Music

Preview: Bettman & Halpin: Christmas is a Funny Thing

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By Monica Jarrell, guest blogger

Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin are singers, song writers and all around entertainers. They are known for their original Folk/Americana performances. Their concerts consist of high- energy, up beat bluegrass/roots songs and beautiful ballads most of which they have written themselves. They have become known for their story telling through music and playful banter. They describe their music as “rootsy” springing from the traditions of American blues, jazz and folk music. Bettman and Halpin started touring in 2008 and incorporated a trio and quartet in 2013.

Stephanie Bettman is an accomplished song writer, singer and also an outstanding fiddle player. She has been compared to Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris. Her fiddle playing has been inspired by Stephane Grappelli, Byron Berline and Johnny Gimble. Ms. Bettman is a former actress and trapeze artist. She is classically trained in opera, violin, and voice. She studied at the Oberlin Conservatory.

Luke Halpin is a multi-talented performer with the ability to play several instruments. These instruments include guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and almost any other instrument he decides to play. He is also a vocalist and is able to blend perfect harmonies with Ms. Bettman. Luke has a long history is show business. He once shared the stage with Merle Haggard, Lone Star, and The Steve Miller Band. His quirky sense of humor rounds out his talents as an entertainer. Halpin grew up in South Pasadena, and is self-taught.

Bettman and Halpin have earned several awards and competitions including: Grand Prize Winners in the So Cal Live Acoustic Music Competition and the winners in Southern California’s Topanga Banjo/Fiddle Contest. They have twice been a featured act at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS along with Byron Berline, Michael Martin Murphy, Pat Flynn, and Tommy Emmanuel.

Phil Norman is another member of the group. Phil is cello player described as “playing the cello with a modern flare” (Marquee Magazine, January 2013). He is classically trained with a degree from the University of Colorado. He has created his own sound with alternative styles of playing the cello. Phil has been playing with Bettman and Halpin since 2013. He has performed concerts in the United States, Italy, and Australia, and has appeared on stage with composer and pianist Carter Pann, guitarist Grant Gordy, and Bonnie Carol, and was a featured artist for TEDxBoulder.

Carl Sorensen is one of Denver’s own. He joined Bettman and Halpin in 2013. He has played all over the country including Red Rocks Amphitheater. He has been compared to Ringo Starr and Levon Helm. Carl has played in more than 65 bands at the same time! He is very energetic and will bring this energy to the show.

Bettman & Halpin will perform a holiday show for the entire family titled “Christmas is a Funny Thing.” The duo will sing traditional holiday classics, several of their own originals, and share stories and songs about the ups and downs and sideways events of this holiday season.

Save the date: December 9, 2018 at the Lone Tree Arts Center at 7:00 pm

Tickets Available Here

Review: The Doo Wop Project Christmas

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By Monica Jarrell, guest blogger

If you did not attend The Doo Wop Project Christmas at the Lone Tree Arts Center, you missed an outstanding performance by a very talented group. The Doo Wop Project Christmas consists of five Broadway Stars that love Doo Wop and want to share the sounds of yesterday with the new sounds of today. They reimagined traditional Christmas songs with the sounds of Doo Wop as well as performing “oldies but goodies” that we all recognize still today.

The show opened with some of the members of The Doo Wop Project coming out from the back of the audience to approach the stage. Other members of the group came from behind the stage and the side doors. The group appeared in classy red satin jackets. The audience, young and old, instantly responded to the group. These five talented stars connected with the audience from their first musical notes and kept the audience engaged until the final curtain.

The opening number was a lively, fast, paced Christmas song with Dominic Scaglione taking the lead. Dominic is well known for his role as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. Several “older” women in the audience were whistling and hollering like school girls at a concert when he sang. They obviously loved what they were hearing.

The show also included Doo Wop-inspired songs such as Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” Many traditional Christmas songs were included. Songs like “White Christmas,” “This Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and even “Dominic the Donkey.” The group performed a very special song called “Doo Wop Christmas” which was originally performed by Kenny Vance and the Planotones.

