Published November 30, 2006
Moya Brennan and Alison Brown, two Grammy Award winning stars of the international world of Celtic music, are featured in the 14th annual Atlanta Celtic Christmas Concert along with a host of well-known regional musicians, dancers, singers and storytellers. The concert takes place at Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 16 and 17, at 8 p.m.
Brennan, known as the “Voice of Clannad,” is one of Ireland’s best-known and accomplished singers. A native Irish speaker from Donegal, she comes from a family of traditional musicians. Her family group, Clannad, is recognized as one of the most distinctive and innovative ensembles in the field of Irish music and their artistry has graced film soundtracks, television serials, recordings and the concert stages of the world. Brennan’s latest project, “An Irish Christmas,” brings her to Atlanta with a range of ancient and modern Christmas classics. Brennan will be joined by harper Cormac De Barra, guitarist Fionan De Barra and fiddler Sinead Madden.
The Alison Brown Trio won acclaim at last year’s concert for their versatility and musicianship. Brown is one of the top five-stringed banjo players in the world noted for her jazz and bluegrass inflected Celtic compositions, including the dance piece “The Wonderful Voyage of St. Brendan.” Returning with her are her husband Garry West and fiddler Joe Craven, both natives of Atlanta.
Bill Whelan, the composer of “Riverdance,” is the third Grammy winner whose work will be featured at the concert with “Quis Est Deus?” a choral piece with a soprano soloist. “Quis Est Deus?” is based on a seventh-century Irish poem in which a fairy questions St. Patrick about the nature of the Christian God he is bringing to Ireland. It will be performed by the Emory Celtic Chorus. Returning this year is Rising Appalachia and the Elders, an ensemble featuring Atlanta’s Chloe and Leah Smith, their mother Jan Smith and long-time friend and mentor Barbara Panter. Leah and Chloe have just returned from a European tour performing their fresh and vibrant interpretations of Southern Gospel songs, blues, spirituals, old-time favorites and Celtic ballads.
Tenor, storyteller and host James Flannery, director of Emory’s W.B. Yeats Foundation, will once again capture the childlike wonder of a candlelit family Christmas gathering in Ireland as well as the mystery at the heart of the Nativity in the moving Appalachian carol, “I Wonder as I Wander.”
Prayer-poems out of the medieval Celtic church are combined with rollicking jigs and reels from the Irish and Scottish traditions, the latter choreographed by Lisa Cregan O’Brien and performed by the Celtic hipsters of the Buddy O’Reilly Band along with pipers Henry Frantz and John Recknagle. Welsh triple harper Kelly Stewart and uillean piper John Maschinot will transport audiences with the haunting beauty of their performances while Lisa Edwards evokes memories of holidays past with her rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” Making their debut this year are young musicians of the Atlanta Junior Ceili Band.
The idea of a little child born as the Light of the World within a humble stable fills the faithful with a sense of mystery as they contemplate their own mortality, rebirth, and redemption during the Christmas season. Whether in the gentle lilt of a fiddle tune, the bird-like cry of a tin whistle air or the shimmering echo of a harp floating through the auditorium, audiences are inspired to seek their own answers to “Quis Est Deus?” at the concert. Both a celebration and a reflection, it has for many Atlantans become a deeply spiritual and joyful evening of entertainment as well as a way of finding themselves once again at home with the true meaning of the Christmas season.
For tickets call the Emory Box Office at (404) 727-5050. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $10 for students/children.