The feast of St. Patrick is soon upon us. For some, it means a rowdy, beer-soaked celebration at the local pub. For the devout, it might include attending mass or service on March 17 — the date of the death of Ireland’s patron saint, who is generally regarded as having introduced Christianity to Ireland. Many plan to enjoy the Ventura Elks Lodge’s annual parade in downtown Ventura with the theme “Ventura Strong” this year.
For those wanting to kick off the holiday and get into the St Paddy’s Day spirit a bit early, an Irish afternoon of song and dance, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, is taking place for one date only at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. The lively performance takes place on Sunday, March 11, at 2 p.m.
Fiddles will be a-strumming and feet will be a-flying as the banging of the bodhrán (drum) and the whistle of pipes and flutes add to the merriment of sweet Irish song and traditional dance. The show is put on by a troupe of highly accomplished musicians and dancers from around the country with long, impressive résumés.
Event promoter Margaret O’Carroll of Kerry Irish Productions waxed enthusiastic in her Irish brogue about the upcoming celebration.
“It’s on the go from the moment the curtains part!” she exclaims. “It’s going to be an unstoppable afternoon of joy that’s much needed in these times. We deliver a lot of joy from high-level artists and it’s authentically crazy! We go for the common touch, and audience members can even sing along.”
The Kerry Traditional Orchestra consists of four multi-instrumentalists who share their passion for the traditional music of Ireland through fiddles, uilleann pipes, banjo, bodhrán, guitar and flutes.
The band features Jackie Moran (bodhrán, banjo, vocals), who was born in Tipperaray, Ireland, but moved at the age of 10 to Chicago, where he is a force in Chi-Town’s Irish music scene. According to O’Carroll, “Jackie Moran is the best in the business and Chicago is a hub for traditional Irish music.”
The foundation of Irish traditional music is the pulse of its drum, the bodhrán, and Moran has been featured playing this instrument in a number of Hollywood movies, including Backdraft (1991), Blink (1993), Traveller (1997) and Road to Perdition (2002).
Isaac Alderson (uilleann pipes, flutes, vocals), who also grew up in Chicago, has toured the globe with numerous groups, including Immigrant Soul, Jameson’s Revenge and Runa. More recently he toured in China as the piper in Riverdance. Jesse Langen (guitar, vocals), another Chicago resident, is equally comfortable on classical, electric and steel string guitars, and plays professionally in a wide range of styles. Award-winning fiddler Ryan McKasson has the distinction of being the youngest winner of the National Scottish Fiddle championship in 1996. He went on to study viola at USC with Donald McInnes.
The high-kicking, light-stepping, fast-tapping champion dancer Connor T. Reider, based in New York City, leads the high-spirited Kerry Dance Troupe.
Haunting as well as cheerful Irish song — everything from “Danny Boy” to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” — comes courtesy of three lovely lassies who make up the Kerry Voice Squad: soprano Koral Aakre, a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music; Katherine Trimble; and Ashley Stanbury.
Special guests also appearing are members of the Celtic Irish Dance Academy, based in North Hollywood (with classes taught in other Southern California locations). Should you be inspired, Ventura has its own Claddagh Irish Dance Company on Main Street.
Like wearing green, four-leaf clovers, leprechauns and charming Irish limericks, Irish music and dance are staples during St. Paddy’s Day. The production presented in Thousand Oaks should be a fun, festive and high-spirited way to celebrate the saint, his feast day and, most importantly, the place from which all these things originate.
“It’s a win-win concert — there’s always standing ovations,” O’Carroll concluded. “It’s a straight-up concert, delivering joy the whole way!”
See St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland on Sunday, March 11, at 2 p.m. at the Scherr Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets and more information, call 449-2787 or visit www.civicartsplaza.com.