116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For some folks, the epicenter of Christmas is in Ireland with all of the comforting traditions, pubs packed with folks singing traditional songs and the iconic Bono busking on Grafton street in Dublin on Christmas Eve.
The members of Irish Christmas in America usually miss the Yuletide reverie in their homeland because of tours in the United States, hence their moniker.
However, with the pandemic, the veteran musicians were home for the holidays in 2020.
“It was nice spending time in Ireland during all of Christmas,” fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada said while calling from Sligo, Ireland. “But we did miss performing in America. It's what we do every year. It's a labor of love.”
Expect a spirited Celtic show, filled with traditional song, dance and colorful stories, when they kick up Christmas with a return trip to CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids on Friday night, Dec. 3, 2021.
“It's all about having fun during our holiday season,” Mac Diarmada said. “We have fun with Irish singing and dancing ... there's just something about our instrumentation and Irish accents."
Irish Christmas in America is fronted by Niamh Farrell, a Sligo-based vocalist, who has toured with singer/songwriter David Gray.
“Niamh is a kind sweet girl with a unique voice,” Mac Diarmada said. “She adds so much to the show. ... She brings a certain spark to the show.”
Mac Diarmada is putting together the set list.
“I love to play ‘Christmas Eve,’ ” he said. “I love ‘Silent Night’ sung in Irish. Every year we play the Celtic version of ‘Silent Night,’ then we shift and play the English version of ‘Silent Night.’
“Some of the traditional songs we do aren't in English. You might not understand the words, but the songs are so beautiful that it doesn't matter. We like to mix up the familiar with the unfamiliar. It'll be nice playing whatever,” he said.
“I'm looking forward to the start of this. I enjoy the buildup to Christmas. We do a slow buildup here while you guys start with Thanksgiving, and it’s a month of such great joy. I’m looking forward to revisiting so many of the cities in America. Each city we play is so unique.”
The first time Mac Diarmada toured the States, he recalls how much Iowa reminded him of his homeland.
“There are so many things about Iowa that take me to Ireland,” he said. “The first time we played in Iowa (in 2005), I was thinking about home since it was so cold in Iowa, and it's an area which is all about agriculture. We have so many farms in Ireland and we can relate to what goes on in Iowa. I don't want to compare farming in Ireland to farming in Iowa, since you guys farm on such a grand scale.
“What caught my eye were the walkways that are elevated. We don't have those in Ireland. But there is a warmth among the people of Iowa. They come out every year and see our show, and they're just so enthusiastic and appreciative.”
Mac Diarmada nails it when he sums up the holiday.
“Christmas is a time of beauty, love and so many wonderful things. It's a season that is best put to music.”
He hopes the holiday show, conceived in 2005, goes on for many years.
“I can't imagine what I would do without this show,” he said. “I would love it if this goes on for years. Fortunately, there are so many fans that love what we do. As long as they come out and support it, we’ll continue and I can’t imagine anything better.”