St. Patrick’s Day 2015 has come but is not entirely gone from Southern California yet, as Ireland’s premier traditional music group, the Chieftains, is opening a run of three shows of Irish music this week in Orange County with the Pacific Symphony.
The Chieftains have been touring for more than half a century, and continue to explore the connections of Ireland’s folk music and indigenous sounds from other cultures worldwide.
The group’s latest album, “Voice of Ages,” featured collaborations with a slew of indie rock and Americana music acts, including Bon Iver, the Decemberists, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Low Anthem, Punch Brothers and the Pistol Annies. Group leader Paddy Moloney co-produced "Voice of Ages" with superstar Americana producer T Bone Burnett.
The core quartet -- consisting of Moloney on uilleann pipes and tin whistle, flutist Matt Molloy, singer-bohdran player Kevin Conneff and fiddler Sean Keane -- is supplemented on this tour by several other musicians, two Irish step dancers and an Orange County step-dancing troupe. (Molloy, when he’s not recording or touring with the Chieftains, runs a vibrant pub in Ireland that regularly hosts traditional Irish music performances.)
The Pacific Symphony, led by Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, will handle the first half of each program tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.
That part of the evening, “An Irish Celebration,” will consist of folk, classical and film music from or inspired by Ireland. The orchestra’s selections will include Percy Grainger’s “Irish Tune” from County Derry, Leroy Anderson’s “Irish Suite’ and John Williams' suite from his “Far and Away” film score -- for which the Chieftains also performed.
The six-time Grammy Award-winning band included an exceptionally unusual collaboration on “Voice of Ages” -- a duet with NASA Irish American astronaut Cady Coleman, who recorded the part she played while on board the International Space Station, playing a flute she borrowed from Molloy and a tin whistle on loan from Moloney.
Of the album the group released in conjunction with its 50th anniversary, Moloney told the Los Angeles Times: “We started to talk about the idea of [collaborating with] these younger bands, and I got a bit nervous because I haven't been mad about what's been happening for 20 years. Music-wise, it's not my thing.
“We approached T Bone [and] pitched the idea to him: What about some of these young bands -- would they suit the Chieftains? They sent me the CDs of their material, and when I heard the melodies, for me it was like going back to the early folk [days] in the ‘50s and ‘60s: the Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, that kind of stuff. The melodies are there -- good stuff.”
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