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Nollaig na nGael Concert

Shelly OGrady

St Iberius Church, Wexford hosted a very special candle-lit Christmas concert the Friday before Christmas Day. Entitled An Irish Christmas, or Nollaig na nGael, the aim of the bi-lingual show was to eschew the generic fare which dominates the airwaves at this time of year and to offer a more traditional take on Christmas.

Revd Arthur Minion and Revd Aodhán Markham, already two days into their fast, were on the front steps to welcome all those attending the performance. Revd Minion formally opened the event. Mary Forde then set the tone for the evening with a reading of Máirtín Ó Direáin’s beautiful ‘Cuireadh do Mhuire’ (Invitation to Mary). She followed this up with an extract from Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ which, while it may not be traditional, certainly was in keeping with the mood of the evening. With the all-female 5-part acapella group Credo it was a case of “give me that old time religion” as they reached back into the dusty vaults of time for a set of songs from the vaults which matched the venue perfectly: ‘Omni die dic Mariae’, ‘Don oiche-ud-i-mbeithil’, ‘Of The Fathers Love’ (with Conor Murphy on piano) and the chant ‘Bless the Lord’. They finished with a beautifully harmonised ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’. Poet Fintan Murphy read a couple of his own poems - ‘Christmas Reflection’ and ‘Christmases Past’, along with ‘Sí an Nollaig í’ by Dónall Ó Colchúin and Margaret Galvin’s ‘Homage to Mrs Westnutt”. Singer Matt Murphy, notwithstanding a cracked rib, gave a stirring rendition of the poignant ‘Christmas 1915’. Uilleann piper Éanna Harrington performed a set of jigs entitled the 'Three Little Drummers’, 3 reels from the Canon Goodman collection and closed with the melancholic ‘Gabriel's Oboe’. Author, musician and spoken word performer Peter Murphy breathed life into Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘A Christmas Childhood’. Ballymitty harpist Shelly O’Grady performed a gorgeous version of ‘A Ray of Hope’, an adapted version of Boolavogue and a set of spine-tingling tunes. Award-winning poet Máire Ní Bhriain read three self-penned poems - ‘A Leithéidí’, the grim historical ‘Tuairiscí as Inis Córthaidh’ and ‘Solstice’. She finished with Máire Mhac an tSaoi’s ‘Oiche Nollaig’. fiddle player Alice Wickham McIntyre, accompanied by guitarist James McIntyre gave a delightful instrumental take on ‘Fairytale of New York’ (instrumental) followed up with ‘Enniscorthy Carol’ and ‘The Snow it Melts the Soonest’. Singer Ann Marie Corcoran sang ‘Winter, Fire and Snow’, ‘Life The Wings’ and ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. She brought the evening to a close with Oiche Chiúin.

Feedback afterwards from audience and performers was very positive. Should we aim to make this an annual event?

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Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. We’re a non-profit cultural movement with hundreds of local branches around the world, and as you can read in our history we’ve been working for the cause of Irish music since the middle of the last century (1951 to be precise). Our efforts continue with increasing zeal as the movement launches itself into the 21st century.

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