JOY TO THE WORLD - The opening lyrics to this famous and beloved Christmas carol could aptly describe the reaction to the music and virtuosity of Joanie Madden and her all female group- Cherish the Ladies.
On Thursday evening, this Irish-American band, which has been described as a “super group”, took the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Lincoln Avenue. Over the next two plus hours, Cherish the Ladies regaled an enthusiastic and appreciative audience with a medley of traditional Christmas carols as well as a number of original compositions. Many of the musical pieces performed were part of a Christmas compact disc called “A Star In the East.”
The group derives its name from a traditional Irish jig called “Cherish the Ladies.” Since its inception in 1985, Cherish the Ladies has become what many consider one of the busiest touring folk groups in the world. The band had its roots as a concert series in New York, thanks in large part to Mick Moloney. Mr. Moloney was a great advocate for the best and brightest female musicians in America. This particular music scene it would seem, was a largely male dominated affair.
The leader of Cherish the Ladies, the Bronx born Joanie Madden can best be described as a force of nature- irrepressible and totally passionate about her craft. The All-Ireland flute and whistle champion has an imposing stage presence, yet she is capable of being disarmingly charming, bonding with the audience in the same intimate way that perhaps a troubadour would have engaged his courtly audience during the Middle Ages. During the course of the performance, Joanie enthralled her audience with humorous and heartfelt stories of how the band’s own compositions came to be. In their opening song, ”A Dash For the Presents”, a Cherish the Ladies original, the very personal theme was Christmas morning with the extended Madden family. Later in the performance, a moving piece entitled “American Wake” paid tribute to all the Irish who emigrated to America, never to set foot in Ireland again. All the while, Joanie charmed the audience with her casual banter while her bandmates dazzled with their own musical virtuosity. The current lineup along with Madden consists of: Mary Coogan on guitar, All-Ireland champion Mirella Murray on accordion, fiddler Grainne Murphy and Kathleen Boyle on piano.
In a past review, I have commented on The Old Town School Of Folk Music, Thursday evening’s venue. Once again, I have to declare that this is a Chicago cultural and educational treasure. The location at 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue boasts a 450 seat theater complete with music store and café. In addition to offering over 700 classes on: music, dance and theater, its Wiggleworms Program introduces children to music. The Wiggleworms Program has locations in: Hyde Park, Evanston, Western Springs, Glencoe and Naperville.
For event news and information on the Wiggleworms program, please visit:
Cherish the Ladies- (http;//www.cherishthe ladies.com/)