Sharing songs, stories, and tunes through the evening is a common thing in Ireland and Irish America. Irish band Teada along with singer Muireann nic Amhlaoibh, Belfast based harpist Grainne Hambly, and Ireland born American resident piper Tommy Martin give a winter holiday flavor to this idea through Irish Christmas in America, a combination of laughter, fun, music, dance, and stories which is a tradition in the makingas it goes into its third year. Stops in Arizona, West Virginia, New York, and Washington DC are among those on the schedule. If you’re thinking Riverdance, don’t — the music is every bit as good, even better, but the extravaganza factor isn’t there. A well done show, indeed, but more about sharing music than performing it. They are booked at modest sized venues, too, so it is none too early to plan for tickets at many of them.

“A heartfelt theme of Irish Christmas is emigration,” says Oisin MacDiarmada of Sligo, fiddle player and leader of Teada. That’s a theme which runs through the the music and stories. The first year, these ranged from MacDiarmada with a tale of an emigrant writing home puzzled about the nature of tea in bags to harpist Hambly with the sorrowful and graceful instrumental Wild Geese, reflecting forced emigration at the historic flight of the earls in the 17th century and the sadness which swept Ireland at that time, to guest singer Cathie Ryan relating a bit of her own Christmas history, connecting Michigan and Kerry. While Ryan felt her parents’ joy at seeing their kids loving holiday celebrations, she knew also their longing for their families back in Ireland. “Music was a way they stayed close to home, and connected to to that.” she says, “and a way for us kids to stay connected to them.” A connection which she illuminated by in singing in Irish Oíche Chiúin, known the world around as Silent Night. At a cocnert in Worcester, one evening, all joined in the quiet carol, and then the musicians lifted things up to with a quick reel, leading to more tradition and more music as the evening continued.

Ryan was the guest singer in that first year, and last year there was a varied roster of male and female singers on tap. Nic Amhlaoibh, known to American audiences from her tours as the lead singer with the band Danu as well as from her solo work, will add her voice this year. She grew up in Dun Chaoin in County Kerry, “which is the farthest western part of Ireland — of Europe, really, although I suppose the people of Iceland might have something to say about that,” she said, laughing. It was a childhood filled with music and community, ideas she’ll share this season. “I’m really looking forward to being out there with the lads,” she said.

It’s a lively show, two hours by turns warmed with faith, uplifted by music, and highlighted by laughter, especially when the men of Teada appear dressed in rags and tags and hats you have to see to believe in celebration of the day after Christmas tradition of the wren boys, when all the bachelors in a town go door to door asking for change to hunt the wren — which nowadays peopel usually do down at the pub. Irish Christmas in America is a sharing of connection grounded in music, a celebration of family and good times at the winter season, whatever your tradition or national heritage.

Below, there’s a tour schedule for this season. Photos are from the first year’s gigs.

Nov 30th Peoria AZ Theater Works – Christmas Show

Dec 01st Tucson AZ Berger Performing Arts Center – Christmas Show

Dec 02nd Flagstaff AZ The Orpheum Theater – Christmas Show

Dec 04th Santa Cruz CA Kuumbwa Jazz Club – Christmas Show

Dec 05th Winters CA Palms Playhouse – Christmas Show

Dec 06th San Francisco CA United Irish Cultural Center – Christmas Show

Dec 07th Berkeley CA Freight & Salvage – Christmas Show

Dec 08th Fallon NV Barkley Theater – Christmas Show

Dec 09th Bishop CA Bishop High School Auditorium – Christmas Show

Dec 12th Lakewood NJ Strand Theater – Christmas Show

Dec 13th Washington DC National Geographic – Christmas Show

Dec 14th Washington DC National Geographic – Christmas Show

Dec 15th Philadelphia PA Commodore Barry Irish Club – Christmas Show

Dec 16th Charleston WV State Theater, West Virginia Cultural Center – Christmas Show

Dec 18th Staten Island NY The Music Hall at Snug Harbor – Christmas Show

Kerry Dexter’s credits include, SonicNet, the folk music magazine Dirty Linen, Strings, The Encyclopedia of Ireland the Americas, The MusicHound Guides, and others. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road, and contributes to the eclectic review of music videos at Fred Bals’ Series of Tubes.

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