So, I asked Chloe Agnew of Celtic Woman, do fans ever bring any little gifts to your group?
Oh yes, she assured me. “We do a lot of PBS meet-and-greets, and people are so generous. They bring us Irish chocolates and tea and beautiful letters, sometimes four or five pages long, about how our music has changed their lives.”
What prompted my question was a conversation earlier this week with Ellen Wilkes Irmisch of the group Tartan Terrors, who told me the town of Jim Thorpe holds the record for the most beers (137) brought to the stage during a Terrors concert.
The contrast made my fingers itch to start typing about all the ways these groups seem so very different, though both will bring to the region concerts that could figure into your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
The women of Celtic Woman, those tea-appreciating chanteuses, will be in Scranton on Tuesday.
The co-ed Tartan Terrors will be in Jim Thorpe tonight, no doubt with fans who aim to meet or exceed that beer record.
Celtic Woman is likely to sing “Danny Boy” with three voices and a fiddler, as well as the inspirational “You Raise Me Up,” and, judging by PBS specials, if the singers move at all it will be to gently glide along the stage.
The Tartans are likely to present “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and other rousing tunes accompanied by lots of high-energy leaping about in kilts and, for the women, shorter skirts.
One group has been compared to Disney princesses, the other to a mix of “Riverdance” with “Saturday Night Live.”
But, as Irmisch pointed out, what of it?
Think of bluegrass and hip hop and half a dozen other genres, she said. American music isn’t all the same, so why should anyone expect Celtic music to be?
Fair enough. So, fans of Celtic music, perhaps you already know which concert you might prefer. Or maybe you want to attend both.
In any case, here are some reflections from Celtic Woman’s Agnew and the Tartan Terrors’ Irmisch.
“The Irish have a song for everything, for the hardest of times and the happiest of times,” Agnew said. “They’re great storytellers.”
“We’re bringing back some of our well-known classics, like “You Raise Me Up,” she said. “You sing the first few bars, and you hear people singing along.”
Not only do people sing along at Celtic Woman concerts, Agnew said, she’s often touched to notice certain songs have moved them to tears.
“It’s really very, very special to see them open up their emotions,” she said.
By the way, she told me, the women of Celtic Woman don’t just glide. They do spend part of a show dancing. And when they’re not dancing, she said, “It’s important to be able to just stand there and sing. We want people to focus on the music.”
For the Tartan Terrors, along with traditional tunes and championship-caliber bagpiping there will be quite a few spoofs such as “I Drink Every Scotch,” which is a play on Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
The set list is likely to include sea chanteys, traditional work songs, a Gaelic call to arms and a tribute to modern military as well as a tribute to the Molly Maguires of the 19th century, several of whom were put to death, many say unjustly, in Jim Thorpe.
“Their history speaks so true to the heart,” Irmisch said, explaining the effect the story of the Molly Maguires has on the members of the band. “Think of the men losing their lives and the women dealing with the loss of their husbands, and the children dealing with the loss of their fathers.”