December 19, 2011

A Wicked Bard Review of 'A Christmas Celtic Sojourn' in Boston

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Melissa McCarthy performing a slip jig at A Christmas Celtic Sojourn (image courtesy of The Irish Echo)
Prior to attending A Christmas Celtic Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan at the Cutler Majestic Theatre this past weekend, my aunt warned me that I would need to "drink heavily" if I were to enjoy the show. This was my dad's sister, on the Irish side of my family.

A few years back, my mother had gathered up the Devaney clan -- my aunt included -- and gleefully brought them to the Culter Majestic for A Christmas Celtic Sojourn. She was fully convinced that my father's siblings, all spirited Irish Americans, would thoroughly enjoy the festive display of traditional Irish music, dance and storytelling. Boy, was she wrong.

Apart from my father, who has a penchant for Celtic culture (Druidism is his current religion of choice), my mother, who is half Swedish and half Italian, was the only one who truly enjoyed the show. The others found it uneventful and boring.

I think the issue here is that a A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is not a Christmas spectacular: there is no flying Santa Claus, no pyrotechnics and while there are plenty of high kicks with the Irish step dancing, there is not chorus line of Rockettes. Furthermore, if you think Celtic music is all about no nay never no mores (The Wild Rover) and mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a das (Whiskey in the Jar), A Christmas Celtic Sojourn may disappoint. There are lots of instrumentals, a handful of slow airs and several traditional Irish Christmas carols that the average New Englander might not be familiar with.

Personally, I enjoyed the show immensely. And I think part of the reason for my enjoyment was due to the fact that I could recognize A Christmas Celtic Sojourn for what it was: a gathering of incredibly, incredibly talented performers who are passionate about what they do.

Hammer dulcimer virtuoso, Simon Chrisman





There was Kieren O'Hare, who has inspired me to invest in a set of uilleann pipes (much to the dismay of my girlfriend and -- more-than-likely -- my neighbors). There was Simon Chrisman, who pushed the limits of what one can accomplish with the hammer dulcimer (which is an instrument that you've likely heard before even if you've never heard of it before). There was Rhode Islander Kevin Doyle, the US Irish dance champion who seemed to defy gravity with his steps. And, of course, there were the young step dancing sensations from the Harney Academy of Irish Dancing who brought ear-to-ear smiles to the faces of audience members.

Apart from the show's host, master storyteller Brian O'Donovan, the star of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn was undoubtedly singer/songwriter Ruth Moody of Wailin' Jennys fame. There's nothing I can write that can do her talent justice. Just listen to her voice (and her original songs). If I were to make one preachy, over-the-top statement about the state of music in America, it would be as follows: we need fewer image-obsessed, overly theatrical, overproduced showboats, like Lady Gaga, and more artists, like Ruth Moody, who let their raw talent and passion do the talking for them.

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