Altan Review Sellersville Theater - Authentic Donegal Music

The Irish band Altan from Donegal brought a rousing mix of boisterous and wistful harmonies to Bucks County on Wednesday night, March 7, 2012. The historic Sellersville Theater hosted this world–renowned band, which has toured all over the globe since the 1980s.

The Sellersville Theater is an attractive venue, rich in history. The seating is intimate, with a few cabaret-style tables in the front, which are removed for dance party nights, followed by rows of traditional comfortable seating. The ambience is that of a Victorian theater, which helped to evoke the spirits that Altan so skillfully summoned, up on stage.

The evening was filled with jigs and reels, and beautiful, haunting melodies of days gone by.

The lead vocalist and fiddler extraordinaire, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (pronounced Mwa-rayd me whee-nie), deftly wove her Celtic magic in the traditional Donegal fiddle style, a unique subgenre of Celtic music. Altan was the first band using this style, to be signed by a major label, when Virgin Records inked them to a deal in 1996. After attending last night’s performance in Sellersville, it is easy to see why Virgin snapped them up.

The band's other members formed an excellent ensemble: Ciarán Curran on the bouzouki; Ciaran Tourish on fiddle; Dermot Byrne on button-accordion; and Dáithí Sproule on guitar. Each brought their own unique talent to the performance.

The band’s intriguing name of Altan is pronounced “Awl-tahn”. The inspiration for the name came from “a deep and mysterious lake behind Errigal Mountain in Donegal”, the northwestern county in Ireland. Mairéad described it as an old-fashioned word, also meaning “a slope into water” in Gaelic.

Many songs from last night appear as tracks on Altan’s latest album, Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen, such as Caitlín Triall, Seolta Geala (White Sails, in English), An Ghealóg, The Blackest Crow, The Lancers Jig, The Lily of the West, The House on the Corner. Some songs were in Gaelic; others were in English - but all were beautiful to hear.

It was an extraordinary evening of entertainment, highly memorable for its mix of laughter and tears, ballads and reels, exuberance and sadness. The band members were very personable and mixed in some jokes with the music, further enlivening the performance. We would highly recommend it.

Fortunately, this was not the end of Celtic programming at the Sellersville Theater for March 2012.

Celtic Crossroads will be there on Tuesday, March 13, at 8:00 PM. Bill Monaghan & Celtic Pride follow on Thursday March 15, at 8:00 PM.

For more information - Sellersville Theater is located at 24 West Temple Ave, Sellersville PA - 215-257-5808. You can visit their website at

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