Danu. (Photo by John D. Kelly)

I think we would all agree that the Irish have the right notions about how to celebrate Christmas and make it last as long as possible.  It is a time of high and plentiful spirits, good cheer and getting together family and friends to escape from the everyday cares and woes and obsessive shopping pressures bombarding us.

Nothing adds to the merriment like enjoying live Irish music mixed with seasonal carols and melodies that warm our hearts and enrich our souls. And for my fellow trad hearts there is a wealth of opportunities coming up with some of the top performing troupes in Irish music all around us for the next three weeks.

As far as I can tell, Joanie Madden and her Cherish the Ladies ensemble entering their 29th year as a professional group have been marking Christmas with a special show for 15 years now and even have two Christmas albums featuring many of their Yuletide favorites.

The big-hearted Madden makes a great Mamma Christmas as the Mna a Ti on stage keeping things light and bright.  Joining her on stage this month is Mary Coogan, Mirella Murray, Liz Knowles, Kathleen Boyle and guest vocalist Cathie Ryan and dancers Cara Butler, Meghan Lucey, Michael Holland and other special guests along the way.

Their 11-show sprint includes five shows in the Northeast with four in the Tri-State area. On Thursday, December 5 they will be at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey (sopacnow.org) and the following night in North Andover, Massachusetts at Merrimack College.

On Saturday, December 7 the Edgerton Center at Sacred Heart University will host the gals along with the Shamrock Irish Traditional Music Society (www.edgertoncenter.org). After stops in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and New Mexico, they finish the tour back in New York in the friendly confines of the Irish American Center in Mineola, Long Island on Sunday, December. 22. More tour info at cherishtheladies.com.

And the revelry continues into the New Year when they celebrate their 20th year appearing at the prestigious Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (celticconnections.com) before embarking on the third annual Folk N Irish Cruise on the Norwegian EPIC with over 60 performers including Sharon Shannon and Matt Molloy (joaniemaddencruise.com).

Once again the Irish Arts Center hosts “An Irish Christmas: A Musical Solstice Celebration” for 14 shows including a special fundraiser night with guest artist Bill Whelan at Symphony Space on December 15 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at 7 p.m.

The cast is led by Dr. Mick Moloney and once again features Athena Tergis, Billy McComiskey, Liz Hanley, Niall O’Leary and Donna Long along with Tamar Korn and Grace Nono.

A regular feature of these cozy interludes are the fireside chats with visiting personalities from the literary, theater or musical spheres. At press time the roster and dates of the guests are Michael Patrick MacDonald (7th at 3 p.m.), Colin Broderick (7th at 8 p.m.), Rosie Schaap (8th at 3 p.m.), Frank Delaney (12th at 8 p.m.), Carmel Quinn (13th at 8 p.m.), Charlotte Moore (14th at 3 p.m.), Bill Whelan (15th at 7 p.m.), Sebastian Junger (19th at 8 p.m.), Louis de Paor (20th at 8 p.m.).

The run begins Friday, December 6 and ends on the 21st.  Visit irishartscenter.org or phone 866-811-4111.
Local lady Eileen Ivers and her Immigrant Soul band have their Christmas “An Nollaig” on the road this weekend starting at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall outside of Albany on Saturday, November 30 (troymusichall.org) and out to Bay Shore, Long Island at the Boulton Center on December 13 (boultoncenter.org). She has two shows at the Berrie Center at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey on December 14 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (www.ramapo.edu or 201-684-7844) near her Rockland County home and in Sellarsville, Pennsylvania on December 20 (st94.com).

The super group Lunasa is always in season, but they are bringing some special holiday cheer with singer Karan Casey making some guest appearances on their brief tour.  They hit the Big Apple on Tuesday, December 3 at DROM in Alphabet City at 85 Avenue A (dromnyc.com) before concluding the tour at the Grand in Wilmington, Delaware the next night. More info at lunasa.ie.

Also in full flight in December is DANU with their Christmas in Ireland Tour 2013 that takes them to 13 venues starting at Notre Dame University on the 1st.  This tasty outfit of like-minded soulful Irish musicians with a bent for the Irish tongue once were real road warriors touring months at a time, but as real life and the economy caught up to them they now make strategic and significant forays twice a year.

It also is indicative of how the market has grown for Irish Christmas shows as Danu will follow Cherish the Ladies into Fairfield, Connecticut on Sunday, December 8 at the Quick Center at Fairfield University.

But there are also two opportunities to catch them in New Jersey on Saturday, December 7 at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville (phone 908-725-3420 or rvccarts.org) or Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank (phone 732-842-9000 or countbasietheatre.org).

Longtime fans of Danu have enjoyed the brilliant musicianship of Benny McCarthy, Eamonn Doorley, Oisin McAuley and especially the singing of the enchanting Muireann nic Amhlaoibh and the splendid guitar work of founding member Donal Clancy, son of the late Liam Clancy and heir to the legacy of the Clancy Brothers.

Clancy has a new CD, Songs of a Roving Blade, proving that the gene pool is well intact.  He has a fine set of pipes (vocal cords) of his own that have now been unleashed as he is determined to keep many of the songs in the Clancy canon alive through his own interpretation.

We are used to seeing the touring veterans Teada led by Oisin MacDiarmada in the area with their production “Irish Christmas in America” which has featured their latest addition in recent years in box player and sean nos singer supreme Seamus Begley, but they won’t be hitting the New York metropolitan area this time around.

Their 18-gig-tour from coast to coast is impressive and once again buttresses the surge in interest for Irish music at this time of the year. Joining them on most of the tour are Lumiere, the gorgeous vocal tandem of Eilis Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon from Dingle (neighbor of Begley) save for a slight detour when Lumiere grace the stage of Carnegie Hall with another show on December 5.  For more info visit.irishchristmasinamerica.com.

There is another Irish Christmas show on the road this year also produced by the harping duet of Moya Brennan (of Clannad fame) and Cormac de Barra, who have done a lot of work and touring together in recent years.

Brennan will bring her unique vocal stylings to the Northeast and Midwest including visits to the Skye Theater in East Dixfield, Maine (4th), one of the most active venues for Celtic music in the U.S. and also the venerable music club the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts on the 5th.

Before hitting Washington, D.C. for two shows at the National Geographic Theatre on the 7th, they stop at the Sellersville Theatre in Pennsylvania on the 6th. On the 8th they appear at the Strand Center for the Arts in Lakewood, New Jersey (732-367-7789). More info at moyabrennan.com.

I’ll have some more recommendations next week for other Irish Christmas shows.