Charismatic fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada returns to Tucson Sunday, Nov. 26, with his merry band of Irish musicians—and one American—to stage the popular Irish Christmas in America
concert of Irish song, music and dance.
The troupe skipped Tucson last year, but makes up for it with a cohort of talented musicians and a team of local dancers from the Celtic Steps Irish dance school in town. Mac Diarmada, an All Ireland Fiddle Champion, member of award-winning band Téada and graduate of Trinity College, learned his fiddling in his native County Clare, home to remarkable fiddlers of the likes of Martin Hayes, and up north in County Sligo, where he now lives.
Always good with the gab, Mac Diarmada serves as a host to an evening that evokes nostalgia for Christmas in the Ould Sod, dishing up jokes, showing slides and telling the old stories. The Irish diaspora only heightens the bittersweetness of an Irish Christmas.
“One of the most heartfelt themes of Irish Christmas is emigration,” Mac Diarmada said in press materials. “Music was a way that people stayed close to home.”
New this year to the enterprise is the young singer and flutist Niamh Farrell, born into a musical family in Sligo. Still in her 20s, Farrell has mastered the ancient sean nós style of highly ornamented singing. Farrell is the counterpart of singer and accordionist Séamus Begley, a regular in the Christmas concert and a native of the Gaeltacht of County Kerry, where the Irish language is still spoken and sean nós is still sung. Now in his late 60s, Begley links the young band to older traditions. The singers are adept in both Irish and English.
Also in the ensemble: Ginne Hambly on harp and concertina, Sean Gavin on Irish pipes and whistles, Patrick Doocey on guitar and the American-born Samantha Harvey, dancer and keyboardist. Harvey, who married Mac Diarmada a few years back, will dance solo as well as side by side with the Tucson youngsters.
Irish Christmas in America concert is at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 26, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, Tucson, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets are $20, $30 and $35 at 547-3040 or www.foxtucson.com. All seats reserved. Presented by In Concert Tucson.