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'An Irish Christmas' captures the international spirit of holiday tradition

Having friends of Irish descent, I have been aware that Christmas is a special time for the Irish community, but actually seeing the celebration, the beauty and tradition that comes with participating in an Irish Christmas surpassed my expectations.

Irish tradition is showcased in “An Irish Christmas,” giving audience members the opportunity to learn of the traditional celebrations of the Green Isle. The opportunity to partake in an Irish Christmas was offered to me by Kerry Records, a Los Angeles-based production company that was established by some of Ireland’s most talented and gifted musicians and dancers.

Margaret O’Carroll and her company have been producing “An Irish Christmas,” a production that incorporates traditional Irish song and dance with storytelling, laughter and celebration, for seven years.

Throughout the show, a storyteller reads childhood memories of Christmas in Ireland, such as hunting for the wren on St. Stephen’s Day or welcoming home family that had left Ireland.

The haunting notes from the uilleann pipes, Irish fiddle and button accordion all blend together to create an atmosphere of dance and song that leaves everyone breathless with awe. These musicians are not simply talented; they feel the music that they play. As I listened to the songs, it was easy to imagine that the dancers on stage weren’t on stage at all but were in a different world. At some points, the Irish tunes become too much even for the musicians, with some tossing aside their instruments for a moment to dance a jig with the dancers on stage.

Accompanying the music is Sirocco, a trio of sisters that have been brought from Ireland just for “An Irish Christmas.” Songs such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Pie Jesu” sound ethereal as they are sung by the O’Neill sisters, and enchant anyone who hears them. Even children who attend the show cannot help but be still while the songs are being sung.

The element of “An Irish Christmas” that leaves everyone with the urge to grab their loved ones and dance down the aisles, however, is the Irish dance. The Kerry Dance Troupe does an outstanding job of reflecting the joy, excitement and fun of Christmas overseas. The Troupe’s dancing on the half-door is particularly exciting to watch, as the troupe members take turns drawing cheers and chants from the crowd as they effortlessly perform, using the small door as a hard surface to dance on. The Irish dancers make complicated dance appear as simple as breathing. One can’t help but cheer and clap as the dancers spin, dance and twirl alongside each other, creating their own rhythm with their steps.

One dancer of particular skill is 9-year-old Aidan Halikis, a Temecula resident who has been studying Irish dance since he was four years old. This year is the second time Halikis performs with the troupe, but his skills are evident in the way he glides across the stage. Watching Halikis dance with his troupe is definitely a highlight of the performance.

The combined efforts of all the artists in the Irish Christmas leave audience members cheering, excited and anticipating their own Christmas traditions and celebrations. For those who wish to add to their holiday memories and festivities, the ceremonies and traditions of Ireland presented in “An Irish Christmas” are not to be missed.

Ticket prices are $70, $60 or $37.50. Discounts are available for Children 12 years and under, seniors 60 and over and groups of 10 or more.

For more information on Kerry Records, call (818) 784-3805, or go to http://www.kerryrecords.com. To buy tickets for the Balboa Theater performance of an Irish Christmas, call the box office at (619) 570–1100 or (858) 570–1100 or go to http://www.sandiegotheatres.org.

An Irish Christmas

Sunday, December 13th – 2 p.m.

Balboa Theatre

868 Fourth Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

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