Any folk tradition worth its weight in ethnomusicologists must express the sacred and profane nature of its culture.Irish music does this better than most. Its lyrics range from fierce, nationalistic statements to ribald barroom tales, while rambunctious rhythms and winsome melodies enliven the feet as well as the soul.

Saturday night at Gaston Hall, a hearty band of traditionalists presented Irish music in all of its guises. There were delicate love songs, jaunty hornpipes and jigs, and a slow air or two. And the Donny Golden dancers rounded out the evening with a high-stepping, heel-kicking display the likes of which is rarely seen this side of Kerry.

Barbara Murphy's Celtic harp wove its way through a haunting set of ballads, while a quartet led by guitarist Mick Maloney provided the passion and energy. On "My Dear Cow," Maloney's tremulous voice, backed by the plaintive fiddling of Eugene O'Donnell, evoked the desperation of the common Irish folk. Uileann pipist Tim Britton also contributed a number of lively jigs, handily negotiating the melodic twists and turns that characterize such pieces.

While the musicians were hardly virtuoso -- tempos were occasionally uneven and several notes were dropped -- they played with a verve and panache that allowed the spirit of the music to speak for itself.