“Cherish the Ladies” at Cerritos: Yes, Indeed
By Glen Creason
It’s a might early for celebrating dear St. Patrick’s Day but a packed house in the Sierra room of the Performing Arts Center got a delightful jump on the festivities this week. Sure, it was “Cherish the Ladies” who dazzled with their musical virtuosity and sweet humored commentary making for an evening as warm as a drop of “the crater” and as personable as the gift of gabbing Irish themselves. Lead by the charming wit and dazzling whistle-scapes of ring-leader Joanie Madden the ladies distinguished themselves as a please-invite-em-back group equal to some of the venue’s best, including the Chieftains, Altan, the Boys from the Lough and a Clancy brother or two. As one might guess “Cherish the Ladies” is an all female ensemble which seems to work perfectly. The lady-team-spirit leads to wonderful harmonies and spirited interplay between very accomplished players like Mirella Murray on accordion, Mary Coogan on guitar, Roisin Dillon on fiddle and Heidi Talbot on drum and vocals along with the tireless Ms. Madden. This mixture of Americans with roots in the old sod and ladies from the Mother country started as a short term experiment and has been making converts to endorphin releasing Irish music with X chromosomes for nineteen years.
The ladies blended jigs, reels, ballads and even a sort of not really Christmas song leaving no seams showing in a couple of very stimulating hours. Like the best of Irish traditions, everything is touched by humor, even some of the titles like the brisk reel “Bonkers in Yonkers,” Paddy O’ Snap,” “Road Dust” “the Old Maids of Galway,” or the very appropriate “Woman of the House.” Each tune showed an easy going humor and plenty of giddy up. Despite a folksy approach, the playing of the women, especially the incredibly varied whistle tones, the interplay between fiddle and accordion, along with layered guitar chords is glorious without looking labored. All of the lively reels and jigs were crowd pleasers but the heavenly vocals and jocular descriptions of Heidi Talbot added an edge to parts of the performance. Her “Fair and Tender Ladies,” the bittersweet “Bogie’s Bonnie Belle” and a very lovely “Castle of Tramoor” transfixed without being too saccharine or depressing.
There was more to delight, including a gorgeous and extremely dynamic Irish dancer only identified as Colleen who came whirling in from the wings at greatly anticipated intervals to pump up the electricity that was flowing pretty strong anyway. She was joined by two adorable ten-year-old girls from the Kelly school here in Southern California who danced beautifully and showed costumes that fairly dazzled all in attendance. Still, the heart and soul of “Cherish the Ladies” is Joanie Madden, a tower of strength, humor and talent who never lets down. Certainly, the high-light of this show, indeed the season was her tale of a lost and found camera and the evocative air “the Hills of New Zealand.” I think it is safe to say that if Ms. Madden is on a stage, the audience is guaranteed to be filled with fun and great music.