An Irish Christmas in America December 2, 2008
By Glen Creason
The show “An Irish Christmas in America” came to Cerritos to commence the holiday celebrations here while demonstrating great originality and a refreshing adherence to real Celtic country traditions. No re-hash of the Christmas musak hall of shame warhorses, this concert lived up to its name and actually taught the locals a thing or two about the Irish Yule ways. So instead of stale readings of “Jingle Bells” or one more trudge through “the Christmas Song” we got to learn about “wren day” and the significance of January 6th and the celebration of St. Stephen, the day after Christmas. All this along with some lively jigs and reels mixed with the beautiful singing of sweet Cara Dillon.
This Irish Christmas was lots of Irish and a little Christmas but the spirit was in the air and the mood was light and joyful. The show is driven by the group Teada, four young fellas who play wonderfully together and keep it close to the traditional as can be done with electricity involved. The group provides fiddle (Oisan MacDiarmada) guitar (Sean McElwain), flute (Damian Stenson), pipes (Tommy Martin) and Irish drum called bodrhan (Tristan Rosenstock) along with lovely Grainne Hambly on Irish harp. The proceedings were enlivened by Sean-nos dancer Brian Cunningham who boosted the energy level every time he took to the stage. The feeling is homey and cozy for the most part but the ballads sung by Ms. Dillon were often bittersweet and tugged the heartstrings.
The songs Yanks might readily identify were “O Holy Night,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” but our Christmas playlists were expanded along with our cultural literacy by hearing “Mary Bore a Child for God,” “White Blanket,” “Christmas Eve,” “Christmas in the Morning” and “a New Year Blessing” done in Gaelic mixed with English. There were a dozen excellent blood-stirring reels or jigs including “Ivy Leaf,” “Snow in the Hills, “Morning Star,” “Apples in Winter,” and “Frost is All Around,” in the holiday theme along with old favorites “Farewell to Erin,” “The Ships Are Sailing,” “Ellen McClain,” “Brittany O’Reilly” “Lark in the Clear Air,” “Wallop the Spot,” and “Leg of the Duck.” The young and nimble Mister Cunningham often bounced on stage to put body into music and Cara Dillon sang like a nightingale, especially on the very moving “Parting Glass” “the Chilly Winds of Winter” and the aforementioned “Mary Bore a Child for God.” One of the high points of the evening was harpist Grainne Hambly’s exquisite solo that was not identified from the stage.