Glorious music and dance, stories and laughter, and plenty of Irish soul

Kerry Records presents "An Irish Christmas" at Irvine Barclay Theatre

Christmas in the Irish countryside begins with the journey to the local fields to gather the reddest berried holly in the cold and frosty days at the beginning of December. This ritual heralds the beginning of the Christmas preparations and the special welcoming and celebration of family life, community and friendship. On the days running up to Christmas children are sent by their parents to neighbors with simple gifts, friends come to visit, and music and merriment somehow follow -- dancing feet, fiddlers, pipers, storytellers, children, parents, friends all have something to offer the welcoming house.

Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 2pm
Irvine Barclay Theatre - 4242 Campus Drive

Tickets: $48 general; $43 seniors; $28 children under 12
(949) 854-4646 | |

Kerry Records, under the direction of Margaret O'Carroll, celebrates the Christmas season with a popular production that showcases Irish traditions special to the holidays. "An Irish Christmas" features the sacred moments of Christmas, the lighting of the Christmas candle, and the old custom of hunting the wren on St. Stephen's Day. Throughout the evening, audiences will enjoy many of the old Irish Christmas carols accompanied by traditional Irish instruments (uilleann pipes, Irish flutes, bodhráin, Irish fiddles, and button accordions) and traditional Irish dance including The Blackbird and dancing on the half-door.

Special Guests: button accordion wizard David Munnelly ("a creative force at the true epicenter of Irish traditional music" - and the great Kieran Munnelly on flute and bodhrán, and Riverdance star Darren Maguire along with a host of singers, dancers and actors. A sparkling Irish night of music, song, dance and storytelling is guaranteed!

"Magical...glorious Irish music...electric... remarkable...pure joy...a great Irish night...The capacity crowd nearly brought the house down at the end of the evening" - The Irish Herald

To schedule an interview contact: MARGARET O'CARROLL | 818-784-3805

A Few of the Irish Christmas Traditions:

The Dance Master's Shoes: A pair of dance shoes become the embodiment of not only all that was lost in Ireland's long and troubled history, but everything that was saved - everything that is still cherished in the Irish folk traditions. The dance master's shoes, in a sense, symbolize the wealth of Irish culture. These are magical shoes, they have a life of their own and they take us on our journey.

Dancing on the half door: The `half door' was an important part of Irish social life. It admitted light and kept animals out. It was often removed from its position and dropped to the floor -- and the dance challenge was delivered! It is said - `a good dancer could dance on a silver tray, and a really excellent dancer could dance on a sixpence.' The best dancer danced as it were, underneath himself or herself, trapping each note of music on the floor, and the use of the half-door and kitchen table for solo performances indicates the limited area in which the dancer was expected to perform." (Brendan Breathnach).

La an Dreoilin: "The Day of the Wren," celebrates the old custom of `The Wrenboys' -- groups of boys, girls and adults who, on the feast of St. Stephen (26th December) went about from house to house dressed in various disguises, playing music and performing dances. They carried with them a wren tied to a hollybush. In the West Kerry Gaeltacht it was customary for the Wrenboys to carry with them the image of a white horse, `An Capall Bán' -- the mythological link between our world and the timeless world of the gods. "An Capall Bán" is a unifying force, and all tribes (human and otherwise) become one in his presence. The hunt for the wren sparked much fun and excitement leading up to "The Day of the Wren" when the celebrations began before dawn and continued until late into the night. All houses in the district were visited and all welcomed the Wrenboys who would dance, sing and make merry in exchange for a "penny to bury the wren."

Butter-making: In times gone by, butter-making was a cottage industry in Ireland and an important task for many farming families. It played an important role in the household economy. During the churning everybody, young and old, who entered the farmhouse, had to take a turn at the churn which lightened the labor of churning. There were many customs associated with the production of the butter: salt or a drop of holy water was added to ensure that the butter was protected from those that would like to `steal the butter' for their own use; work songs were an essential part of the magic of the ritual performed to ensure the success of the buttermaking: (to get more butter, of course) and dances were danced around the churn in a joyful expression of that success!

The North Kerry Blackbird. 'The Blackbird' is the oldest known solo set dance. The dance steps you will see in the 'Blackbird' dance are the original Jerry Molineaux steps. From North Kerry, he was a well-known dance master in the sean-nos tradition. These steps were gathered from Fr. Pat Ahern, founder of The Irish National Folk Theatre, who learned the steps directly from Jerry Molineaux. These steps are close to one hundred years old!

Instrument information:

Bodhrán takes its name from the Irish word bodhar which means deafening. It is a frame drum which stretches back to the 14th century. The bodhrán was used as a work implement for many years and it was used particularly in the mumming traditions of Kerry and Cork, to chase out the wren on 26th of December (la an dreoilin).

The bodhrán has changed in the last century from a primitive frame drum played with the hand, to a very complicated tonal and rhythmic percussive instrument. It was first popularized by the group Ceoltóirí Chualann, under the leadership of Seán O Riada. Since then it has transformed into a very complicated instrument, left in the skillful hands of the player, although some other musicians might beg to differ!? It has been played in Irish music as far back as the early 20th century with earliest recordings going back to the 1920's.