REVIEW: GBH’s inviting virtual ‘A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’ maintains warmth and tradition in 2020

2020 has been many things, but traditional is not one of them.  However, this year’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn brought back holiday traditions, beautiful performances, reflections, stirring carols, and dare I say a bit of normalcy to 2020.

With a selection of live performances and an option to watch on-demand, GBH’s A Christmas Celtic Sojourn was brought into your home in a warm, inviting, and spirited atmosphere.  From a majestic, candlelit cathedral in Ireland to a festive outdoor step dance in Ottawa, Canada, it unconventionally included all the elements of what is beloved about this annual New England show and somehow broadened its possibilities worldwide. 

Host Brian O’Donovan and fiddle player Jenna Moynihan at Rockport Music Photo credit to Dan Jentzen

Brilliantly directed by Jenna Worden, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn offered seven live streaming opportunities to watch virtually from your home Tuesday, December 15 at THE VETS in Providence, RI, Wednesday, December 15 at Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA, Thursday, December 17 at The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford, MA, Friday, December 18 at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA, Saturday, December 19 at The Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, MA, and Sunday, December 20 in GBH Studios in Boston, MA  These locations are usually where A Christmas Celtic Sojourn tours annually.  A bonus encore presentation also occurred on Christmas Eve. 

GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available.  Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through January 2, 2021.  A Christmas Celtic Sojourn would also like to hear what you thought of the program by visiting their Facebook page.

Celtic harpist, pianist, and Assistant Music Director Maeve Gilchrist Photo credit to Dan Jentzen

Though a portion of the performers were at home, audiences were treated to harmonies created from multiple locations nationally and internationally while enjoying festive, international scenery.  For a person who has lacked the chance to travel the world this year, it was a more than welcome opportunity to take a glimpse and to share in some international traditions. 

From the stirring, candlelit opening of beloved carol, O Come Emmanuel sung in Latin by Cathy Jordan from gorgeous Sligo Cathedral in Ireland, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn transported audiences to Ireland and to other places around the world as they were unable to bring Ireland to the stage.  The show also boasted dueling harmonies simultaneously sung from Vermont, Scotland, and various parts of Massachusetts. 

Host Brian O’Donovan brought a mix of humor, melancholy, and wistful reflections toward this difficult year, engaging storytelling, and fond tidings.  Though this year has presented its challenges, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn still managed to keep the rituals and long-awaited music right at your fingertips delivering jubilant, soulful moments while still embracing winter’s dark and sacred stillness.

Music Director and multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan with fiddlers Jenna Moynihan and Maura Shawn Scanlin Photo credit to Dan Jentzen

Thanks to Rockport Music, multi-instrumentalist and Music Director Seamus Egan, Assistant Music Director, Celtic harpist, and pianist Maeve Gilchrist, Bouzouki and Harmonium player Owen Marshall, guitarist Conor Hearn, and fiddle players Jenna Moynihan and Maura Shawn Scanlin returned to perform cheerful medleys and energetic jam sessions filmed in Rockport Music at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts.  Seamus Egan’s brilliance shone through as he reached for multiple instruments for separate songs and at one point reaching for a banjo for a joyful freestyle. 

Fiddle players Jenna Moynihan and Maura Shawn Scanlin with Bouzouki and Harmonium musician Owen Marshall Photo credit to Dan Jentzen

A traditional wassail in Edinburgh, Scotland, rollicking sing-along carols and dance from A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’s past, a peerless lullaby carol involving a newborn, original song and stirring new renditions of classic carols, a lighthearted percussive dance from Michigan by Nic Gareiss, and returning step dancer and choreographer Cara Butler reveling in her backyard to a jubilant tune in Ottawa, Canada are just some of the highlights of this carefully-executed, moving production.  There were plenty of welcome surprises not to be revealed here.

Spending an awful lot of time at home and not in the car, music is less of a tradition in my house.  GBH’s  A Christmas Celtic Sojourn created a haven of holiday comfort in song that though we are far apart, some rituals and traditions can still stay the same.

GBH’s virtual A Christmas Celtic Sojourn is still available.  Click here for more information and to enjoy the show on-demand through January 2, 2021

REVIEW: Kristin Chenoweth thrills Boston with her unshakable optimism, humor, and unstoppable vocals

“Boston is my second favorite place in the world,” reveals a glimmering Kristin Chenoweth, “Don’t tell New York.”  Wearing a black, glitzy cocktail dress paired with shining silver pumps and a megawatt smile, award-winning singer and film, television, and musical theatre actress Kristin Chenoweth excitedly burst onto the Boston Symphony Hall stage, standing before an equally shimmering microphone as the crowd roared.  “I feel like I’m in Oklahoma,” she revealed, sipping from a large Dunkin’ Donuts cup, “It feels right.”

It also felt right for the enthusiastic, packed house as Chenoweth kicked off her one night only, Celebrity Series of Boston debut of An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth on Sunday, April 30.  Symphony Hall was appropriately lit in Chenoweth’s signature color as Greek statues above the balconies gave off a violet and pink hue.