The Doo Wop Project is supported by a very talented five-piece band. Each band member performed a solo which included a sax player, drums, bass and lead guitars and the piano. This group may be in the background but they made the whole experience very special.

The Doo Wop Project members have some deep roots in Doo Wop. During the program each member was introduced to the audience and they told their stories on how they got to be The Doo Wop Project. Many members of the group have relatives that were involved in the early stages of Doo Wop. The Doo Wop Project brings these experiences and talents as well as knowledge from experiences from their childhood to the stage today to perform Doo Wop inspired songs for audiences everywhere.

The music supervisor is Sonny Paladino (piano player). He has an impressive portfolio of credits. Sonny was the music supervisor for the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, and he is the music director for the upcoming Broadway show Smokey Joe’s Café. During the show, he interacted with The Doo Wop Project group and everyone could tell he was enjoying what he does.

Dwayne Cooper is said to be the modern day Sammy Davis Jr. His voice is a very unique deep bass which the audience just loved. He brings dancing, singing and pure entertainment to the stage. He is very funny and full of energy. He went out into the crowd and had every one on their feet singing and dancing.

Charl Brown whose credits include portraying Smokey Robinson in Motown: The Musical, captivated the audience with his rich voice and natural charisma. Charl brought us back in time when he sang. He has several credits to his name including a Tony Award for the Best Featured Actor in a Musical on Broadway.

Dominic Nolfi, is also a member of the original cast of Motown: The Musical. Dominic is handsome, charming and has a very rich smooth voice. Dominic is one of the founding members of The Doo Wop Project.

Russell Fischer has a wide range singing voice. He is able to sing from tenor to falsetto. He is best known for his part in Jersey Boys as Joe Pesci. He has been the understudy for the role of Frankie Valli for over 6 years. He is very fun to watch and listen to. Frankie Valli seems to be on stage when Russell is singing.

The Doo Wop Project attempts to bridge the generation gap. Most of us grew up dancing to the radio with our parents and grandparents to Doo Wop. The sounds of Doo Wop will really never grow old. Together these talented people have what it takes to entertain young and old alike. If you get the chance to see and hear The Doo Wop Project, I recommend it. You will be glad you did.

Review: Classic Albums Live: Hotel California

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By Janice Hubbell, guest blogger

As the Toronto-based Classic Albums Live band came on stage and the lights dimmed, I closed my eyes and was immediately transported back in time to 1976 while listening to the Eagles Hotel California vinyl record on my turntable. Beginning with the title track, every note and rhythm of each song was replicated perfectly. The lead vocals, haunting melodies and beautiful harmonies were eerily accurate. The band did not wear cheesy costumes or speak as the music faded away into the next song. The audience, during the album’s genuine and authentic performance, was quiet and appreciative, no doubt on the same nostalgic journey I was.

It is not surprising this album was chosen for recreation; it is one of the bestselling albums of all times and is considered to be a rock masterpiece. Drummer and co-lead vocalist Don Henley reminisced in an interview with Rolling Stone that the word “’California,’ carries with it all kinds of connotations, powerful imagery, mystique, etc., that fires the imaginations of people in all corners of the globe. There’s a built-in mythology that comes with that word, an American cultural mythology that has been created by both the film and the music industry.”

The band and audience came alive in the second half as they performed other Eagles greatest hits such as “Take It To The Limit,” “One of These Nights,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Witchy Woman.” One enthusiastic listener shouted “Turn it up!” and the sound engineer complied, which brought the audience out of their seats. Towards the end of the show, the band slowed it down for my favorite, “Desperado,” with simple keyboard chords and vocal backup harmony. Don’t hesitate to catch the next Classic Albums Live performance at the Arts Center–just grab your ticket and GO!

