Celtic Crossroads Review Sellersville Theater – An Irish Supergroup
As we found our seats, you could feel the excitement in the crowd that this was going to be a great show. On stage, one could see the variety of instruments, such as the harp, the bodbran, the Uilleann pipes, the Irish tin whistle, the tenor banjo, the flute, the accordion, the guitar, and of course, the fiddle.
Celtic Crossroads is the manifestation of a very old Irish tradition, particularly in the western part of Ireland. At the crossroads of rural areas, musicians and vocalists would congregate, harmonize, and engage their audience, with a mesmerizing performance. The band’s name derives from these traditional performances in Ireland.
Three thousand miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Crossroads did the same thing at the Sellersville Theater in Bucks County. The band did a splendid feat of transporting through the well known Celtic magic, the audience to a crossroads in scenic western Ireland.
Often, the performers would initially provide the history and context, of both the song and the instrument used to perform it. This heightened the audience’s appreciation for the rich, authentic background of the elements of the show. The most intriguing example was when the band performed a melody which they described “as a thousand years old, and not translated into English until many centuries later. It originally involved heroism and battles, but as the centuries went by, different lyrics were composed. Eventually, it evolved into a much more pleasant story about going to a country fair.” At that point, the song we know as “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, was sung with a stunningly beautiful resonance, the finest version we have ever heard.
The first act consisted primarily of traditional Irish music. They include reels and jigs, as well as polkas. The latter originated in Poland, but they have influenced Irish music as well. The set opened with a song known as “Caledonia” – which was the Latin word for Scotland, also a Celtic country. Ironically, “Scotland” in Latin simply means “Land of the Irish” – so it’s understandable, that the Irish have embraced it as their own.
They also performed, as what can only be described as a club version of the country music favorite “Cotton-eyed Joe”. This song was selected to illustrate the influence of Irish music on American country music.
Another intriguing dance was called the “Brush/broom Dance”; the extraordinarily talented dancer – Marcus Donnelly, who demonstrated an outstanding proficiency throughout the show - performs with a broom as a partner. One reason theorized for this was that men out-numbered women in rural Ireland, and they needed to practice with brooms! But whatever its source, it was very entertaining to watch.
The dancers were superb. In particular, the duo of female dancers – Shaunessy Sinnett and Charlene Morrison performed frequently and with remarkable beauty and grace.
Ireland is the only nation in the world which has a musical instrument as its national symbol – the harp. Played by the traditional storytellers of Irish lore, it indicated how central myths and legends were, and are, to Irish culture. The harp was played with virtuosity by Lisa Canny.
Celtic Crossroads was born in the university town of Galway, where they would play for tips on street corners. The audience laughed when the band described how they quickly discovered that a pub – specifically, the Kings Head Pub – was the most lucrative spot!
In honor of this fact, the band has named a set of three popular traditional reels, “The Laurel Tree”, the “Trip to Birmingham”, and the “Foxhunter’s Reel”, which are collectively and affectionately known as the “Kings Head” set.
In the second act, there were three songs that we found to be particularly noteworthy. One was called “Ned of the Hill” – which features a woman, Eileen, whose cattle is requisitioned by the tax man. Her lover, Ned, kills the tax man in retaliation for this. Such a violent storyline indicates the song’s ancient Irish roots. In ancient Ireland, cattle, not land, was the measure of wealth and status. Accordingly, an attempt to seize her cattle would have been viewed as a substantial and personal insult to Eileen – which is why Ned’s reaction was so extreme.
Our personal favorite was “The Galway Girl” - a magical ballad about a man’s romantic encounter with a beautiful “black-haired, blue-eyed girl”, who mysteriously vanishes the next morning. The show ended with the traditional favorite “Danny Boy”, sung with great tenderness and was a fine way to end the show.
Overall, we found Celtic Crossroads tp be a stellar cast of many talented musicians, including, James Riley, Michael McClintock, Kate Moloney, Diarmaid Hurley, and Isaac Alderson. It was the next best thing, to travelling to the Emerald Isle.
We felt particularly fortunate, to experience Celtic Crossroads, in as intimate a venue, as the Sellersville Theater. Celtic Crossroads often plays in far larger theaters, and seeing the performers up close, provided a much better reproduction of the origins of the band.
Fortunately, this was not the end of Celtic programming at the Sellersville Theater for Bill Monaghan & Celtic Pride follow on Thursday, March 15, at 8:00 PM. On Friday, April 20th, Tempest – celebrating 25 years of Celtic rock will be appearing. And on Friday, May 11th, Seamus Kennedy & Burning Bridget Cleary will be bringing “Celtic Delights”.
For more information - Sellersville Theater - 24 West Temple Ave, Sellersville PA - 215-257-5808.
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