A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan

Thursday, February 9, 2012
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WGBH presents the eighth annual A St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan!

This year's show will explore the roots and branches of Irish music, dance, and song with a wide array of performances from regional, national, and international talent.

Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA - SOLD OUT
Saturday, March 16, at 8pm

Thank you for you interest A St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan. Tickets for this event are now sold out. Be the first to find out about upcoming events, sign up for Celtic email updates:

For the past seven years, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn concerts have introduced a wide range of new and familiar musicians alike to audiences eager to celebrate the holiday in true Irish style.

Performances by:

Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, fiddle and accordion
Moira Smiley, vocals
Keith Murphy, guitar and piano
Pat Hutchinson, uilleann pipes
Maureen McMullan, vocals

The Coyne Family, with Bridget Fitzgerald, traditional Irish family band
Kathleen Coneely, tin whistle
Eoin McQuinn, percussion

Maeve Gilchrist, harp
Mariel Vandersteel, hardanger fiddle
Mark Simos, fiddle, guitar, piano
Kevin McDermott, tenor; Ralph Richey, piano
Billy Meleady, actor
Jacqueline Schwab, piano
Lindsay O’Donovan, piano/vocals
The Harney Academy of Irish Dance

“St. Patrick’s Day lends itself to a good old fashioned variety show,” O'Donovan says. “Our concert will reach from the very traditional, old-style music often described as 'pure drop' to the more contemporary end, what’s being played today. We will also journey out on its branches and look at its close relationship with America, Appalachia, Scotland, and many other places all while enjoying each other’s company in the beautiful confines of Sanders Theatre."

Local, regional, and national broadcasts of Brian O’Donovan’s radio program A Celtic Sojourn over the past 25 years have proven extraordinarily popular. This concert follows the format established for the burgeoning A Christmas Celtic Sojourn series of concerts which, during this past December, played to over 11,000 people in Boston, Worcester, and Rockport, MA; Providence, RI; and Derry, NH.

The 12 Days of Celtic Christmas

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
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Every day, from now until Dec. 12, Brian O’Donovan is releasing a classic Christmas Celtic Sojourn moment from the last decade as a digital download.

Each song comes free as his holiday gift to you, but it’s only available for a single day.

Join the Celtic Club today, and on Dec. 13, you’ll be able to download all 12 songs as a “digital album," plus a few extra performances that have never been released. (If you are already a member, we thank you for your support. You will automatically receive a link to download
the full album on Dec. 13.)

Day 12 Ruth Moody Oh Holy Night: Ruth Moody et al
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Each year of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, we’ve asked our main female singer to bring us a version of “Oh Holy Night” — the absolute chestnut among Christmas classics.  

Thrillingly, we have found that there are so many ways to present this song, musically and emotionally, and we’ve heard essentially nine completely different iterations. Here is one from last year. Ruth Moody, the exquisite clear soprano and one of the finest roots singers today, is accompanied by a truly talented ensemble: Seamus Egan, Hanneke Cassel, Lissa Schneckenburger, Laura Cortese, Flynn Cohen, Ben Wittman, Kieran O'Hare, Simon Chrisman, and Chico Huff. A magical moment.

Note: If you are a Celtic Club member, you will receive an email with a link for the entire album of these 12 Christmas recordings! AND we will add two bonus tracks, one of which is another very special, and very different take on "Oh Holy Night."

If you are not yet a member, join today and we’ll send you the digital download of the CD.

Day 11 Robbie O'Connell Christmas in the Trenches: Robbie O'Connell
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

In 1914, the Belgian front of World War I had already become a living hell of barbed wire, mud, trenches, and death. John McCutcheon wrote this song about a real incident that became known as the Christmas Truce. Somewhat spontaneously on Christmas Eve of that year, English, Scottish, and German troops simply downed arms, and created their own temporary peace. It was a brief but powerful respite from the war. Robbie O'Connell brought us this version in 2006. George Keith, Shannon Heaton, Robbie Overson, and Chico Huff joined in. A lovely, but powerful, song indeed.
Day 10 Dougie Maclean The Christ Child Lullaby: Dougie MacLean et al
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

When we invite a singer from Scotland, we ask them to consider singing this quintessentially Scottish Christmas song. It is called “Taladh Chriosda” or “The Christ Child Lullaby,” and features an exquisite melody with lyrics that were originally in Scottish Gaelic, but have since become more common in English. The chorus is familiar and ultimately sung with many vocal harmonic possibilities. In this version from our 2007 performance, Dougie MacLean takes the lead, Aoife O'Donovan follows, and Solas members, Mick McAuley and Eamon McElholm, contribute verses. One of my favorite recordings of the song ever!
Day 9 Navan An Eos Hweg: Navan
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Navan is a delightful group we’ve been associated with over the past decade of concerts. Variously a three- or four-part harmony group, Navan sings in all six Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish, Manx (Isle of Man), Welsh, Cornish (Cornwall), and Breton (Brittany). Exquisite harmonies, amazing repertoire, and a shining stage presence have made this group from Wisconsin a favorite over the years. They will rejoin us this year for their fourth appearance in the show — and as a four piece!  

“An Eos Hweg” actually was the very first song performed at the first A Christmas Celtic Sojourn concert. We decided during the day to do something different, and — with a packed, expectant house — we had the members of Navan enter from the back of the Somerville Theatre, singing this song as they made their way to the stage. As Robbie O'Connell (also on that bill) later said, “Immediately, the audience knew they were at a very different Christmas show indeed!”

