Since the show’s inception several years ago, Jamie Laval has honed and refined his concept for a solstice-oriented, non-commercial holiday music program, each year modifying the lineup of performers and unveiling new musical selections collected from his travels abroad.
The best elements of last year’s production form the nucleus of this year’s Celtic Christmas. Claire Shirey, one of the standouts from 2016, returns in a more prominent role as the show’s only dancer. The glamorous Irish step dance champion will have ample stage time to explore numerous types of choreography, intertwining intricate rhythms and kaleidoscopic movements within the instrumental arrangements. Between dance numbers, Claire also plays Irish fiddle and concertina.
Megan McConnell is an exceptional soprano who delighted audiences last year with her sensitive rendering of traditional folk songs and spunky, yet tasteful theatrical style. Megan fills in various accompanying parts on guitar and glockenspiel.
Everyone’s favorite Rosalind Buda is back with her myriad of wind instruments (yes, bombard as well!), poetry reading, and yet another new surprise! The troupe affectionately refers to Rosalind as “The Sunshine Maker.”
In addition to being the arranger, composer, and producer of the show, Jamie will take a more active role with his fiddle than in years past with the addition of several new arrangements of old Scottish and Irish carols that showcase his virtuosity.
New to the troupe this year is Celtic harpist Christine Vanarsdale from Charlotte. Christine is a crossover folk/classical harpist who plays with the Charlotte Symphony and teaches at CPCC. Adept with several folk music traditions, Christine is particularly at home with folk music from Brittany (Celtic France), which fits perfectly with the central impetus of the program.
The show weaves a tapestry of music, dance, poetry, and stories which hearken back to the ancient Celtic celebrations associated with the Winter Solstice and Christmas. Some of the songs have lain nearly-forgotten for years, while others are familiar holiday carols re-envisioned in a more rustic, authentic Celtic manner. Modern, commercialistic Christmas songs are nowhere to be found. Instead, the focus is on the introspective beauty and atmosphere of pre-Christian seasonal music.