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Celebrating the holiday season in song

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Mick Moloney
As November rolls to a close we enter the season known as the most wonderful time of the year as one song refrain has it. And as another song goes, we need a little Christmas right this very minute to overcome the dreary headlines that surround us every day.

Thankfully our friends in the Irish music scene come along every year with a joyful mix of Celtic music, song, dance and poetry to lift our weary souls and remind us that good will among men and women help to make the season bright.  

Christmas music abounds over the next month, so gather up the family and friends for a night out. Looking out from the hob, here are some of choices you can enjoy.

For the seventh year Sligo fiddler Oisin MacDiarmada has produced “An Irish Christmas in America” tour usually centered around his bandmates in Teada, the solid trad band he founded over 10 years ago. 

This year he is the sole Teada representative, but he is bringing some very fine talent from the West Kerry region in Seamus Begley (box and vocals), singers Eilis Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon and guitarist Donagh Hennessy.
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They perform as a tasty group called Lumiere based in Dingle with harpist Grainne Hambley and sean nos dancer Brian Cunningham, who have toured with Oisin and Teada before in this Christmas show. 
MacDiarmada is taking the show across the country, so check www.irishchristmasinAmerica.com for dates near you.

He and Begley will also be launching a joint CD based on their own touring collaboration in the past couple of years. Kennedy and Scanlon are two of the finest singers Ireland has to offer and harmoniously blend together as Lumiere. With arrangements by Lunasa veteran Hennessy, they are a wonderful addition to be seen as well as heard.

Before Joanie Madden, the trad queen, takes to the high seas of the Caribbean in January, she has another Christmas tour with Cherish the Ladies (www.cherishtheladies.com) in December with 16 dates on hand. 

Deirdre Connolly will be with them for the tour and a special guest from Galway, singer Don Stiffe (6th-19th) along with some great step dancers joining Madden, Mary Coogan, Mirella Murray, Kathleen Boyle and Grainne Murphy on the holiday trail.

Like last year it kicks off in Tarrytown, New York at the Tarrytown Music Hall on Thursday, December 1 (tarrytownmusichall.org) and finishes in Mineola, Long Island at the Irish American Center on the 22nd (irishamericansociety.com).  Check the website for other dates.

The hardy New England perennial, “Christmas Celtic Sojourn” produced by WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan looks like another seasonal delight in its ninth year. 

O’Donovan, with music director Seamus Egan, has guest stars Ruth Moody (from the Waylin Jennys), the fiddling trio Halali of Hanneke Cassel, Laura Cortese and Lissa Schneckenburger (with guitarist Flynn Cohen), from Ireland singer Len Graham, dulcimer player Simon Chrisman and uilleann piper Kieran O’Hare. 

Serving as principal dancer as well as dance director this year is Kevin Doyle from Rhode Island.  Visit www.wgbh.org/celtic for all the dates.

Any opportunity to see Danu when they come over from Ireland is worth pointing out, with their exquisite singer Muireann ni Nic Amhlaoibh joining mates Benny McCarthy, Eamonn Doorley, Liam Flanagan (fiddle and banjo) and Martin O’Neill (piano and bodhran) so a Christmas tour is very welcome indeed.  

Look for them at the Zellerbach Theater in Philadelphia (December 2), the Paramount Center in Peekskill, New York on the 4th, and a rare visit to Manhattan on the 4th at 2 p.m. at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden (free concert) near the Irish Famine Memorial on Vesey Street.   For full concert tour details visit danu.net.

Woodlawn native Eileen Ivers once again is touring her “An Nollaig Irish Christmas Show” in the month of December (eileenivers.com) and she has a special performance in Pearl River near her home in West Nyack on Sunday, December 4 at 3 p.m. at the Pearl River High School. 

This is a show for the whole family featuring Eileen and her Immigrant Soul Band, stepdancers and the high school women’s glee club, all in a benefit for Breast Buddies Campaign Against Cancer sponsored by the Irish Arts Forum (www.artsrock.org and box office phone is 866-811-4111). Visit Eileen’s website for more dates.

The indefatigable Andy Cooney presents his “Classic Irish Christmas” at 16 venues this holiday season as far west as Missouri, south as Baltimore and north to Massachusetts, bringing his variety of entertainment to as many areas as he can.  

Joining him on the journey is his band featuring Bugsy Moran, Mitch Reilly, Jimmy Kelly and Colm Graham, plus special guests, singer Kate Purcell and comedian George Casey (both from County Clare) and dancers from Darrah Carr Dance.  For full details check out andycooney.com.

There will be no tour bus or vans parked outside of the Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen for the expanded run of “An Irish Christmas: A Musical Solstice Celebration” which will be in residence for 14 performances from December 7-18 each night at 8 p.m. and matinees on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.    

The entertainers will be mostly local led by Mick Moloney and Athena Tergis, Brendan Dolan, Billy McComiskey, Liz Hanley and dancer Niall O’Leary (only Tergis from Tuscany and McComiskey from Baltimore will commute). 

Taking advantage of the melting pot that is New York, also invited to perform are a Philippine artist, Grace Nono, and Tamor Korn, a Yiddish artist. 

This show at the center has been going for five years and keeps adding extra performances because of its popularity. The small theater provides a comfortable intimacy but only 100 seats each night.

Taking advantage of that comfort zone allows producer Moloney to invite pre-selected special guests in the audience to come up on stage and share holiday memories and insight into the customs that make shows like this a welcome retreat from the madness going around the more commercialized Christmas season.

For ticket information go to www.irishartscenter.org or phone 866-811-4111.

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