Upcoming Classic Albums Live performances

Classic Albums Live: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Saturday, January 19 at 8pm, Tickets Here

Classic Albums Live: Chronicle, Vol. 1
Saturday, May 11 at 8pm, Tickets Here

Preview: Classic Albums Live

headerBy Janice Hubbell, guest blogger

Based out of Toronto, Classic Albums Live is performing the Eagles’ Hotel California album in its entirety this Saturday evening at the Lone Tree Art Center! The intent of the artists of this legendary and bestselling concept album was to make a bicentennial statement in 1976 discussing themes of “loss of innocence, cost of naivete, perils of fame & excess, exploration of the dark underbelly of the American dream, illusion versus reality and corruption in politics,” which still speak to us today.

I bought this record in 1976, the year I graduated from high school, and wish I had kept it in my collection. I can still sing every word of the title hit when it plays on the radio! I love its haunting melodies, superb vocal harmonies and especially the epic guitar interlude featuring dueling guitars. Fingers crossed that the band’s 2nd set will include Desperado, my next Eagles fave.

A limited number of tickets are available here. Classic Albums Live: Hotel California at the Lone Tree Arts Center on Saturday, November 10 at 8pm.

Preview: SFJAZZ Collective and the Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions

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By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

Looking to spend an evening listening to world-class jazz music in the Greater Denver area? The SFAZZ Collective will be performing “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” on Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30 at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

The SFJAZZ Collective is an all-star ensemble that performs new and fresh arrangements of work by a modern jazz master. The SFJAZZ Collective, a nonprofit launched in 2004 in San Francisco, is a collaboration of many diverse and dedicated jazz musicians who wish to inspire audiences with high quality concerts and a children and teens’ music education outreach program aimed at encouraging the next generation of jazz performers.

The SFJAZZ Collective will perform a tribute to legendary jazz composer and musician, Miles Davis, who was one of the most innovative and influential jazz performers of the 20th Century. “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” will be performed by eight SFJAZZ Collective musicians, all at the top of their fields, including:

David Sánchez, a Grammy Award winning jazz tenor saxophonist, from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Sanchez performed in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra and Dizzy’s Trio until Dizzy’s death in 1993, toured with the Phillip Morris Superband and with many other jazz greats. He will be performing with Sean Jones, an American trumpeter and composer who was featured on Nancy Wilson’s Grammy Award winning album Turned to Blue in 2007. On vibraphone, Warren Wolf , a musician trained in many genres from classical to jazz and who is a percussion instructor at the Berklee College of Music. Wolf performs regularly with the Rachael Price Group (of Lake Street Dive fame) and the Donel Fox Group.

Miguel Zenón will be performing on the alto saxophone. He is a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective as well as a composer, bandleader, teacher, and a four-time Grammy Award nominee. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Genius Grant. On trombone will be Robin Eubanks, a jazz and fusion musician who has performed with Slide Hampton, Sun Ra, and Stevie Wonder. Eubanks has appeared on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.

Edward Simon will accompany the group on piano. Simon is a Venezuelan jazz musician who has performed on several Grammy-nominated albums and who teaches at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.  The jazz bassist is Matt Penman, one of the most in-demand musicians in the United States. Penman recently joined the faculty of the Roots, Jazz and American Music program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. And last, but not least, Obed Calvaire will perform on drums. Calvaire has performed along with Wynton Marsalis, Seal, Lizz Wright, and Sean Jones among many others.

An evening with the SFJAZZ Collective offers us the extraordinary opportunity to hear selections of Mile’s Davis’ works interpreted by the foremost musicians in the field of jazz today. Tickets for the SFJAZZ Collective’s “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” are on sale now from $33 to $55 and can be purchased at www.lonetreeartscenter.org/sfjazz. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.

Review: Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless

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By Cassie Schauer, Guest Blogger

Who needs to fight for Hamilton tickets when Mandy Gonzalez is in town?  Currently starring as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton on Broadway, singer Mandy Gonzalez chose Lone Tree for the closing night of her week-long tour to promote her debut CD, Fearless. In her words, this CD and tour are a “dream come true.”

