The Young Irelanders will invigorate the old traditions, infusing them with sprightly voices, hands and feet just the other side of St. Patrick’s Day.
On Sunday, March 18, on the Rogers Center stage at Merrimack College, eight Irish champions in music and step dancing will roll out a repertoire that includes the vocal number “Galway Bay,” Kerry polkas, and an air inspired by the sea cliffs of Clare.
“They are the best of the best Irish entertainers,” said the Rev. Rick Piatt, director of the Rogers Center for the Arts. “You are getting a glimpse of the future of Irish music and dance that’s very much informed by the past.”
Assembled by the Irish Cultural Academy, the members of The Young Irelanders are all 20-somethings.
The tour, called the “Wild Atlantic Way,” takes it name from the 1,677-mile route along Ireland’s west coast, from Donegal to West Cork.
Young Irelanders manager Michaella McMahon says the tune types, dance and musical styles vary widely along the Atlantic Way, and their execution have, over time, inspired ownership.
Maybe even swagger.
“The people of Kerry for example believe that people in say County Clare cannot play polkas and yet the people of Clare believe that the people of Kerry cannot play reels in the way they would,” McMahon said.
The young performers enliven the traditional fare with their interpretations, but remain faithful to its source, pouring energy into the enduring qualities that have given it legs over time.
“Irish music, song and dance is enjoyed globally because it has qualities that entice people to engage with it,” McMahon said. “Whether that’s in the foot-tapping, upbeat instrumental numbers, an emotive song of emigration, a spell-binding dance performance or an evocative slow air — it draws people to it.”
The Irelanders are on a five-week tour that started in Bel Air, Maryland, and ends March 25, in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.
They are vocalist Aimee Fitzpatrick, Fionnan O Connor on pipes and whistle, fiddler Rosie Ferguson; Kevin Murphy on accordion, piano and bodhrán; Cillian MacCabe on guitar, banjo and mandolin; Enda Rafferty on piano, keyboards and bass; and dancers Joe Duffey and Ayla Reid.
Sunday’s show will include a cash bar, with beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks available.
5 questions for the Young Irelanders.
Michaella McMahon, the group’s manager, offers some insight into the visiting performers:
1. Is this the first time in America for many of the Young Irelanders?
For some yes, but the majority of the performers have been to the U.S. previously on holidays or for other performances. With flights these days the U.S., does not seem so far away.
2. Are you homesick?
Yes and no. Of course we miss home, but five weeks is not too long to be away, and we are having such a good time performing to all of the audiences that, although you miss friends and families, it is nice to make some new friends over this side of the Atlantic.
3. If you were back home, how would you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?
Usually, it would be going to the local parade and of course one or two drinks in the pub. We Irish are not famous for that with no basis!
4. Is it a day for corned beef and cabbage?
Every day in Ireland is nearly a day for corned beef and cabbage. In many of the typical Irish restaurants and pub, you’ll find corned beef, bacon, cabbage and Irish stew are firm favorites.
5. How are the people of Irish ancestry in America different from the Irish in the old country?
It always amazes us when we come over to places like the U.S. to see how proud people are of their Irish heritage. Millions of Americans claim Irish heritage and given the audiences we have seen at our shows, it is clear that they are trying to keep the Irish traditions alive. Whether it is interest in the traditional music and arts, visiting our country on vacation or even the knowledge and ties to their Irish relatives who have come over so long ago, it is clear that the Irish is very much kept at heart.
What: The Young Irelanders, champion singers, players and dancers
When: Sunday, March 18, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Rogers Center for the Arts, Merrimack College, 315 Turnpike Street, North Andover
How much: $30 general general admission, $25 seniors and military, $10 students, alumni and employees