Celtic Christmas music for the holiday season

Published Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 2:22 PM

As the Christmas holidays roll around again, it is an especially great time to see and hear some wonderful music in the seasonal and Celtic or acoustic vein.

Even better if you use it as an opportunity to get together with family and friends and enjoy some of the great talent out there and help the arts stimulate the economy and our imagination and souls. Here are some suggestions among the many offerings

Better known around New England, the performance ensemble known as Childsplay is a most unique troupe centered around instrument maker and musician Bob Childs, who is the maker of the 21 violins and violas featured in this tour.

They are making their New York City debut at Symphony Space on Thursday, December 3 at 8 p.m. (www.symphonyspace.org with a $5 discount with promo code RAC102) featuring 21 fiddlers and musicians and special guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan from Massachusetts in support of their new CD "Waiting for the Dawn."

O’Donovan usually fronts her own popular band called Crooked Still and is working on a CD with Karan Casey for release in 2010. She is also the daughter of Brian O’Donovan of WGBH "Celtic Sojourn" fame.

Slated to appear are Hanneke Cassell, Sam Amidon, Lissa Schneckenberger, Sheila Falls-Keohane, Shannon Heaton (flute and accordion and vocals), harpist Kathleen Guilday, Mark Roberts and Steve Hickman among others, including dancer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Olwell from Virginia.

This band includes many of the musicians around New England supporting Childs’ collection of instruments, and over the 20 years the cast has changed to suit the circumstances and venues. The warmth you hear from the sound of the collective instruments of the one-time furniture maker turned instrument artisan will be matched by the folksy camaraderie and repertoire on stage.

This production of Childsplay is in support of their new CD with Aoife O’Donovan and will also be in Portland, Maine (Portland High School, December 4); Somerville, Massachusetts (Somerville Theatre, 5th) and Lexington (National Heritage Museum, 6th). Visit www.childsplay.org.

Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center once again presents “An Irish Christmas” for the third year in a row with Mick Moloney, Athena Tergis, Brendan Dolan, Niall O’Leary, Liz Hanley and special guests over two long weekends, December 10-20.

Scheduled to appear also are Shannon and Matt Heaton (10th), harpist Aine Minogue (11th), Billy McComiskey (10-13th), Susan McKeown, Dana Lyn and the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra at select shows, as well as some special surprise guests from the New York area who may perform a party piece or recount tales of Christmas past.

Call the center at 212-757-3318 or order tickets through www.smarttix.com or phone 212-868-4444 (with special discount before December 1 with code IACDEC).

Once again Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies are going over the river and through the woods with another ambitious December tour with a brand-new Christmas CD in hand called "A Star in the East" on Big Mammy Records.

As they get ready to celebrate 25 years as a group in 2010, Joanie and the girls will be making the season bright up and down the East Coast and the Midwest and even Canada with 17 gigs in the month.

Among the stops are Wayne, New Jersey on the 6th at the Shea Center at William Patterson University, the Egg in Albany on the 8th, Sag Harbor, Long Island on the 18th and the Towne Crier on the 20th in Pawling, New York. Visit www.cherishtheladies.com.

Another barnstorming group who know how to do Christmas right is the band from Ireland, Teada, led by Oisin Mac Diarmada from Sligo for their annual Irish Christmas tour.

Oisin always loads up with tasty reinforcements for this tour to come along with his mates Damien Stensen, Sean McElwain and Tristan Rosenstock (Paul Finn is not on the tour this trip). Joining them will be Grainne Hambly on harp and Tommy Martin on uilleann pipes as in years past, and special guest artist Seamus Begley will be along for vocals and the box and sean nos dance standout Brian Cunningham from Connemara.

They’ll be in Washington, D.C. at the National Geographic Society on the 4th; Connecticut on the 9th at the East Hartford Community Cultural Center; Lakewood, New Jersey on the 10th at the Strand Theater and at the Annenberg Center at UPenn in Philadelphia on the 12th.

The Boston celebration of the "Christmas Celtic Sojourn" now in its seventh season hosted by Brian O’Donovan (Clonakilty native) has attracted another wonderful entertainment lineup for this hardy perennial.

Guest artists this year include Christy O’Leary from Cork, Karine Polwart, a Scottish singer-songwriter, Liz Carroll and John Doyle under musical director Seamus Egan. They’ll be joined by local Boston dancers from the Harney Academy of Irish Dance and dance director Kieran Jordan.

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