By Janice Hubbell, Guest Blogger
My daughter and I celebrated our Celtic roots in another stirring, sold-out Christmas performance by the all-girl music ensemble Cherish The Ladies. I fondly recalled my Irish grandfather playing the fiddle while Lindsey was transported back to her study abroad summer in Ireland where she experienced first-hand the lilting voices and warmth of the Irish!
This ladies’ group is composed of Irish Americans, native Irishwomen, and performers from Scotland and Canada. The performers expertly combined Christmas music, jokes, stories, and dance with traditional Irish folk songs. Within the intimate venue of the Lone Tree Art Center, the music carried the audience on gentle waves of haunting ballads through energetic currents of foot-stomping, toe-tapping rollicking jigs!
Band leader Joanie Madden, humorist and warm-hearted flautist, revealed her artistic, sensitive spirit in the penny whistle composition “American Wake,” which delicately depicts her emigrant mother’s pathos as she says goodbye to her family in preparation for her journey to the United States—not knowing if she’ll see her loved ones again.
A founding member of the group, acoustic guitarist, Mary Coogan, expertly accompanied the music and singing. Mirella Murray, also an original “lady,” played the accordion with ease and dexterity, blending seamlessly with other instruments and voices. The young and talented Kathleen Boyle played piano in a traditional folk style. Nollaig Casey’s star shone brightly as she shared her distinctive talent in playing the fiddle, especially notable in historic ballad solos written more than 300 years ago and singing in the Gaelic with a pure alto voice.
An important element of the show was the athletic male Irish step dancers Jason Oremus and Garett Coleman who periodically left us breathless with hearts pounding until they took their final bow! They were joined by the lovely, accomplished fiddle player and dancer, Julie Fitzgerald, who played and danced with joy and abandonment.
An evening highlight was guest singer, Don Stiffe, from Galway, Ireland. Don sang with a clear, rich tenor voice, reminiscent of Burl Ives. He ended the evening with a poignant, memorable Christmas version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as his voice soared majestically on the last chorus. We left the performance feeling refreshed and ready for the holidays!