Toe-tapping fun as Peterborough Singers joined by Clan Hannigan and special guests for a Celtic Celebration

When the bitter winter rains and snow descend on the emerald hills of Ireland, or the rolling downs of Cape Breton and PEI, the inhabitants of those musically favoured islands know exactly what to do: gather together in the local pub or dance hall and play and sing and dance until the sweat pours down their faces and the howling winds outside are all but forgotten.

This February, the Peterborough Singers are taking a cue from the Celts and bringing their lively tribute to local Celtic culture and music to Peterborough. Featuring top-tapping music that will make you want to leap to your feet and dance, blended with nostalgic songs that will have you dreaming of the “old country,” the Singers’ Celtic Celebration is a sure bet to melt away those Canadian winter blues.

“Although we have included Celtic songs in previous concerts, never have we devoted a whole concert to Celtic music,” explains Syd Birrell, artistic director of the Peterborough Singers. However, after spending last summer in PEI and Cape Breton, “packing in as many concerts and céilidhs” as he could, Birrell says he was hooked and “knew we had to do a Celtic concert back home in Peterborough.”

Birrell recalled that his own appreciation of Celtic music stems from the local Douro community, where he spent many a day playing piano alongside Kevin and Bunny Leahy. There, he says, “I was introduced to a tradition that has been part of keeping the Douro community alive and thriving when many small communities die.” The Celtic Celebration, he says, is intended as a tribute to that rich local tradition.

The 100-voice Peterborough Singers will perform stunning arrangements of favorite Celtic melodies such as “We Rise Again,” “Fogarty’s Cove,” “Fergus and Molly,” “Down by the Sally Gardens,” and many more.

They will be joined by special guests, the well-known Caírdeas and Clan Hannigan, made up of Steafan Hannigan, Saskia Tomkins and their three children, and Marsala Lukianchuk.

Steafan and Saskia are well-known session musicians whose talents include playing a dizzying array of often-obscure instruments, including Uilleann pipes, the Mandocello Bouzouki, Dumbeq, and many others. Over the years, their sought-for knowledge of the musically arcane has seen them travel around the world, and earned them gigs playing alongside leading musical stars, including Loreena McKennitt, Bjork, Il Divo, Depeche Mode, and many others.

Before joining Caírdeas, Marsala Lukianchuk toured as the lead vocalist for the “Spirit of Ireland” North American tour. She is also part of the 4th Line Theatre Company and, in 2009, performed in the world premiere of A Welcome Death.

“Why Clan Hannigan?” Birrell asked. “I took a few friends to hear one of their céilidhs at a local pub, and we were delighted with Steafan’s musicianship, his storytelling, with Saskia’s fiddling, and the dancing and drumming of their children. I knew we could put together a concert that captured the céilidh flavour.”

The Singers will also be joined by six tap dancers from The Peterborough Dance Collective under the direction of choreographer Rachel Bemrose. This group of talented young dancers made their debut with the Singers in 2012, with their sizzling performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.