Christmas With The Celts

Fri. Dec 3, 2021 at 8:00pm EST
All Ages
6 days away
$34.00 - $49.00
All Ages
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Event Stats
6 days away
$34.00 - $49.00
All Ages
Event Description

Beginning September 10, 2021, The Newton Theatre will require Proof of COVID Vaccination OR Negative COVID test. Please see our COVID policy here for additional information.

Christmas with The Celts is a spectacular live music event with top Irish musicians on vocals, Irish fiddle, bodhran, Irish flute, guitar, bass, drums, and featuring All Ireland uilleann piper Fiachra O’Regan from Connemara. And of course the always crowd pleasing Irish dancers.

The original national PBS show Christmas with The Celts aired on 222 PBS channels across the U.S., Canada and on the BBC in Ireland for three years. This successful TV show was the initial spark, which created a huge demand for the production bringing them into Performing Arts Centers, Theaters, and large casinos every year.

The high-stepping spirited musical selections have audiences clapping along from the first lively renditions of popular contemporary Christmas classics: ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’; also ‘Count Your Blessings’, ‘White Christmas’ and John Lennon’s perennial ‘Happy Christmas’.

The show presents a perfect combination of modern Christmas hits, lively ancient Irish Carols, hilarious spontaneous humor, thrilling Irish dancing, a children’s choir and lush string arrangements giving audiences a most memorable interactive Christmas experience.

Christmas with The Celts as seen on PBS

Ric Blair was a promising jazz major at the University of Cincinnati's prestigious College Conservatory of Music when a chance encounter changed the entire course of his life. "A buddy of mine said, 'Hey there's this Irish group playing downtown tonight,'" Blair remembers. It took a little prodding, but he agreed to give the concert a shot. "I opened the doors, and people were literally dancing on the tables," says Blair. "The music was so happy. As soon as I heard those pipes and the Irish whistle, something in my blood hit me: this is what I want to do."

Today, Blair reigns as one the country's most respected purveyors of Celtic music. He and his band, The Celts, pack concert halls around the world and headline festivals in front of 80,000 fans. The American-born Blair credits the group's popularity to their unique blend of Celtic tradition and 21st century sounds. "I'm proud of my Irish/Scottish roots, but I'm equally proud of my American roots," he explains. "Our music is kind of a hybrid that's evolved between the two."

That hybrid is on full display on the band's new album and live DVD, 'Christmas with The Celts,' which combines Uillean pipes (traditional Irish bagpipes) and bodhrans (ancient Irish drums made of goat skin) with guitars, electronic drum loops, and synthesizers. The Celts' lineup features Blair on vocals/guitars/bodhran/mandolin/piano, plus Deb Shebish on Scottish Fiddle, Patrick D'Arcy on Irish whistles, Ivan Goff on the Uilleann pipes/Irish whistle, Kimberly Barnes on the Irish Fiddle, Tony Marvelli on the 8 string bass guitar/vocals, Rich Cortney on drums, and Jeff Durham on percussion. Piper/whistler Eric Rigler, whose work appears on numerous film soundtracks including "Braveheart" and "Titanic," also frequently performs live with the band.

A virtual encyclopedia of Celtic history, Blair recorded 'Christmas with The Celts' as an alternative to the well-worn holiday standards that flood the airwaves each year. Aided by Celts fiddler Deb Shebish, who earned a graduate degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of Edinburgh, Blair embarked on months of painstaking research, rediscovering long-forgotten recordings and transcripts of Irish and Scottish tunes dating as far back as the 12th century. "One of my favorite songs is the ancient 16th century Scottish Christmas Carol "Balulalow," says Blair. "That song is sung in the broadscot dialect, which is a mixture of English and Gaelic." Other notable songs resurrected by Blair include the 15th century Scottish carol "Da' Day Dawis" and the 12th century Irish "Wexford Carol," which the band performs alongside Celtic renditions of better-known Christmas tunes like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Joy to the World."

Airing this holiday season on PBS stations nationwide, the live 'Christmas with The Celts' DVD was filmed last year in front of a packed house in Blair's adopted hometown of Nashville, TN, and features The Gael String Orchestra, the Nashville Irish Step Dancers, the Celtic Children's choir, special guest singer Mauread Ni Mhaonaigh of famed Irish group Altan, and Riverdance/Lord Of The Dance piper Ivan Goff.

The studio album, which was recorded with the seven-piece group in a short two-week span, includes eight songs not on the DVD. "I've recorded a number of CDs through the years," says Blair, "but on this one you can tell there's a certain magic that's happening. Many of the traditional reels and jigs were recorded live in the studio, so it has a fun combination of celebratory tunes and contemplative carols."

As Blair sees it, that juxtaposition of celebration and contemplation is what makes Celtic music, and the Celtic people, so enduring. "The Irish know how to entertain themselves unlike any culture I've ever seen," says Blair. "They were oppressed for so many years, economically, spiritually, politically. The way that they've coped with that oppression is through entertaining themselves."

The Celts witnessed this firsthand at an impromptu pub performance in Listowel, Ireland, on one of their many European tours. "We played a town center concert in an old building from the 1700's," Blair remembers. "It was a great, intimate show, and afterwards they asked us to go to this really old pub called The Thatch, which actually had a thatch roof and peat burning in the fireplace." As the band broke out their instruments and began performing, word spread through the town like wildfire. "Next thing we knew, the whole place was filled. People were coming into the pub in droves." The band and the locals traded off playing songs, reading stories, telling jokes, and sharing drinks into the early morning hours.

"It wasn’t just the concert," says Blair, "it was the people, the connections. In our culture today we're communicating, but we're not face-to-face. We're losing that connection, that community."

Community is just what listeners can expect at The Celts' live show, an interactive experience celebrating the warmth, joy, and magic of the holiday season. "Our goal is to have people forget about their problems for a while," says Blair. "You just can't listen to Celtic music and not be happy."

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The Newton Theatre 234 Spring Street
Newton, NJ 07860
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