Christmas shows not to be missed

Cherish the Ladies.

By Colleen Taylor

There’s no better combination than Irish music and Christmastime. The season is officially upon us, which means the Irish music scene is about to light up. When it comes to Irish music tours and performances, December is the second March. The best Irish bands trade in green for red, don their bells and Santa hats, and bring their fiddles and guitars to stages all over the New York area. Christmas draws Ireland and Irish America’s best musicians to the city for a month-long international festival of holiday celebration. In anticipation of all this activity, I’m predicting the best Celtic Christmas shows this December.

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For me, Christmas isn’t complete without fiddling superstar Eileen Ivers. Her Christmas show is the best in town, bringing blues, reels, and holiday jingles all together in one superb, energetic ensemble. Ivers and her band just finished rehearsals for her annual Christmas show and have hit the road. They’ll be in New York this weekend—Bay Shore on the 4th and Homer, N.Y. on the 5th. New Jersey will be next, with two shows at Ramapo College on the 6th. Finally, Ivers and crew will finish off the season in Connecticut—Hartford, Fairfield, and Old Saybrook—on the 17th, 18th and 19th. The show features selections from Ivers’s “An Nollaig,” her most recent Christmas album, which is without a doubt one of — if not the­ — best Irish Christmas albums ever made. The album evinces Ivers’s prowess as a musician and innovator. Likewise, the concert will showcase the fiddler’s original Christmas-themed jigs and reels off the album, as well as bluesy renditions of the holiday classics. She’s bound to have other creative surprises and tricks up her sleeve this year. Ivers’s Christmas concert energizes the spirit of the Celtic holiday season like nothing else, and if you miss it, you’ll be missing the best of Christmas cheer.

Cherish the Ladies’ Christmas show is another concert that should not be missed. Seeing the ladies at Tarrytown Music Hall has become another one of my essential holiday traditions. Cherish the Ladies is arguably the most productive Irish Christmas recording group today. They have released three original Christmas albums, the latest of which, “Christmas in Ireland,” was just released last week. The band gives a jingle-jangle inflection to their traditional tunes to elicit holiday spirit from their fans. As always, Joanie Madden puts on a great show, complete with stories, dancing, jokes, and of course, great Irish renditions of everyone’s Christmas favorites. The band will be in Mineola, New York on Dec. 9, Fairfield, Conn. on Dec. 13, and Tarrytown Music Hall—their signature local gig—on Dec. 19.

Newcomer Emmett O’Hanlon enters the Irish Christmas music scene this year with fellow Celtic Thunder member Emmet Cahill. These two classically trained singers offer an old-time crooner’s take to the Christmas classics, reminiscent of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. There will no doubt be some Irish classics on the set-list as well, as the Irish cultural connection defines this duo’s partnership. I’ve written previously of how impressed I was with O’Hanlon’s solo venture and first EP released this Fall. His voice is truly exquisite and well beyond his years—the comparison I drew with Crosby and Cole is not hyperbolic. O’Hanlon’s show with Cahill is bound to deliver. The singers will be at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on Dec. 9.

Finally, if you’re looking for a traditional seanchaí-style show, look no farther than the Irish Arts Center. Musical historian and folklorist Mick Moloney will run his traditional Christmas show with Athena Tergis, “A Musical Solstice Celebration,” at Symphony Space from Dec. 18-20. The show is as much a learning experience as it is entertainment—historiography as well as good music. More information at iac.com.

There are plenty of options for Christmas joy, entertainment, and educational enrichment this holiday season. It’s a way of enjoying Christmas in Ireland at home here in New York.

Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column in the Irish Echo.