Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

A Celtic Celebration

Date 16 & 17March 2007 Venue The Orpheum Theatre Reviewer Patricia Fleming

I knew the St. Patrick’s evening concert at The Orpheum promised to be a lot of foot stomping fun and entertainment but who knew it would be so educational? I had no idea that the music for that great Irish ballad, “O’ Danny Boy” was written by Australian, Percy Granger, and the lyrics were written by Englishman, Frederick Edward Weatherly, a lawyer/songwriter and author.

With a packed house, and a beautifully lit muted green, white and gold (colours of the Irish flag) backdrop on the Orpheum stage, and an elegant group of musicians all decked out in white tie, the evening was off to a very jaunty start. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik insisted that we all clap along to the three introductory Irish tunes - the first of which was “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Lots of strings, a harp, flute and tin whistle meant we were off and running in fine Celtic form.

Conductor Tyzik then introduced the very talented Celtic Fiddler and Jazz violinist, Jeremy Kittel who played beautifully. I understand that Jeremy is adept at a wide range of styles including Scottish, Irish, jazz, contemporary classical and bluegrass and it shows. There were lots of violins to accompany his rousing music; the sound was a very big and sounded like a film score. I loved it!

Seven of The Eire Born Irish Dancers from Nora Pickett’s Irish Dance Academy then made their entrance on stage. Dressed in red and white, and all with mops of fabulous flying curly hair, they performed a hard shoe dance routine (hard shoe can include the hornpipe in 2/4 time, the treble jig, in a slow 6/8, the treble reel). Next up was a great rendition of “Danny Boy” with full orchestra.

Nine of Nora Pickett’s dancers then performed a soft shoe routine (the soft shoe dances include the reel, the slip jig, the light jig and the single jig. Reels are in 2/4 or 4/4 time. Slip jigs are in 9/8 time. Light and single jigs are in 6/8 time, with different emphasis within the measure distinguishing the music). The girls were lovely and in terrific choreographic harmony. Jeremy Kittel then performed a beautiful, plaintiff piece that was very soft and harmonious.

All nine dancers then returned on stage for a hard shoe dance routine which was great! A loud tapping/rousing sound, very up-tempo – I loved this routine….definitely my favourite dance of the evening.

Music from American Leroy Anderson’s Irish Suite closed out the first part of the evening. “The Girl I left Behind Me” is that tune you have been listening to for years (TV, movies and radio) but, perhaps like me, never really knew its name?

The second half introduced singer Cathie Ryan and her four piece band. Cathie, who is a real charmer, sings from the heart and has that distinctive Irish twinkle in her eye,. She sang like an angel, had great contact with the audience, and sang a real mixture of songs. A medieval song about St. Bridget of Kildare in Ireland, an amusing and fun tune called “Rolled Her to the Wall” with tin whistle, violin, guitar, drums accompaniment and a song about “Grace O’Malley the Pirate Queen of Ireland.” Also, an ancient, but pretty song, that’s usually sung on Good Friday, called “The Lament of the three Mary’s”. It was lovely. Another pretty song was “The Wildflowers” with acoustic guitar accompaniment and soft tin whistle - from their new album.

The last song of the evening was humorous, and we all clapped heartily. A very Irish “Chieftains” kind of sound. With all the orchestra along for the ride. There was an encore, of course, and everyone was on stage. A great Fiddle duo with Cathie’s Sara Milonovich and Jeremy Kittel plus the whole orchestra and four of the dancers. A wonderful Irish ending to the night.

It was an evening my Tipperary-born father would have loved. Good music, elegantly dressed (and very talented) musicians, Irish dancers in perfect unison, a fabulous Celtic fiddler and a charming, sweet voiced, attractive singer with a great band and an audience who clearly love Celtic music.

© 2007 Patricia Fleming