How It’s New York:  In addition to taking place at the Irish Arts Center, a  hub of all things Irish in New York, the musicians include many who are New York based– including Mick Moloney himself, who teaches at NYU.

How It’s Irish: What could be more Irish than Irish Christmas?  Lots of Irish carols and tunes, and lots of music from other traditions as well, which is why it’s a Solstice Celebration.  And it’s also Jirish:  this year Tamar Korn will sing some Hannukah tunes (“Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel” in the house?)

 This article was originally published in Irish Examiner USA.

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Tuesday December 6, 2011

It’s Starting To Feel A Lot Like Christmas…

By Gwen Orel
“Irish Christmas” music has become as much a hallmark of the season as the ringing bells of Salvation Army Santas.
Every Performance Arts Center is hosting someone, it seems.
Since 2008, one of the nicest series in New York has been “An Irish Christmas” at Irish Arts Center (IAC), hosted by Mick Moloney.

The concerts this year begin December 7th and run Wednesday – Sunday through the 18th.

IAC and Mick have just released a live album from the concerts, “An Irish Christmas: A Musical Solstice Celebration,” and it’s a keeper.
It’s the first live album Mick has ever done, and, he says, it’s become one of his favorites.
Making a permanent record of the events was a logical thing to do, but he didn’t know he would enjoy listening to it so much.

Often by the time one of his albums is finished he’s sick of listening to it, but this one is different: “There’s something about a live recording. It comes across very warm. The buzz was really there.”

His presence can be felt in every track, but the lead is taken by different players: Rhys Jones (fiddle and vocals) on the Appalachian tune “Breaking Up Christmas” and Joe Newberry’s composition “Christmas Day;” Liz Hanley (fiddle, vocals) on Joe McCusker’s song “Christmas in the Trenches” and on the traditional carol “The Cherry Tree,” and Athena Tergis‘ soulful fiddling fiddling on the slow air “Port na bPucai”(Tune of the Fairies) which melds into jaunty reels, ending with “The Foxhunter’s.”

And then there’s the unfortgettable singing and chanting of Philipina singer Grace Nono, 3 -time winner of the Katha Best World Music Album.  The blend of tunes, songs, and the sound of tapping feet from dancer Niall O’Leary convey the celebratory warmth of the events themselves.
Often a Christmas album begins to feel exhausting; around track 9 you’ve just had enough – unless you’re using it as background music to a holiday party.
“An Irish Christmas” is different; it has a flow and lilt to it that is like a live concert.
While it is more than appropriate as background music, you might be tempted to shush everyone a little to bask in the sweetness of the sounds.

Mick loves doing the concerts, and that joy really shows.
Unlike a one-off event, he says,

“you get into a groove. There’s something nice about doing it every night. I feel like there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. It’s cold outside and you’re warm, in that Hell’s Kitchen are of New York every mid- December.”

The series always features Mick and a core group of Irish musicians, with guest musicians on different nights and non-musical guests who show up and do a “party piece,” and are interviewed by Mick.
This year’s group of musicians includes Athena Tergis, Liz Hanley, and Grace Nono, as well as button accodionist Billy McComiskey, pianist Brendan Dolan,and jazz singer Tamar Korn, who, Mick says will be singing some Hannukah songs. “It’s a global international tradition.”

While the concerts and album are titled titled “Irish Christmas,” the world “Solstice” has always appeared. “There are pre-Christian songs.”  That blend of Pagan, Christian and other cultures feels very Irish – as well as very festive.  If you’ve ever been to one of Mick’s events, whether one of his Symphony Space extravaganzas like the “Tribute to Harrigan and Hart” this autumn, or the mid-week interviews in IAC’s “Masters in Collaboration” series, you’ll know that the NYU professor and NEA Heritage Award winner imparts a lot of knowledge in a conversational way.

This year’s guests will include Charlotte Moore from Irish Repertory Theatre, Loretta Brennan Glucksman, and Consul Noel Kilkenny, Symphony Space’s Isaiah Sheffer, and others not yet announced. And Mick says there will be a surprise. He wouldn’t say anything more because then it wouldn’t be a surprise, but it will be “rooted in pre-Christian rituals.” 
Doing the concerts at Irish Arts Center lifts Mick up.

“The stage and the front row are about three feet from each other and after awhile it feels like no stage at all; it’s like a big old kitchen.” 

It’s a nice place to be. And the album takes you there.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.