The fiddle and the violin are the same instrument, played two different ways. Both styles have their devotees in West Texas, where music fans can already enjoy both the Western swing of Bob Wills and the more buttoned-down repertoire of Bach and Beethoven. A unique new melding of folk and classical styles will soon take flight at the Abilene Convention Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 during a world premiere performance by the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra and the ensemble Irish Christmas in America.
“Irish Christmas” founder Oisín Mac Diarmada began studying the fiddle as a child in County Clare, Ireland, winning competitions when he was only 8 years old. After moving to County Sligo, he learned the faster, bouncier style of fiddling prevalent there before pursuing a degree in Music Education at Trinity College Dublin and Royal Irish Academy of Music. Diarmada formed the touring Irish Christmas in America show in 2005 to showcase the music, song, dance, and stories of seasonal Irish traditions.
Irish Christmas in America features lively instrumental tunes on fiddle, flute, uilleann pipes, harp, and bouzouki, along with thrilling Irish dancing. But for the first time ever, their traditional folk instrumentation will be accompanied by a full symphony orchestra — the result of an original collaboration between Diarmada and APO Music Director David Itkin.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to bring the sound of Ireland and its rich traditions into the exquisite world of orchestral arrangement,” says Diarmada. “The rich texture of the orchestra is a sound which resonates with so many of us in Ireland from our early experiences of U.S. film and television culture, and the same can equally be said of our fascination with the landscape of Texas.”
“Working with Oisín on this arrangement, separated by an ocean and multiple time zones, has been a huge undertaking, even with all the modern resources we have,” commented Itkin. “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve created and thrilled to be able to premiere it for an Abilene audience.”
“David is a stunning musical collaborator,” added Diarmada. “He has worked with immense skill and sensitivity to create a truly spectacular arrangement, which I think will really strike a chord with holiday audiences.”
In addition to Diarmada, this year’s Irish Christmas in America tour features vocalist Caitríona Sherlock, Gráinne Hambly on Irish harp, Seán Gavin on flute and uilleann pipes, and Samantha Harvey on piano.
“As a vocalist, the power of orchestral arrangements to amplify the emotion of a song is something that has always fascinated me,” said Sherlock. “This will be a dream introduction to Texas audiences for me!”
Tickets for Irish Christmas in America are available for purchase now at AbiPhil.com and over the phone at 325-677-6710.
Contributed By The Abilene Philharmonic
Photo By Walter Petrule