Celtic Nights’ brings ‘Journey of Hope’ to Rutland
By Art Edelstein
Arts Correspondent | March 06,2013
The world has been enthralled with Irish step dancing, traditional song and music in a unified theatrical production since the 1994 introduction of Riverdance at the Eurovision Song contest. So influential was that and subsequent productions that a new theatrical experience based on the Irish experience was spawned leading to more Irish-based companies of musicians and dancers presenting newer productions with more stories to tell.
Rutland is about to host one of the most successful troupes, Celtic Nights, at the Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, and it promises to continue that tradition of fine entertainment emanating from Ireland.
For those who are fans of Irish music this is an opportunity to renew your interest in wonderful singing and Irish step dancing by attending this production, titled “Journey of Hope.”
For those who are unfamiliar with this style of entertainment, it’s a chance to watch the Irish do what they often do best in entertainment – sing with lovely voices, and dance energetically to the unique music of their tradition.
This production features six of Ireland’s most prominent vocal talents complemented by six of its most accomplished step dancers. Their aim is to create an exciting picture of the proud people the Irish are, whose dream of a better life helped them carve out a home in the New World.
The production draws from the history and folklore of Ireland and her Celtic cousins. Celtic Nights brings the audience on a journey of a people leaving and arriving, their lives spent in a world of ships, trains and planes, coaches and horses, and on foot; coming and going, saving for fares, writing of where they were, comparing what they had with what they might have elsewhere, visiting others, always moving on the surface of a foreign land, meeting, conversing, comparing and searching for a place better than Ireland – or half as good.
Songs in this show include such old favorites as “Danny Boy,” “Isle of Hope,” “Galway Bay” and “Isle of Innisfree,” along with “My Love Is in America” and “May We Never Have to Say Goodbye.”
The story of Irish emigration from a poverty-stricken land is well known. People dominated by a ruling foreign power, the English, lived a second-class life in their own country. Most scratched out a bare-bones existence as crofters in near feudal conditions well into the middle of the 19th century. While thousands had left to seek a better life earlier, by the 1850s, it took a potato famine to give an even greater impetus for them to leave their native shores.
The Irish diaspora spread to America, Canada and Australia, where these hard working people helped build their adopted nations’ infrastructure, as well as their political foundations. The Irish formed whole regiments for the North during the Civil War and many of these same veterans then went west to build the transcontinental railroad. In the process of immigrating the Irish entered politics, helped change long established institutions while also greatly influencing the culture of their new country with music, song, poetry, and prose. In the U.S., one of their descendents became President.
Irish music, which had always been popular where large communities of Irish-Americans resided – New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago – saw an upsurge of popularity in the 1980s, one that has remained strong for the past three decades. Owing much to a few music groups like Planxty Altan, the music became more international as these bands toured. This has increasingly familiarized audiences with the sound and songs of Ireland.
Irish-Americans began performing outside their communities and many non-Irish started learning to play the fiddle, the penny whistle, box accordion and flute while others took up the traditional dance known as step dancing. Movies like “Coming to America” and “Titanic” brought the music to wide audiences.
While March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, has become virtually a national holiday in the United States, and the wearing of the green is now an inter-ethnic, multi-cultural phenomenon, the music and dance that the Irish experience encompasses is a year round source of entertainment.
Celtic Nights’ “Journey of Hope,” while presented just before St. Patrick’s Day here in Rutland, is more than simply an annual symbolic event to celebrate Irish culture and experience. The songs and dances these fine performers will present have a universality of theme that encompasses most Americans’ experience. Immigrants from all nations will feel empathy with the theme of this production and see their own dreams and fears in those of the Irish portrayed in this two-hour evening of entertainment.
The Paramount Theatre presents Celtic Nights in “Journey of Hope,” an evening of Irish music and step dancing, at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, at the theater, 30 Center St. in Rutland. Tickets are $38.50-$29.50 (plus tax); call 775-0903, or go online to www.paramountlive.org.