The Celts mix old and new to come up with something all their own for their Christmas show.
“We researched older music for a number of years,” said Ric Blair, the leader and founder of The Celts, a band of Irish, Irish-American and Scottish musicians.
“We dug up songs from the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. We found that many of these older Christmas carols were still relevant and meaningful today. The idea of the Christmas show was to take those older songs and combine them with Christmas songs that everyone knows and perform the familiar songs with Celtic instrumentation.”
Christmas with The Celts will be presented on Dec. 18 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
The seven-piece band has been performing together for 15 years. For the Christmas show, eight Irish dancers, a string quartet and other performers are added to the mix.
“And something that is different from other Celtic shows — what is essential in Irish culture — is the sense of humor.” Blair said. “The audience will get a piece of that aspect.
“We have traveled the world,” Blair continued, “and we are blessed to be doing that. We’ve seen so many cultures. But we’ve never seen cultures entertain themselves like the Irish and the Scottish. If you go to a pub in Ireland, everyone is telling jokes, telling stories and dancing.”
Most of the humor is the show, which includes quick, Irish wit and playful interactions with audience members, is presented by percussionist and narrator Jeff Durham.
“Jeff is one of the funniest people I have ever met,” Blair said. “The humor is dispensed throughout the show and much of it is spontaneous. You never know what Jeff will say.”
Although the band is immersed in Irish heritage, Blair’s own roots, and some of the band members, are more domestic.
“I was born and raised in America,” he said. “My mother was from an Irish family and my father was from a Scottish family. So we have native Irish, Scottish and Nashville people in our group.
Blair’s heritage and his upbringing have resulted in The Celts sound.
“I have combined the pure traditional Celtic music and melded it with the pop sensibilities that I have heard my whole life in American pop music,” said Blair, who plays guitar, piano and Irish drum in the show. “So, the music that emerged has become the music of The Celts.”
Blair also believes that live entertainment is essential in today’s society.
“Our culture is SO busy with all the technology and gadgets we have today,” he said, “and a lot of that is good things. But there is something you are missing by not seeing the other person’s body language and not relating to people one-on-one. That’s the beauty of music and performing. It goes beyond the limitations of language.”
The Christmas with The Celts show also includes recitations in the Scottish dialect about the birth of Christ.
“And the Christmas story,” Blair said about the narrated portion of the show, “that meaning goes beyond entertainment.”