Fox Valley Symphony to tap into Irish tradition for special St. Paddy's Day celebration

March 12, 2012

Kara Patterson

Post Crescent

The Fox Valley Symphony’s “Celtic Celebrations” concert on St. Patrick’s Day Saturday is a four-leaf-clover find for audience members.

They’ll hear the music of Shaun Davey, one of Ireland’s leading composers, in a live performance that features the Fox Valley Symphony, the White Heron Chorale and traditional Celtic instrumental soloists.

“By having folk musicians and orchestral musicians playing together, a new musical genre is created,” Davey said in an e-mail interview. “… When both agree to work together, I believe the music can be miraculous in its intensity.”

“Celtic Celebrations” starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.

Through its “Music for a Cause” program, the symphony will donate 75 percent of the face value of designated tickets to the concert’s featured nonprofit organization, the YMCA of the Fox Cities. Those who would like to participate should mention the code “Strong Kids” when ordering tickets.

The funds will benefit the YMCA’s 2012 Strong Kids Campaign, which has set a fundraising goal of $915,000. The campaign provides financial scholarships on a sliding scale for individuals and families who otherwise cannot afford YMCA memberships and programming.

“That (goal amount) will help us to serve 10,000 individuals this year,” said Sue Pawlowski, community relations director at YMCA of the Fox Cities. “Teaming up with this kind of event really helps with that, and helps with awareness of our program as well. The YMCA is really a key component to help keep a steady, healthy lifestyle for the family.”

The concert focuses on Davey’s works “The Pilgrim” and “Special Olympics Suite.” Soloists will perform on the fiddle, Irish harp, gaita, Scottish pipes, uilleann pipes and bodhran.

“The music that the White Heron Chorale is singing with the Fox Valley Symphony … taps into many of the most beloved aspects of the Irish sound by using a familiar tune, ‘Fill to Me the Parting Glass,’ with a wonderful five-part harmony, the Irish harp and even a bit of the pipes a’calling,” said White Heron Chorale singer Carol Jegen of Appleton. “Irish history is full of dramatic loss and longing for loved ones who have departed, and this sweet nostalgic quality is balanced with a vigorous driving rhythm of the Irish drum called the bodhran. The composer … incorporates both in this music created for the Special Olympics (World Summer Games), which took place in Ireland in 2003.”

Brian Groner, the symphony’s music director, said Davey’s compositions, like much of Celtic music, possess great vitality.

“He is one of the people who bridges the gap between folk and concert music,” Groner said. “He’s a very fine orchestrator … he’s been writing music for the Celtic instruments for a long time so he uses them appropriately and imaginatively. There’s a bouncing rhythm (to Celtic music) and typically a melody which is secondary to the energy of the rhythm underneath.”

Davey said he has learned much from the repertoire of Irish songs, including traditional dance music.

“My writing tends to emulate both,” he said. “I believe music needs to serve the community, that it has special power to heal, remind ourselves of our true emotions, and the roots of our existence.”

Fox Valley Symphony violinist Lori Murphy, who once fiddled in a pub on a family trip to Ireland, said music is central to the Irish community and a unifying part of Irish culture.

“It was like being in someone’s living room,” said Murphy, 41, of Neenah. “I will never forget that experience. I am looking forward to just celebrating this wonderful music and this culture and this holiday. I imagine within the walls of the PAC you could close your eyes and feel like you were in an Irish pub.”

Irish music evokes a complete range of emotions, she said.

“I love the laidback feel of it,” Murphy said. “There’s that flip side to Irish music, that it can tug at your heartstrings too.”

Purchase tickets now for the March 17, 2012 Concert! »

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