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Celtic + Christmas = Perfect Harmony in New England

Maeve Gilchrist


By Michael Quinlin

Boston --- It is that time of year, when New England overflows with the perfect harmonies of Celtic music and Christmas music played together on stage, a telling testament to how the region celebrates its spiritual and cultural heritage.

Here are some of the best shows coming to town this season, which capture the true spirit of both traditions.

Fiddle star Eileen Ivers brings her holiday show, “A Joyous Christmas” to Cary Hall in Lexington on December 10.

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With her excellent touring band, Eileen brings heartbreaking sweetness to Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s desiring,” and to Christmas lullabies such as “O Holy Night” and Irish melodies like “The Wexford Carol.”

For a pure afternoon of exalting religious music from the Christian tradition, check out the Vienna Boys Choir, performing at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford on December 10, then at the Grace Chapel in Lexington on December 15.

Now in its 14th season, “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” with WGBH radio host Brian O’Donovan tours the region from December 9-21 with 17 shows in Boston, Rockport, Worcester, New Bedford and Providence.

This year’s guests include traditional ensemble Solas, harpist Maeve Gilchrist, and cellist Natalie Haas.

New to the show are County Kerry singer Ellis Kennedy and Vishten, a trio from the Canadian Maritimes.

Dance masters Cara Butler and Nathan Pilatzke are joined by the Liam Harney Academy of Irish Dance.

The Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI hosts its annual Christmas Celebration on December 10, with music by Pendragon, Torrin Ryan and the Tir na Nog Dancers.

Famed tenor Ronan Tynan performs at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, NH on December 18. Ronan offers a perfect mixture of Christmas favorites, Irish songs, and classic and religious hymns.

On December 15, 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 of cops performs at political occasions, parades, and festivals around the country, doing a lot of charitable work in Boston.

Two young Irish vocal stars – Eamonn McCrystal and Chloe Agnew – have joined forces on a North American tour taking them to 16 cities, including Boston.

They perform at the Wimberley Theatre in Boston’s South End on December 20, with a medley of Christmas tunes, Irish melodies, popular songs and new music from their repertoires.

McCrystal is an Emmy award-winning singer, and Agnew is a fan favorite of the popular ensemble, A Celtic Woman.

Irish harpist Aine Minogue brings an evocative holiday mood with her show, “To Warm the Winter’s Night,” mixing ancient Irish melodies with spiritual and folk music for the solstice season.

Aine performs at the Common Fence Point in Portsmouth, RI on December 17, at Old Ship Church in Hingham on December 18, at First Church Boston in the Back Bay on December 21 and finally at Club Passim in Harvard Square, Cambridge on December 23.

The Burren Pub in Davis Square, Somerville, has nightly sessions at the bar with great local players like Helena Delaney, Johnny O’Leary and John Gannon, as well as a variety of jazz, Americana and comedy shows in the Back Room.

To hear one of New England’s best Irish fiddle players, head to the Shaskeen Pub traditional session in Manchester, NH every Saturday afternoon, where Roger Burridge holds court and carries on the storied traditions of Doolin, County Clare and the great Tommy Peoples.

In Vermont, noted singer and banjoist Claudine Langille performs at the Mount Holly Folk Club in Belmont on December 15, 19 & 26, and also at the Killarney Irish Pub in Ludlow on December 19, 22 and 29.

At the John F. Kennedy Library at Boston’s Columbia Point, storyteller Len Cabral presents “World of Winter Tale” on December 27.

It’s an inspiring story of how religious holidays and season changes are celebrated around the world.

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