I have never heard her sing live, so I was immediately blown away with the power of her jazzy voice. She opened with the classic “On a Clear Day” sung with a sultry Latin beat. Her voice is huge — I imagine it could be heard from the parking lot.  Mandy created an intimate connection with the sold-out audience throughout the performance, waving to the people in the balcony and sharing her connection to each of the songs she chose to perform for us. By the end of the evening, I felt I had been listening to someone whose career I had been following for years.  She was so excited and genuine and having so much fun.

She added a personal twist to each song she performed and referred to several as being “from her first album.”  Her rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You…and you…and you…and you…” was performed with a playful Latin beat.

As an original cast member of  Lin-Manual Miranda’s In the Heights, “Breathe” is arguably the first song that Mandy is known for.  She told us how returning to the Richard Rodgers Theater for Hamilton brought back such good memories, as if she’d never said goodbye to the theater.  “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard paid tribute to that time in her life.

Mandy sang “Get Ready Cuz Here I Come” in honor of her father’s singing career. It was the first song she remembers hearing him sing. She followed with “Born to Run,” an ode to her husband’s New Jersey roots.  Next was “Life is Sweet,” which she performed on her CD with original Hamilton cast member and her In the Heights co-star, Christopher Jackson.

She then told us the tale of “the Green Girl,” Elphaba from Wicked: the 20 pound dress, the raked stage. Would she ever do it again? No, she said, the green doesn’t come off!  She followed with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of  “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” before singing the powerful “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

The Fearless CD tour began in Florida. Performing so soon after the shooting in Parkland, Mandy decided that she wanted to honor and celebrate every city she performed in by inviting a community choir to sing with her. For tonight’s show, Mandy was joined by a group from Denver’s award-winning Phamaly Theater Company, comprised of performers with diverse disabilities of every nature. “Starts Right Now” is a powerful ballad about the ups and downs in life, about being fearless, and about having the courage to let go.  The result was strong and positive, the performers clearly enjoying their time to perform together.

Finally, Mandy performed the title song from Fearless, written for her by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was inspired by the story of how her mother and father overcame huge personal obstacles and found the courage to stand up for forbidden love. She ended the performance with a very passionate rendition of “Que Sera Sera,” her grandmother’s favorite and her best advice.

Mandy was backed by a talented group of musicians. Seeming like old friends who had been playing together for years, they provided a rich and energetic compliment to her voice.  Lead by pianist and musical director, John Deley, the band included Richard Hammond on bass, Abe Fogel on drums, and Oscar Rodriguez on guitar.

There is something different about a Broadway singer performing on her own. A different vibe. Different connection with the audience. Mandy seemed somewhat in awe of her position now as a solo artist. She was having a blast and so were we.

Review: Matt Dusk

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By Janice Hubbell, guest blogger

On a snowy and brutally cold Saturday evening, my hubby and I arrived at the Lone Tree Art Center (thankfully only a couple blocks away) to see Toronto jazz crooner, Matt Dusk, perform. We expected to see unclaimed seats in the sold-out show but were pleasantly surprised to see an audience full of brave music lovers! Matt’s appearance and voice were as dreamy as one might expect at a pop concert, although much more enjoyable! We enjoyed each rendition of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook as Matt warmed up the audience and proceeded to charm us out of our seats! (Naturally, since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, the songs were romantically inclined such as “My Funny Valentine.” I noticed couples in the audience holding hands and gazing in each other’s eyes…) We also enjoyed the glass of champagne and cookies during intermission—what a lovely surprise!

More than just a professional performer, Matt’s stage presence was warm and genuinely friendly as he invited the audience into his life, sharing bits and pieces of his personal career and family. I especially enjoyed his stories before several of his songs—who doesn’t enjoy a good story?! For instance, I had no idea Johnny Mercer wrote “One For My Baby (And One For The Road)” on a napkin in a bar, in the middle of nowhere, on a road trip to propose to Judy Garland…and he literally was singin’ the blues after discovering she had just married! As much as I like a good cover, I love original music even more so, and Matt performed one of his signature heartbreak stories beautifully. The best song of the night, hands down, however was “Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Bad,” written for Frank Sinatra by U2 stars, Bono and The Edge. Sadly, Frank died before performing, and Bono allowed Matt Dusk to debut this song depicting real life. Matt really captured our hearts in his sensitive portrayal as no one moved or made a sound. The concert ended with his moving tribute to Frankie—“I Did It My Way!”

