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Joyous festive music abounds in New England

Cherish The Ladies.

By Michael Quinlin

Boston --- Christmas music permeates Massachusetts, from the glorious strains of The Messiah to the happy chorus of Sleigh Ride.

Celtic music hums across the landscape too, a testament to the state’s heavily-Irish population and the caliber of touring bands that put a Yuletide touch on traditional melodies.

A fine example is the Cherish the Ladies Celtic Christmas Concert taking place at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst Tonight, Thursday, December 10.

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Led by flutist Joanie Madden, the Ladies just released their 3rd holiday album, Christmas in Ireland, which blends songs like Hark! The Herald’s Angel’s Sing with Joe Madden’s Hornpipe.

Radio host Brian O’Donovan’s popular show, “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” now in its 13th year, is a masterpiece production with an alluring stage design, tightly choreographed dancing, robust music and a well-paced narrative.

Music director Seamus Eagan and his band Solas are featured, along with singer Cathy Jordan, Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist, cellist Natalie Haas, the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, and Beoga’s bodhran player Eamon Murray.

“A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” performs ten shows in Boston, Rockport, New Bedford and Worcester from December 11-20.

Tomas Foley’s A Celtic Christmas show is set in a rural, remote parish in Limerick, and evokes the old-fashioned holidays that are marked by storytelling, music, jokes and dancing.

The show stars Kathleen Keane on fiddle and whistles, uilleann piper Brian Begley, acclaimed steel-string guitarist William Coulter, and singer/storyteller Tomas Foley.

A Celtic Christmas opens at the Monomoy Regional High School in Harwich, Cape Cod, on December 12, and at Carey Memorial Hall in Lexington on December 13.

On December 12, the Irish Cultural Center in Canton holds its annual Christmas Raffle and Celebration, featuring live music and dancing.

In nearby Cumberland, RI, the Blackstone River Theatre’s annual Christmas Celebration takes place on December 12-13, featuring singer Robbie O’Connell and fiddler Rose Clancy, Pendragon, Tir Na Nog Irish Dance Company, and other local performers.

The Burren Pub in Davis Square, Somerville, presents comedian Brendan Grace on December 16 and 22, performing his own unique show, “A Graceful Kwismas.”

Then on December 17, the Burren presents a great night of music featuring the band Lunasa with Karan Casey.

On December 17, the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums holds its annual Christmas celebration and raffle at the Hoosic Club in Milton. The seasoned band has performed at notable political occasions, parades, and festivals throughout the country, and do a lot of charitable work.

Acclaimed Irish-Canadian tenor John McDermott is performing “A Family Christmas” at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on December 18.

One of the original Irish tenors, whose first recording of Danny Boy was an international best seller, the Toronto native has spent the last few decades raising funds for worthy causes such as veterans’ assistance, hospice care, and Catholic charities.

The Worcester concert is a fundraiser for the local St. John’s Food for the Poor Program.

In Vermont, noted singer and banjoist, Claudine Langille, is performing at the Mount Holly Folk Club in Belmont on December 14 and at the Killarney Irish Pub in Ludlow on December 17.

For a full calendar of Christmas concerts in New England, including classical, liturgical and popular music, visit

For information about visiting Massachusetts, go to