Celtic Christmas December 4, 2007
By Glen Creason
Just so you don’t get the impression that the Christmas season is just sitting in front of a computer and ordering gifts on-line or heading toward the daunting gauntlet of the malls, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts commenced the holiday season with a sweet and on-point Celtic Christmas, hosted by the wonderful “ Men of Worth” at midweek. These worthy musicians are James Keigher and Donnie MacDonald, a pair of expats from Ireland and Scotland who have revived the marvelous Celtic music tradition here in forever sunny and dry California. With superb harpist Maureen Brennan and multi-instrument/talented Kevin Carr plus two gloriously beautiful Irish step dancers the Men of Worth achieved a perfectly delightful tone from start to finish, providing an impeccable start to this wonderful holidays season.
From the opening strains of “Angels We Have Heard on High” to the final wise words of “Only from Day to Day” the jovial fellows kept the spirits high and the shallow aspects of the season very low. The selections alternated from true Yule tunes like “Little Drummer Boy,” “Christmas Eve,” “Wassail Song” “Christ Child Lullaby” and “Silent Night,” both sung in Gaelic to the sweetly secular. The Irish and Scottish influence showed in these tunes ranging from hornpipes, jigs and reels like “Gene’s Reel,” the rousing “Up Mayo, “Ramble to Cashiel,” the invigorating “lord of the dance” and a wonderful “Rising of the Moon.” There were several memorable moments from the supporting cast including Kevin Carr’s electrifying Galician piping and Ms. Brennan’s utterly gorgeous harp solo on “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” Patter from the stage was almost always flavored with a Celtic good humor, even from the Yankee-Californian Kevin Carr who not only played fabulously, sang dramatically and was the absolute picture of sartorial elegance in his flamboyant chapeau from northwestern Spain.
Sure to stir the audience into frenzy was the appearance of the two step-dancing lovelies Meredith Lyons and Kelsey Wilson who really brought an Irish pulse to top-speed when they set foot on the stage. Yet, the one true goose-bump causing moment in the show came on the deeply affecting song “Christmas in the Trenches” which tells grasps to the real meaning in the love of Christmas when the soldiers of Germany and Britain called an impromptu cease-fire on Christmas eve and shared some holiday cheer together before returning to their trenches and the slaughter. You could not help but nod your head sadly hearing the line “… on each end of the rifle we are the same.” The Men of Worth” set the bar somewhat high to begin the season, their great choices of music, expert playing and good humor really eased us into the not so chilly Winter night with fine musical memories.