Matt Dusk’s trio of musicians were on the same level as his vocal performance—just a piano, acoustic bass, and saxophone player. Their accompaniment showcased his voice perfectly but he also allowed them to shine individually. As we were leaving, we encountered Matt in the hallway and he stopped to shake hands and chat. We complimented his performance and mentioned the musicality of his band, especially since there was no drummer. As a musician, I know how difficult that is—musicians lean on the drummer to carry the song and must be twice as good to carry the music without percussion. Matt mentioned they were all from Denver and that he would pass on the compliment!

 

 

 

Review: Riders In The Sky

By Cassie Schauer, guest blogger

group4x5250dpiOn a cold, windy January night on the Colorado range, the Riders In The Sky brought their funny musical tribute to the Wild West to the Lone Tree Arts Center. My mom and I were excited to see them perform the songs made famous by her childhood favorite Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers. We were not disappointed.

The Riders In The Sky are a group of four very talented musicians including guitarist Ranger Doug the “Governor of the Great State of Rhythm,” fiddler Woody Paul the “King of the Cowboy Fiddlers,” and accordionist Joey who is “The CowPolka King.”  Standing in for bassist Too Slim was Blake Macklemore, who seamlessly picked up on the songs and jokes despite having joined the night before. The band’s playful ribbing about their age reminds you that they have been together for over 40 years.  They are perennial favorites on the state fair circuit and have won a Grammy for their album Woody’s Round Up from Disney’s Toy Story 2.

The show opened with scenes from The Roy Rogers Show including sidekick Gabby Hays, cowgirl Dale Evans, and of course, Roy riding his horse, Trigger. As the lights came up, Riders In The Sky appeared dressed in colorful Western shirts, lighting their cellophane flame on the campfire surrounded by toy armadillos and cacti.  Proclaiming, “In a logical world, men would ride side saddle,” the first set featured a variety of cowboy standards.  Ranger Doug awed us with his impressive yodeling skills, hitting the high notes yet singing with a smooth baritone voice. “Sky Ball Paint” featuring the “Lone Tree Yodel” brought out whoops from the crowd. Sprinkling the set with witty comments and silly jokes, the band invited us to sing along to “Don’t Fence Me In” and “You Are My Sunshine.” The set lighting turned red like the hot desert sun when the band sang “Cool Water,” a favorite of The Sons of the Pioneers. Joey drew lighthearted dirty looks from his bandmates when he threw in a “Diet Pepsi” in place of the “water” echo.

The second set included “Blue Shadows on the Trail” from the 1948 Disney cartoon “Melody Time,” sung complete with wind and howling coyotes.

Woody showed off his various cowboy talents.  As a member of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame (per Ranger Doug, in the “living” category), he dazzled us with his fast fiddling and dancing skills.  Schooling us on the difference between “Country” and “Western” styles of music (“Country” means you take the mike out of the stand), he got down on his knees at center stage, swinging his hips to “You’re Wearing Out Your Welcome  Matt,” an ode to Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty. After jumping off the stage to high-five with the audience, he went on to show off his lassoing skills. Claiming all of his mistakes are real and not rehearsed, he performed the donut trick as a “favorite of the Lone Tree Police.”ritssunset4x5250dpi

Taking a break from the cowboy tunes, local saxophonist Eric Stehle joined the band for a rousing rendition of jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  Featuring a solo by each of the five musicians, the group showed off the depth of their musical talents and was a fun change.

