling moment.
“I proudly played in front of the instructor,” he said. “And after listening, he said, ‘Well, maybe we can start with the scale.’”
That blunt assessment was to be expected, as bagpipes are one of the most difficult instruments to master.
Linnemann continued to make the long drive to Duluth to pursue his lessons. Later, he also drove periodically to Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada where he studied at the Fort Francis School of Celtic Arts. Now and then he attended weekend workshops, too, as well as summer camps.
During that time, he played occasionally with the Duluth Scottish Heritage Pipe Band and later with the Fort Francis Highlanders.
In Ely, Linneman started the Superior Forest Pipe Band, later called the Ely Pipes and Drums.
They played often at parades, small concerts, weddings and funerals. At one time, there were 11 pipers in the band. After moving to the greater St. Cloud area, Linneman with fellow-piper and friend Ben Richason of St. Cloud, started the St. Cloud Fire and Police Pipes and Drums.
The bagpipes Linneman plays will fit like a glove to the music of Ring of Kerry, which has been hailed far and wide as one of the finest Celtic bands around. “Celtic” is a general term for music with ancient roots in the British Isles and Brittany in northern France. Some people, somewhat inaccurately, refer to it as “Irish music.”
Ring of Kerry was founded by Paul Cotton of St. Cloud, who originally hailed from the St. Joseph and Collegeville area. Cotton sings and plays bodhran, which is a hand-held Celtic drum, some pennywhistle and instruments known as dumbec and djembe. Other current members of the band are Paul Blondell of Princeton (vocals, fiddle); Paul Imholte of St. Cloud (vocals, hammered dulcimer, cello, mandolin, guitar); Karie Oberg of Hager City, Wis. (vocals, flute, pennywhistle); and Charlie Roth of Foley (vocals, guitar, harmonica).
Ring of Kerry has recorded three CDs, their latest entitled “Ride On.”
The music of Ring of Kerry is a perfect fit for the elaborate dance steps of the St. Paul Irish Dancers, who dress in full Celtic costumes and add visual energy to the rousing punch-and-sway of Ring of Kerry’s lively music.
The very first collaboration between the St. Paul Irish Dancers and Ring of Kerry was at a show hosted by famed writer Garrison Keillor.
“Ring of Kerry and the St. Paul Irish Dancers – now THAT was a whole lot of energy!” Keillor exclaimed to the audience at that show.
Ring of Kerry has garnered raves for its performances – from audiences and critics alike. The following is from a press clipping on the band’s website:
“Ring of Kerry is a unique blend of Paul Cotton’s thundering, yet at times delicate, bodhran playing: Paul Blondell’s lilting, good-natured fiddle and mandolin; Charlie Roth’s sizzling guitar and songwriting; Paul Imholte’s weaving and bright hammered dulcimer and mandolin; and Karie Oberg’s beautiful vocals and haunting flute and pennywhistle.”
For ticket information about the St. Patrick’s Day show, go to www.paramountarts.org or call the Paramount box office at 259-5463.