december 2008

Various Artists

An outgrowth of Brian O'Donovan's popular Celtic radio show "A Celtic Sojourn," A Christmas Sojourn Live captures O'Donovan and his troupe on stage at Boston's revered Cutler Majestic Theatre for a joyous celebration of the season as it might happen back on the ould sod. Issued concurrently with the CD is a DVD of the entire show (filmed in 2006), which includes additional numbers not on the 14-song CD plus behind-the-scenes footage. The show really has it all. The a cappella quartet Navan, singing in Celtic and English, opens with a reverent rendering of "Silent Night," with the female vocalists sending up harmonies as crystalline as those of the McGarrigle Sisters. Karen Casey, a founding member of the great Irish band Solas, has several memorable moments in the set, leading the entire ensemble—and the audience!—in a glorious rendition of "Angels We Have Heard On High" and coming back later for a piercing, gentle version of "O Holy Night," followed immediately by a haunting, delicately harmonized "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Fionualla O'Donovan (the host's rich-voiced daughter). Celtic guitarist Tony McManus, accompanied by clarinetist Billy Novick, adds a new flavor to the proceedings with a meditative instrumental, "Sholom Aleichem," a Jewish melody with roots in Celtic music, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Michelle Mulcahy, playing the harp, contributes a soothing instrumental, "An Bhuatais/The Bucks of Oranmore," a work of stark beauty, at once introspective and, when she picks up the pace in the latter number, spirited in its sprint to the end. Robbie O'Connell, beautifully accompanying himself on fingerpicked acoustic guitar, offers a heartfelt rendition of John McCutcheon's WWII soldier's tale, "Christmas In the Trenches," paving the way for Navan's hymn-like benediction at the end. Hark, a Christmas classic!—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024