The band rounded out the show with audience requests including Tex Ritter’s “Blood on the Saddle” and perennial favorite “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Ending on a perfect note with another audience sing-along to “Happy Trails to You” and the sage advice to “never drink downstream from the herd,” the band road off into the sunset. Riders In The Sky, a fun and talented group of entertainers, warmed up a cold night on the range with a performance that my mom and I were glad we didn’t miss.

Review: Michael Martin Murphey “A Cowboy Christmas”

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By Janet Warner, Guest Blogger

I was pleased to be able to attend A Cowboy Christmas with Michael Martin Murphy at Lone Tree Arts Center on December 22nd, 2017.  My husband is not a fan of country music in any form (his loss, perhaps?), but the dear friend I took with me was looking forward to this show as much as I was. I must be honest, however, and admit that we were forced to leave the show at intermission due to illness, so I can only write about what I saw and heard during the first hour of a nearly two hour performance.

As we drove into the rear of the Arts Center parking lot, we passed the big tour bus that Murphey arrived in.  It looked pretty fancy to my eyes, and if one is going to take an extended road trip, I would think this would be the way to go.  After looking at Murphey’s tour schedule from November through July 2018, he’s going to get a lot of use out that bus.

Shortly before the performance, I was curious to know whether the show was sold out.  It was close, with only three single seats still available on the online seating chart; the next night’s performance looked the very much the same.  Either people had heard about or seen Michael Martin Murphey before, or the marketing department had done its job selling the show.  I suspect the former was true, because from my vantage point near the back of the theatre, it appeared that the majority of the audience knew the artist and were already fans.  I say this because it looked to me like many of those attending were prepared to see his country show and dressed accordingly; I saw a plethora of cowboy hats, boots, western shirts and leather.  In fact, a few of the women were dressed in full western regalia and would have been entirely comfortable in any 1800s Wild West saloon!  And, no surprise, the bulk of the audience were baby boomers like me.

Photo By Kim ThompsonThe stage itself was sparsely set up, with five microphones on stands and a blank video screen behind them.  A young man walked out to introduce Murphey, and it turned out to be his youngest son, Brennan.  He said a few words about his dad, the band, the “Murphandise” for sale, and the show itself, and injected the introduction with enough humor so that I didn’t much mind the sales pitch.  Michael Martin Murphey appeared soon after, along with his band of four.  Two, in addition to Murphey, played guitar, one played electric violin, and Brennan played some sort of string instrument that I didn’t recognize, but it added a nice layer of interest to the music. Murphey, dressed in a long, fringed, soft leather jacket, neckerchief and jeans, looked the quintessential cowboy, but then again, they all did!

My impressions of the show were many.  Truthfullly, I was not very familiar with Murphey’s music, other than the songs that made it on the radio years ago (such as “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines”).  I didn’t recognize most of the songs he did, but it didn’t really matter, because the music was really good.  It was interesting too, because I could understand every word of the lyrics so I was drawn in by the stories he told.  Murphey may be in the latter part of his career (due to getting older, and not because he’s lost any of his talent), but he can still keep an audience engaged .  The show was a mixture of storytelling, poetry and music.  Murphey said he’s been doing this show in one form or another for twenty-four years, and it’s obvious he still enjoys performing it.  One of the things I most enjoyed was the harmonizing.  Though there was only one woman in the band, her voice was strong and full of character, and the combination of voices behind Murphey was first rate.  I’m sure the whole point of having a band behind you is to enhance the main performer, and that was definitely true here, all of them fine musicians in their own right.

The video screen behind Murphey and the band was used to show still pictures and video, its purpose to enhance the poem or story he was telling.   Some of the pictures and video showed repeatedly, and that would be my only minor complaint with the stage and setup.  I think more could have been done to improve the quality of the whole experience by having something interesting to look at onstage besides microphone stands and a video screen.  But, perhaps that was the whole point; the focus was solely on the music and not on bells and whistles.  And after such a long and successful career in music, perhaps Michael Martin Murphey knows what he’s doing a little better than I do!  Well done – I think everyone had a great time.

Review: Cherish The Ladies

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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!