The 23rd Salon Concert featured Cathie Ryan and her band performing her new Christmas show, The Winter’s Heart: An Irish American Christmas.
Cathie is well known as a longtime member of Cherish the Ladies, the all-female traditional music group founded in New York by the effervescent, high-energy Joanie Madden. Cathie split with the group and has enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing 6 solo recordings of her own, her most recent effort, Through the Wind and Rain released in 2012.
Joining her were Patsy O’Brien, the highly accomplished guitarist who seems to be everywhere when it comes to recordings and tours, Patrick Mangan, a fine fiddler who first came to prominence as a Riverdance musician, and Kieran O’Hare, the gifted piper, flautist, and whistler and one time Chicago denizen now living in Portland, Maine.
Cathie’s show combined traditional carols in Irish and English along with some of her own originals and other recently composed material. Cathie interspersed the songs with stories of her childhood, Irish Christmas traditions, and Pre-Christian Irish Winter Solstice celebrations as well. Some of the songs were recastings of old carols with new lyrics, such as a version of English Wassailing Song, along with some more religious pieces such as the Wexford Carol. She told a particularly moving story about the Winter Solstice sunrise at Newgrange and how it formed part of the inspiration for an Irish Gaelic song by Altan frontwoman Mairead Ni Mhaoinaigh, which she then sang to a spellbound audience.
The band expertly accompanied her arrangements and was given ample opportunity to show their considerable skills on instrumentals, both as soloists and as an ensemble.
Our audience appeared to enjoy every minute of it, applauding enthusiastically between the numbers and lining up afterward to purchase CDs, obtain autographs, and chat with the performers. Cathie was especially gracious, taking time to talk with her many devoted fans even though the hour was late.
Thank you to our headliners and to John Halliburton, our sound engineer, for an evening of beautiful music.
Thank you to Ireland Tonight host Maryann McTeague Keifer, Windy City Irish Radio hosts Tim Taylor and Mike Shevlin, The Hegarty Irish Radio Show, Blarney on the Air host Shay Clarke, and The O’Connor Radio Show for their promotional assistance. Special thanks to Sean Ginnelly of the Good Morning Ireland Radio Show for making time to interview Cathie on air in the weeks prior to the show, we really appreciated that!
We wanted to share some photos with you from the great night we had on December 8, 2016 with Cathie Ryan’s The Winters Heart! Apologies for the blurry nature of the photos..
Frankie Gavin – Rob and Marian Heffernan
Legendary musician Frankie Gavin joined Miriam in studio to talk about his start in music at the age of four, growing up surrounded by music in his father’s pub and recording with The Rolling Stones!
And Rob and Marian Heffernan spoke about their success in athletics and what it was like to finally win that Olympic medal!
We wish to apologize for the lateness of this recap, it was in no way a reflection of the mighty music we enjoyed on November 12, 2016 in Chicago!
Frankie is well known as a founding member and front man of the legendary 70s and 80s super group De Dannan and as a virtuosic fiddler and multi-instrumentalist. Frankie has made several solo recordings over the years, including several in which he played all instruments in the recording – fiddle, flute, viola, accordion, and piano. He has a well-earned reputation for incandescent solo fiddling with blazing tempos and colorful, inventive use of variations.
He did not disappoint us at all, interspersing his solo set of traditional dance tunes with a baroque piece or two and great stage patter. Frankie’s comedic sense is at least as quick-witted as his playing, so the rapid fire stories and one-liners had the audience on chuckling frequently.
Tommy McCarthy (fiddle), who grew up in London, and Louise Costello (banjo), originally from Galway, are a couple who live in the Boston, Massachusetts, area and are the proprietors of the Burren, the famous trad music pub in Boston. The Burren is the home of the Burren Backroom Series, a concert series dedicated to presenting traditional music in a concert setting much like the Salon Concerts and one of our sources of inspiration.
Tommy and Louise played a lovely set of tunes on fiddle and banjo that was about the music itself – sweet, rhythmic, deceptively quick, expressive, and evocative of Clare and East Galway as well as the smoky London pubs Tommy’s father played in with the likes of Bobby Casey.
Thank you to Windy City Irish Radio hosts Tim Taylor and Mike Shevlin, Ireland Tonight host Maryann McTeague Keifer, Blarney on the Air host Shay Clarke, The Hegarty Irish Radio Show, The O’Connor Irish Radio Show, and The Good Morning Ireland Radio Show for their promotional assistance, we appreciate it greatly.
Tonight at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, 8pm!
Cathie Ryan: The Winter’s Heart Tour
Dark comes early in winter in Ireland, and sunrise comes late. It’s a time for turning inward, for reflection, for seeking grace, for seeking home. It’s a time as well for celebration of home and hearth, of winter’s beauty in the landscape, in the gifts of friendship and family, and music.
Musician Cathie Ryan knows these things well. First generation Irish American, she has lived out these traditions growing up in the United States and as an adult, living in both the US and Ireland.