Day 8 Iss Flach:  Chris Stout and Catriona McKay Iss Flach: Chris Stout and Catriona McKay
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Often, over the course of the last decade of shows, something came along that surprised the heck out of us. I knew Chris and Catriona as terrific and sophisticated musicians with a lot of traditional music in their veins. I also knew they were highly trained classical musicians with a penchant for taking their roots music into the avant-garde. This made me slightly nervous when they brought this piece of music to my attention. Would the audience understand and absorb it? Well, take a listen all the way through, and then listen to the audience reaction at the end. High impact. Pure magic. "Iss Flach," by the way, means ice flow!
Day 7 Dante's Prayer - Aoife O'Donovan Dante's Prayer: Aoife O'Donovan
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Another principle of Christmas Celtic over the years that I have particularly enjoyed, is the inclusion of my own family; Lindsay my wife, and my two daughters, Aoife and Fionnuala (Lindsay always asked me to mention that we also have two sons, Ciaran and Aidan, as those who see us on stage are convinced we only have the girls!). When my oldest daughter Aoife was in her second year at the New England Conservatory in 2004, I asked her to get together some of her fellow students and participate in the second production of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn. She got Jed Wilson on piano, Jake Silver on bass, and Lissa Schneckenburger on fiddle. What a quartet they turned out to be. And they brought this amazing arrangement of Loreena McKennitt's emotional "Dante's Prayer." A wonderful moment for me at the Somerville Theatre.
Day 6 Overture, 2011 -  Ensemble Overture 2011: Ensemble
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Each year since he became music director of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, Seamus Egan has assembled an overture for the start of the show. These overtures — there are now five are in my opinion, masterpieces. They often start mysteriously, set a tone, add in spoken word, and then gradually develop from a sonic invitation to relax into the gathering, through some sentiments of the season, to a full-blown hooley in the kitchen complete with dancing. I love each and every one of them, but last years' with the piercing "Noel" introduction of Ruth Moody; the sonorous tones of Len Graham; the brilliance of Halali; hammer dulcimer player, Simon Chrisman; Seamus himself; piper Kieran O'Hare; bassist Chico Huff; and percussionist Ben Wittman; the dancing of young Griffin Wilkins, Patrick Melo, and Emma Schiller; and veteran dancer/choreographer Kevin Doyle you have a brilliant piece of work. Here it is. Listen through.
Day 5 Fionnuala O'Donovan In the Bleak Midwinter: Fionnuala O'Donovan
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

I have been blessed to have my wife Lindsay, and my two daughters, Aoife and Fionnuala, join me on the Christmas Celtic stage over the last nine years. Aoife who will be featured on another download upcoming, is now a professional musician.  Fionnuala has been unable to perform with us for the last few years as she attends university in Montreal. Here was her last performance. A somewhat unusual version of "In the Bleak Midwinter." Listen particularly to the arrangement affected by Seamus Egan, our muisc director for the past five years. One of the highlights of all Christmas Celtic shows for me personally. This was recorded in 2010.
Day 4 Sean Keane The Kerry Christmas Carol: Sean Keane
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Another 'original' brought to us by Sean Keane, one of the finest traditional singers alive today. Written by Kerry poet, Sigerson Clifford, and set to music by Tim Dennehy, this beautiful song tells of the centuries-old belief held by many in rural Ireland; that on Christmas Eve, Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus wandered the roads of Ireland seeking shelter as they had done in Bethlehem in those days of old. A candle was lit in each cottage window to guide the way. From the 2004 edition of the show, our last at The Somerville Theatre.
Day 3 Robbie O'Connell Three Kings: Robbie O'Connell
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

One aspect of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn I particularly enjoy is the creation of new "traditions." Several times over the last decade, we have had Robbie O'Connell join us. One of Robbie's many talents is creating songs that sound like they may have been written a hundred years ago. Such a song has a Christmas theme, and Robbie has taught it to audiences now, all over the country. I've even heard it sung in a church in recent years, appropriately on Epiphany, but the choir director had no ideauntil I told her that it was contemporaily written. Definitely, one for the ages.
Day 2 Karan Casey This Time Will Pass: Karan Casey
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Karan Casey — what a voice! And a few years ago turning her limitless talent to song writing, she brought us this beautiful song.  One of those many songs that while not being specifically Christmas, still evokes the spirit of the season Her husband Niall Valelly on concertina, Chico Huff on bass, and Robbie Overson on nylon strung guitar make for a beautiful accompaniment. From the 2006 edition of the show. 
Day 1 Winifred Horan A Daisy in December: Winifred Horan
Download no longer available, but you can stream the track using the player below.

Winifred Horan with the group Solas. Natalie Haas on cello, Chico Huff on bass. Taken from the 2007 edition of the show.

Each year of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, we open the second act with a tune. The tune has to be wistful and thought provoking. Maybe even a little sentimental. This is a beauty written and played on violin by one of the great musicians to ever grace A Celtic Sojourn stage, Winifred Horan of Solas.

A Celtic Sojourn 12/3/2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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A Celtic Sojourn 11/19/2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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A Celtic Sojourn 11/12/2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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A Celtic Sojourn 11/5/2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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