Danu Review - A Christmas in Irish

Each holiday season is filled with much tradition and the songs we have heard so many times before.   At times I like to add a new tradition to the mix and I found a candidate this weekend.  The high energy and talented Irish group Danú gave its exclusive Chicagoland performance Saturday night, December 6, 2014 at the McAninch Arts Center (known as the MAC) on the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Playing to a big crowd, the group kept us clapping and laughing and maybe even shedding a tear or two with their program A Christmas Gathering: Féile Na Nollag.  Joining the band were three dancers from the Chicagoland-based McNulty Irish Dancers, who served up a measure of cuteness with their high energy choreography.

Danu with McNulty dancers

 

The members of Danú hail from various Counties in Ireland and they bring this diverse background to their music.  They wove in stories and poems from their own Christmas experiences, and their shared their love of their culture in the music.  The members include Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (lead vocals, flute and whistle), Benny McCarthy (button accordion), Dónal Clancy (guitar and vocals), Oisín McAuley (fiddle and backing vocals), Éamon Doorley (Irish bouzouki and backing vocals), and Martin O’Neill (bodhran and piano).  The group has released seven records since 1994 and they played several tunes from an album they will be releasing in January 2015.

Danu promo photograph

 

For this Christmas gathering concert, Danú opened with an old Christmas tune The Wexford Carol.  Muireann has a full and haunting voice which brought out the beauty of this familiar song.  After this beginning, they went up tempo with some new reels and back to a ballad with The Holly Bears a Berry, which was moving. 

Danu performing

 

The McNulty dancers joined the group with a Kilfenora Jig Set and then the players mixed it up with a poem from Patrick Kavanagh, one of Ireland’s well-known poets.  After a few more tunes with the dancers popping out, the audience had an intermission to take a breather from the high energy show.  After the intermission, some of the standout songs for me were Mrs. Fogarty’s Christmas Cake, where audience participation was encouraged, and the Hornpipe Reel-Murphys/Lord Gordons tune with unbelievable play by Oisín McAuley on fiddle and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh on flute.  I was out of breath myself just watching the work they had to do to keep up with the high energy beat.  Toward the end, the audience sang Silent Night with the group and I left satisfied and wowed by the terrific performance.

Everyone performing

 

I like Danú’s style – they are very casual with the audience and bring people into the performance with clapping and singing.  Each member provided some their own background, particularly where they grew up or lived in Ireland (and one member from Scotland).  As an American completely enamored with the Irish, I was happy to listen to the members talk in their lilting accents.  But their musical abilities are what I will remember and hope to enjoy at the MAC in years to come.

 

I very much enjoyed the inclusion of the excellent McNulty dancers.  They were fun to watch and added depth and variety to the tunes they danced to.

 

The venue at the MAC is quite intimate and the acoustics in the newly-renovated auditorium are excellent.  Seating is comfortable, and the ability to get a cocktail ahead of the show or during intermission is welcome.  Parking is plentiful.  Also this Christmas season there is a giving tree in the MAC lobby benefiting Metropolitan Family Services: DuPage.  Patrons and students are encourage to donate.

MAC Lobby

Giving Tree

 

I encourage those people looking for a new tradition next Christmas or when Danú comes to the MAC again to attend the performance.  You will clap and sing your way to a Happy Holiday!

 

To find other shows at the MAC, visit their website here or call their box office at 630-942-4000.  The MAC is located at 425 Fawell Blvd, Glen Ellyn, IL.  Upcoming events include Clint Black on December 12, and Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker on December 20 & 21.

 

For more information on Danú, check their website here, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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