Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An Irish Christmas in America December 2, 2008

An Authentic Irish Christmas at Cerritos

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.
Along with the merriment and the pathos of this Irish repertoire the audience was schooled in the lesser-known yuletide traditions of the Emerald Isle. Many of these take place in the time after Christmas day when the celebrations continue for a couple of weeks. There is the tale of “Wren’s day” when weird costumes are donned and revelers roam the streets searching for the bird that put the finger or feather on St. Stephen who was then martyred. Also the wild partying of the Mummers which was followed by the “Mummers jig” and January 6th when the tradition of allowing women a day away from all labor is supposedly celebrated. A large round of feminine applause rose up from the Cerritos house on that one. In this rather politically correct show there was little mention of the Celtic proclivity toward taking the water of life or the juice of Mister Guinness but the ancient Irish bent toward great music and fun was well captured.


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