Women of Ireland to bring Celtic tunes to Springfield's Symphony HallMarch 3, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)
St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner and celebrations of everything Irish are popping up everywhere, including at Symphony Hall on Saturday when the Women of Ireland tour transports Ireland's ethnic music from the Irish fireside to the Springfield concert hall.
Starring the O'Neill Sisters, Irish vocalists direct from the Emerald Isle, the full concert production showcases the next generation of Ireland's leading female performers and demonstrates the wealth of talent that exists within Ireland's traditions of music, song and dance.
"There are a lot of Irish Americans, and I think what makes a show like ours so popular is that it helps these Irish Americans relate back to their roots. There is something magical about the music, it's so lively and it still impresses and gets to me when I hear it," said Fiona O'Neill.
Women of Ireland features an all-female lineup of Irish step dancers comprising three long-term lead dancers from Riverdance along with a number of other female dancers who excel in other dance disciplines. The show also features a guest male dancer, Anthony Fallon, who is a four-time world champion and former lead dancer with Riverdance.
The show-stopping dance and vocal performances featured in the show are augmented by a vastly talented array of instrumentalists, led by a fervent fiddler, who alone often bring audiences to their feet.
Between them, company members have performed for three Irish presidents, three U.S. presidents, the Queen of England, president of the People's Republic of China, the empress of Japan, Prince Albert of Monaco, and graced the stages of some of the world's greatest venues including New York's Radio City Music Hall, Moscow's Kremlin State Palace, and many others.
As a second generation singing sister group – their mom and aunts were a group in the 70s – the O'Neill Sisters grew up in a remote part of southwest Ireland with endless music, dance and theater classes.
"I don't think there could have been any other way of life for us with my mom and her sisters singing professionally for a time in Los Angeles. My mom taught me guitar and we just didn't know any better. Singing was what you did," said O'Neill.
After countless hours spent in a local studio learning how to record and write songs and perfect harmonies, the sisters in 2005 recorded an album of traditional Irish songs that they released nationally. It gained them exposure in magazines, television and radio, which led to opportunities to perform on stage with big Irish and U.K pop acts, as well as invitations to perform at political events in the United States.
The invitations to America led to a move for the Irish lassies, where they spent a few years living in New York and Los Angeles, working and writing with big name songwriters and producers, filming pilot reality shows, and having one of their songs chosen as the Oscar Vanity Fair After Party theme song. Missing their country home and longing for the peace of Kerry life, the O'Neill sisters packed their backs and headed back home where they set about penning and recording a new album of original material, which they finished in a mere 13 days in a studio overlooking the Killarney Lakes.
That album featured all of their own songs, except for "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan and some songs written by their aunts.
It was after the success of their award-winning second album that The O'Neill Sisters – Fiona, Evangeline and Naomi – decided they wanted to put a show together and began looking online for ideas.
"We found Eric Cunningham online and Women of Ireland which he was producing. We sent him our material, he wrote back to us and eventually invited us to tour with them last year," said O'Neill.
Among the many songs the trio will perform during the show include their favorite - "Danny Boy.
"We perform it with just guitars. It's a song that is very dear to us because our grandmother taught it to us. We just love it," said O'Neill.
"We'll also be singing some traditional, fun Irish tunes like "Red Haired Mary" and "I Know My Love," which are quite upbeat and involve our dancers. They really get the audience going," she added.
O'Neill said they also perform more contemporary songs such as "Imagine" by John Lennon and another song which their mother taught them while they were growing up – "One Tin Soldier" from the movie "Bill Jack."
March 2, 2014
(As originally seen on MassLive by Keith O'Connor)
If you're looking to focus on the music of sun-drenched beaches of the 1960s, the national tour of "California Dreaming" is the music machine you've been waiting for.
The musical journey begins Thursday for three days at CityStage in Springfield harking back through time when folk music met rock music and gave birth to an explosion of music that was danceable, singable and so very romantic.
The show celebrates that brief magical moment in the mid-'60s and early '70s when American youth migrated to California by the millions and transformed pop culture forever.
When well-groomed folk musicians grew out their hair and plugged in their Fenders and Rickenbackers, the radio began to sizzle with tight harmonies and dreamy lyrics. It is a tribute to and filled with music that defined an era and introduced the world to the good vibrations of love, peace and summertime fun.
"It's timeless, fantastic music that they just don't make anymore. The music back then was a pivitol point of expression and drove the idea of peace that we are more or less missing these days," said Krystle Simmons, one of the seven cast members who sing and play instruments in the show.
"California Dreaming" features the music of groups like the Mamas and Papas, The Beach Boys, The 5th Dimension, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash and included songs like "What a Day for a Daydream," "I Get Around," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind," " Surfin' U.S.A.," "Our House," "Dream a Little Dream of Me," "Little GTO," "Good Vibrations" and "California Dreamin'."
And, while the show is more of a concert than anything else, it does have a theme, said Simmons.
"Basically, we are rock angels in rock heaven. And with all the pain and sadness in the world today we are sent down to Earth on a mission to spread the message of peace and love through sunshine rock," said Simmons, who hails from Atlanta.
The show is produced by Springer Theatricals, the national touring arm of the Springer Opera House, a 143-year-old National Historic Landmark theatre in Columbus, Georgia.