Bandleader invites Park City to spend ‘Christmas with the Celts’
What: ‘Christmas with The Celts’
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 18-20
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Ric Blair, founder of the The Celts, a Nashville-based music and dance troupe, looks forward to performing at the Egyptian Theatre next Wednesday through Friday.
“The Egyptian Theatre in Park City is one of our most favorite venues,” Blair said. “It was an honor to be there for two sold-out nights last year, and it’s a wonderful feeling that they’ve asked us back for three nights this year. There aren’t too many venues that can beat Park City for celebrating Christmas. It’s so beautiful up there.”
The show, titled “Christmas with The Celts,” started off as a PBS holiday special in 2010, features nights of traditional and contemporary seasonal standards, as well as Irish dancing.
The theme of the concerts is one of hope, according to Blair.
“This music is such a huge part of Irish and Scottish culture,” he said. “Those countries were pressed by England for centuries under political and economic oppression, and message in the music helped the people cope.”
The goal for Christmas with The Celts is to give audiences an authentic feel of those ancient carols being played on traditional instruments, Blair said.
“We will perform with a combination of uilleann pipes, bodhran, as well as the fiddle and Irish whistle,” he said. “These organic, folky, rootsy instruments helped the people celebrate Christmas with family and others they loved.“
The Celts will also perform contemporary songs such as John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” “O Holy Night” and “Little Drummer Boy” with these instruments, Blair said.
The group will also perform a Celtic big-band version of “Jingle Bells” that will be highlighted with Irish melodies, according to Blair, whose father’s family emigrated to the United States from Scotland in the late 1800s, and whose mother’s family came from Ireland in the early 1900s.
“I think adding these songs mix things up for us, but also give people who really aren’t familiar with ancient traditional Irish carols with something they know,” Blair said. “Our desire is to connect with a wide population.”
The music will be complemented by a group of Irish dancers, who will perform some traditional jigs, reels and step dancing.
“There are a lot of moving parts when you’re on tour with us,” Blair said with a laugh. “Every year, I find myself getting more gray hair.”
Still, Blair said he is grateful to be touring with The Celts.
“Many artists will have a PBS show and tour it for two to three years if they’re lucky, so I can’t be happier with the fact that we’ve been able to continue and tour these past nine years,” he said. “And not only that, we’re expanding.”
This year, two Christmas with The Celts troupes are touring the United States, and Blair said there are plans for a third group to tour Europe next year.
“To see how much we’re growing is amazing,” he said. “It means we are reaching more and more people, which is wonderful because Christmas can sometimes be a very lonely time for many folks. But you can’t listen to Celtic music and not be happy.”
Blair, who grew up in Cincinnati, remembers how happy his family was celebrating Christmas on his grandfather’s farm in Kentucky.
“I really believed Santa Claus existed, because my uncle, who was my dad’s brother, used to dress us as Santa and ride around in a horse-drawn sleigh,” Blair said. “He used to smoke a cigar and would have it in his mouth entwined in his fake beard, and it wasn’t until I got a little older when I realized Santa smoked the same cigar as my uncle.”
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Jonathan Kolon will honor Park City and mark the trials the country has gone through with COVID-19 when he releases his new song “This Highway Ends” on April 30.