Since 2005, Téada founder Oisín Mac Diarmada has been getting together with various other musicians to ensure Irish traditional music is a part of the build-up to Christmas for fans in the United States.
The show, Irish Christmas in America tours extensively through a number of key States at this time every year, from Thanksgiving to near Christmas, with a line-up and a play-list that changes every year.
Just before heading off for this year’s tour, Mac Diarmada explained to the The Journal of Music that considering they visit the same venues every year it was important that ‘the show is a little bit different, and offers audiences something new.’ The idea emerged from a tour of Europe that Mac Diarmada did with harpist Gráinne Hambly back in 2005: ‘To ensure the Christmas element would come across I knew we needed to focus on vocalists, so down the years we’ve had Karen Casey, Cara Dillon, Cathie Ryan, Michael Londra and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.’
To avoid repetition, they have over the years minimised the element of narrating stories of Christmas in Ireland and tend to stick more to a little seasonal banter between tunes and songs, including bits about the tradition of the wren. There is a photographic slide show, including this year images by Clare musician and photographer Christy McNamara. Mac Diarmada says that in terms of tunes it is in the names that the Christmas theme is suggested: ‘Máirtín O’Connor put us on to the tune “Dingle Bells”, for instance.’
That tune is particularly resonant this year considering that as well as Mac Diarmada, Hambly and dancer Brian Cunningham, this year’s performers are Séamus Begley, Donogh Hennessy, and the Lumiere duo, Éilís Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon, all from Dingle.
With some financial assistance from Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland initiative, Irish Christmas in America will visit eighteen different venues, ranging from clubs and churches to theatres and community centres, across Califoria (‘to warm us up for the rest of it,’ as Mac Diarmada puts it), Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, Delaware, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Published on 23 November 2011