Celebrity Series Symphony stage

Celebrity Series of Boston at Symphony Hall Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Greeting the audience with Should I be Sweet by Vincent Millie Youmans from the musical, Take a Chance, a thrilling, flirtatious ode debating the perfect way to present oneself, Chenoweth immediately lured the audience in with her engaging, vivacious, and wonderfully charming personality as well as her rich, unstoppable vocals.  From beautiful stories about her parents to her unfailingly optimistic, humorous, and unbridled reflections on her life and career, Chenoweth proved not only a brilliant entertainer, but an incredible joy just to spend time with.

Accompanied by her Worcester-raised Music Director Michael Orland on piano, who is also the vocal coach to the hit show, Little Big Shots, Kristin Chenoweth spoke about a few of her past career highlights in television such as GCB, West Wing, Glee, Pushing Daisies, and Hairspray Live, to new projects such as a recently filmed pilot set in Boston as well as her new role on American Gods that premiered on Starz that same evening.  Chenoweth also revealed a few significant roles that horrified her God-fearing parents, having been raised in the Bible belt in Oklahoma.  For instance, having heard about Chenoweth’s new role as a witch in Wicked, Jerry and Judy Chenoweth shockingly asked, “Is the show satanic?”  She also launched into the scandalous Broadway tune from the hit musical, A Chorus Line called Dance Ten Looks Three, cheekily toning down the lyrics to coincide with her conservative upbringing.

Kristin Chenoweth in Boston

Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

What makes An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth so powerful is for that evening, Chenoweth’s uplifting view of life helped to make life a bit more bearable, even in its sadder moments.  Her recitation of The Obituary of the Pillsbury Doughboy was a particular highlight as a moment of silly humor following a glorious and emotional rendition of the beloved song, Bring Him Home from the musical, Les Miserables as she alluded to the Boston and Oklahoma bombings, a painful reminder of what Boston and her hometown have in common.

Chenoweth warmly shared her early experiences longing to become a ballerina, her surprising friendship with Julie Andrews, and what inspired her latest Grammy-nominated album full of Chenoweth’s favorite songs from the American Songbook, The Art of Elegance.  She sang a poignant, timeless selection from the album by Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, I Get Along Without You Very Well.  She also delivered a few of her signature songs with lively exuberance such as Taylor, The Latte Boy and Popular from the musical, Wicked, her soaring, silvery, classically-trained vocals dancing from pop to operatic, perfectly complementing her witty sense of humor.

Kristin Chenoweth on Symphony Hall stage

Kristin Chenoweth with the Boston Conservatory and the Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Chenoweth surprised the audience by bringing out the Boston Conservatory and Boston City Singers to join her onstage to perform as she expressed her love of mentoring students and her love of all faiths.  “For those who don’t believe,” Chenoweth added, “this will be over in four minutes.”  Accompanied by the two choirs, she launched into the worship song, Upon this Rock.  Her performance closed with what Chenoweth refers to as her anthem, I was Here, though her tender, memorable encore, Smile, may have also stayed with the audience long after the show was over.

Click here to see where the award-winning Kristin Chenoweth will be touring next as well as how to get a copy of her latest album, The Art of Elegance.  A few performances remain in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season.  Click here for tickets and for a closer look at this season’s shows and here to take a peek at their recently announced 2017-18 season.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Brian O’Donovan and WBGH’s ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’

Revel in rich, Celtic traditions and captivating live performances with WGBH’s 12th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn from Wednesday, March 15 through Saturday, March 18.  Hosted by Brian O’Donovan and touring through Worcester, Beverly, New Bedford, and Cambridge, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn offers the excitement of Ireland’s history, Celtic traditions, storytelling, and annual concert with a dynamic array of musical guests from all over the map.

A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn kicks off its Massachusetts tour on Wednesday, March 15 at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, for the first time at The Cabot Theatre in Beverly on Thursday, March 16, take the stage at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Friday, March 17, and then concluding the tour at the Sanders Theatre, Harvard University in Cambridge for two performances on Saturday, March 18.  WGBH members get a discount on tickets. Click here for further details and for tickets!

Once again musically-directed by Keith Murphy, this highly-anticipated concert features musicians such as world-renowned fiddler Liz Carroll and popular harp and fiddle duo Jenna Moynihan and Mairi Chaimbeul. Karan Casey, Irish folk singer and founding member of Solas, will also appear with the Kara Casey Band.  A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn will showcases local performers such as the Miller Family, featuring guitarist Ruby May, fiddler Evelyn, and multi-instrumentalist Samuel.  Hailing from Smithfield, Rhode Island, The Miller Family are traditional Irish dancers who have toured and competed in dance competitions from Montreal to Rhode Island. Winners at the World Irish dancing championships, the Miller Family are happy to share their upbeat rhythms.

 

St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn 2014

Celebrate ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’ from March 15-18 Photo courtesy of WGBH

Click here for the complete list of performers to ring in this thrilling holiday.  From Beverly to Cambridge, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn is quickly approaching. Click here for tickets and further details.  For a taste of Irish and Celtic traditions each Saturday afternoon, click here to tune in to A Celtic Sojourn hosted by Brian O’Donovan on 89.7 FM WGBH from 3 – 6 p.m.  Follow A Celtic Sojourn on Facebook for updates and much more.