Candles in the window to light loved ones home, hunting the wren on Saint Stephen’s Day, telling and retelling of well loved stories and singing of well loved songs, and honoring the winter solstice and the turning of the seasons as well as the time of Advent and Christmas: these are a few of the traditions of Ireland Ryan has received from and shared in her own family. This season, she’s decided to create a series of concerts to bring these things to her audiences. On 30 November Ryan will begin a run of concerts in the US to be called The Winter’s Heart: An Irish American Christmas.
Though she has at times appeared as a guest on holiday concerts with other Irish artists, this will be the first time Ryan is creating a winter themed run of performances of her own. Known for her compelling voice, inspired songwriting, and thoughtful selection of songs from the tradition and from contemporary writers, Ryan is also loved by her audiences for her lively storytelling and fine wit. All of these will be in play for The Winter’s Heart.
Joining Ryan for the tour will be award winning guitarist Patsy O’Brien. He has brought his soulful playing to work with Eileen Ivers and Paddy Keenan, among others. Patrick Mangan will handle fiddle playing for the tour, as he’s well qualified to do, having twice won All-Ireland fiddle championships and recently toured as a featured soloist with Riverdance. Keiran O’Hare will bring his pipes, flute, and tin whistle into the mix. He’s an internationally renown performer who has appeared with Mick Moloney, Liz Carroll, Josh Groban and Don Henley.
It is Ryan’s voice and vision which will center each evening’s performance, however. She has been at the forefront of Irish and Irish American music for more than two decades, bringing clarity of voice and the creativity of imagination to creating music which draws on legend and history as well as present day, which intertwines worlds of nature and myth, and which holds elements of both sides of her heritage. All this, Christmas, and flashes of humor as well — these are bound to be evenings to remember.
Tour schedule and information for The Winter’s Heart http://www.cathieryan.com/christmas/
Photograph of Cathie Ryan in Santa hat by Kerry Dexter. Thank you for respecting copyright.
There is still time to get tickets for Cathie Ryan’s The Winter’s Heart: An Irish American Christmas at the door!
Here is more about the show, it should be a wonderful Christmas celebration!
Music for the heart of winter: Cathie Ryan
Christmas, and season of Advent which comes before it, are times that invite both celebration and reflection. These cold days of winter when dark comes early invite quiet solitude and well as gathering and sharing in community. Winter and its holidays and holy days have inspired musicians to explore all these things in many ways: through classic songs of the season which have been handed down, through their own ways of interpreting familiar songs, and through creation of their own seasonal stories.
Cathie Ryan is one such musician. The award winning Irish American singer and songwriter tours internationally through the year and has been a guest on winter season programs of other top artists. This is the first year, though, that she will be offering a series of holiday concerts of her own design. It is to be called The Winter’s Heart.
“I love Christmas! The sharing of meals, of gifts, of song, of together time is a blessing,” Ryan says. “We all slow down to be with our family, our community. No matter how stressed we are, Christmas seems to take the edge off, people are more patient and kind. I wanted to bring the band together to make some beautiful Christmas music that we could all share. And to sing to those who may not have anyone to celebrate the holiday with – to ameliorate the loneliness. Music does that. One of my most favorite things about Christmas,” she adds, “is that we celebrate the holiday with song.”
That recognition of connection and community goes deep for Ryan. She grew up in Michigan, the child of parents who had emigrated from Ireland. They’d spend time in summer with family back in Kerry and in Tipperary. In Detroit, her parents loved not only Irish music but country singers such as Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, and Ryan also heard music of Motown and of Appalachia. As an adult Ryan has spent time living in both the US and in Ireland. All of this has had influence on how she understands music. She’s chosen the subtitle of the Winter’s Heart series to be An Irish American Christmas.
That duality was one of the things which guided Ryan’s choices of music for the shows. “I love Christmas songs and the impulse was to do lots of songs we all know already, but I’d like to highlight our Irish American traditions through song so that will mean new songs!” she says. “There are some beloved songs that are musts, like Silent Night, and we will be singing those. My guitarist, Patsy O’Brien, and I have written a song called The Winter’s Heart that we’ll do. There are also some lovely Christmas songs sung in Ireland in Irish and in English that aren’t so well known in America, and I look forward to sharing those.”
The spiritual aspects of the season also go deep for Ryan. “The way we open our hearts at Christmas inspired the show’s title. The Winter’s Heart seems to encapsulate everything I believe Christmas is about, including Christ being born at Christmas and all of the heart centered teachings of Christianity. It is beautiful that in this time of cold and barrenness, a time when most of us go inside, we open our hearts, our homes, to new hope, new life and to each other. It raises us up.
“We have a big, beautiful shared songbook, we all join in the music,” Cathie Ryan says. “It is a reminder that we are all connected at the core. I love that.”
On this tour, Ryan will be accompanied by Patsy O’Brien from Cork on guitar and vocals, Patrick Mangan from New York on fiddle, and Kieran O’Hare from Maine on uilleann pipes, Irish flute, and tin whistle. Among them the three men have appeared with a roster of top artists including Eileen Ivers, Don Henley, and the Milwaukee Symphony, and have appeared on stages with shows from from Riverdance to Broadway theater.
Article by Kerry Dexter. Poster by Laura Coyle