listening to Christmas: Heidi Talbot, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Patty Larkin
Those who make music for a living enjoy listening to and making music at the holidays as well. It is a very musical season. Their listening choices are not always what you might expect, however.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh grew up in Ireland, in Dun Chaoin in the Dingle Peninsula. Though she’s taken her music to far flung places as lead singer with Danu and investigated musical connections with Scotland in a project with Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis. it’s to those times in west Kerry she returns when thinking of music for the holidays.
“To sing, I love our local Christmas songs like Oíche Nollaig, Coinnle an Linbh Íosa and the music of the "wren" that we play around that time of year, which is a fantastic custom.”
St. Stephen’s Day, also known as wren day from a custom called hunting the wren when people go from house to house with music at the holidays, is a big day for socializing in Ireland. The nature of things varies across the island, from all the eligible men in the town dressing up in funny hats and going door to door with tunes and songs, to harking back to customs of ancient days with musicians taking on costumes of legendary figures of all sorts as they go through the town. Nic Amhlaoibh points to this information on the wren in Dingle.
Nic Amhlaoibh's listening tastes range wide at the holidays. “I like to listen to The Monks of Glenstal who sing Gregorian Chant very beautifully, ” she says, “and last Christmas I really enjoyed Sting's album If On A Winter's Night.”
Patty Larkin, who comes from an Irish American family in Wisconsin, likes to fill her Cape Cod home with the sounds of Windham Hill’s Celtic Christmas albums at this time of year. “ That sound creates such a beautiful holiday atmosphere. It’s great in the background for parties, and to listen to on your own.”
Heidi Talbot grew up listening to Christmas songs in County Kildare, in Ireland. She spent a number of years in the United States, many of those as singer with the world renown band Cherish the Ladies. She lives now in Scotland, and a difference to her holidays this year has her thinking about holiday seasons this year and in future, as well. She says
“Every year Phil Cunningham plays shows in Edinburgh called Phil Cunningham's Christmas Songbook featuring Phil, Eddi Reader, John McCusker, and Karen Matheson. It's the perfect way to get yourself in the mood for Christmas. Last year I joined them and sang O Holy Night - one of my favourite Christmas songs to sing.
This year I'm really looking forward to being part of Brian O'Donovan's Christmas Celtic Sojourn along with Seamus Egan, Catriona MacKay, Chris Stout and lots of other fantastic musicians.
I love to sing all the traditional Christmas carols but if I had to pick a favourite Christmas track to listen to it would be Otis Redding singing White Christmas, his voice breaks my heart.
This Christmas will be our first with our daughter Molly Mae, and while she's only seven months old, I'm really looking forward to teaching her all the Christmas carols I know for many Christmases to come.”
you may also wish to
read what Aoife Clancy, Tommy Sands, and Matt Heaton have to say about choices for Christmas listening
hear Heidi Talbot sing O Holy Night and other Christmas songs with Cherish the Ladies on their album On Christmas Night
and you may also wish to see
Music Road: trilogy: 2000 Years of Christmas
Music Road: Dual: Julie Fowlis & Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh