A Christmas with special meaning - how Superstorm Sandy was defied by Irish music
Sandy gives new meanings to the holidays in New York
If you live in New York City you may be ready to celebrate Christmas with a little more gusto this year thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Just in time for the holidays, Cahir O'Doherty talks to producer and publicist Anita Daly about the terrific lineup of talent she’s assembled for Together for Christmas, the new album she’s produced with her partner Jim Leavitt, and about her own effort to put Sandy and its aftermath behind her.
After a challenging year like this one, the decision to have a happy Christmas can be a spirited act of defiance. Fate can conspire to break your heart somewhere between January and December, but if you’re lucky you’ll still gather the people you love around you on December 25 and resolve that life is still entirely worth living.
There’s no point in pretending that the Irish have not been particularly challenged by Hurricane Sandy at the end of October. It hit (and devastated) some of the most Irish neighborhoods on the East Coast. But along with the real heartache came our resolve to help each other heal and rebuild.
Well known Irish American producers Anita Daly and her partner Jim Leavitt know all about it. They lost half their house under water when Sandy hit Long Beach and the Far Rockaways, so the promotion for their new album Together for Christmas was halted by the storm at just the point when they planned to trumpet it.
Long before the storm hit Daly had planned Together for Christmas as a way to showcase the unique talents of the Irish and Irish American groups she has proudly represented for 17 years. But since the storm arrived it’s become a bigger project, a sort of mission statement for a battered community that’s determined to rebuild.
“Now more than ever is the time to get together for Christmas, because of everything people have been through,” Daly told the Irish Voice. “We planned the album over two years ago and unfortunately the promotion of it coincided with the storm.
“Not only did we lose our house, we lost a little business that we have invested time, energy and money into. That’s why we feel especially close to this album and we want people to enjoy it.”
If you’re thinking this is going to be a predictable album of dozily presented Christmas standards, think again. Daly isn’t interested in anything that obvious.
“I wanted to put something very contemporary out there, to reflect what my world is. It’s more alternative and progressive, it’s real rock and roll,” she says.
“I wanted this album to reflect what I really like and give a format to the some of the best singers and songwriters out there.”
Once she had the concept, she reached out to the artists who she wanted to participate. One of them is Damien Dempsey, one of the most celebrated Irish singers and songwriters to come along in decades.
“When I contacted Damien’s manager he told me there was a recording of him singing ‘Oh Holy Night’ that had never been released before. I replied, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s perfect.’ I thought I’d struck gold. And the way he sings it is just genius.”
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