Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


‘A Southern Celtic Christmas’ to be broadcast nationally

Published December 10, 2015

ATLANTA—The 2015 Christmas season will mark the third consecutive year that American Public Television will distribute “A Southern Celtic Christmas” to PBS stations nationwide.

Georgia Public Broadcasting will air the program as a Christmas special for the fifth year in a row. The dates and times of the broadcast are Monday, Dec. 21, at 11 p.m. and on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at 7 p.m.

The concert, produced by the W.B. Yeats Foundation, celebrates the Christmas traditions of Ireland in music, dance, poetry, song and story and the continuation of many of the same traditions in the American South. That largely occurred through the huge contribution of the Scots-Irish to the culture of the South, especially in music.

Produced in Ireland, in the mountains of Appalachia and the stage of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University, “A Southern Celtic Christmas” celebrates in music, dance, poetry, song and story the high spirits and mystical beauty of the Christmas traditions of the Celtic lands and their connections with similar traditions of the South.

Southern Celtic Christmas began as a stage show, produced for 18 years by James Flannery at Emory University. Flannery is a noted Yeats scholar and director, Irish tenor and storyteller.

Known then as the Atlanta Celtic Christmas Concert, the program became one of the most popular events of the Atlanta holiday season. Due to the support of Emory, Tourism Ireland, the Irish Consulate of Atlanta and a number of donors, a gala performance of the stage show was filmed in December 2010. Georgia Public Broadcasting presented the initial version of that film in 2011. The film was then re-edited with new footage from Ireland and Appalachia for national distribution.

American Public Television has just signed a contract with the W.B. Yeats Foundation to carry the program through 2017, set to make the program an “evergreen” classic for family audiences.

Featured in the show are a number of world class artists including three Grammy Award-winners: “First Lady of Celtic Song” Moya Brennan, bluegrass and Celtic banjo virtuoso Alison Brown and Riverdance composer Bill Whelan with a stunning choral setting of a seventh-century Irish prayer-poem. Also featured are the soulful gospel harmonies of Rising Appalachia, percussionist and fiddler Joe Craven and renowned songster John Doyle in beautiful ballad that captures ways in which music and cultural traditions gather families and communities together at Christmas.

Of special interest is a rare interview with the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in which he talks about the reverence for nature at the heart of Celtic spirituality as well as his poetry.

In 2012, the Southern Celtic Christmas Concert won the Southeast Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Entertainment. For the past three years it has been distributed to PBS stations nationwide where it has been broadcast to 68 markets in 26 states.