Tuesday, December 07, 2010

listening to Christmas: Heidi Talbot, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Patty Larkin

fire at js copyright kerry dexter
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

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Alexandra said...

I so agree about Christmas songs setting the tone. Now the weather is cold enough for Christmas. This weekend I'll try to listen to some of your suggestions while making our wreath.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous nopotcooking said...

Your posts always give me so much music to explore!

3:59 PM  
Blogger Susan Johnston said...

The music is one of my favorites parts of this season. In fact, I'm part of a singing group that tours around to local nursing homes singing holiday carols. Thanks for helping me discover some new-to-me artists!

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

Baby's first Christmas. Whoo hoo... wouldn't it be funny is she sang or hummed before she spoke?

Have a happy holiday.

So far, there isn't a single Fa la la in my undecked halls, but maybe I'll listen to some holiday music soon to see if I can drop the humbuggery and get in the spirit.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Stephanie - Wasabimon.com said...

Otis Redding singing White Christmas is one of my all-time favorites too. <3!!

8:43 PM  
Anonymous ruth pennebaker said...

I'm about to do a little holiday shopping for music. Thanks so much for your great recommendations.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Margulis said...

I love Patty Larkin's music. So interesting to learn what she likes to listen to!

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Alisa Bowman said...

I can only listen to holiday music after T giving, but once I turn it on I get all misty eyed.

10:54 PM  
Blogger jcreaturetravel said...

For me, music is so much a part of the Christmas season. Thanks for a wonderful post.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Jane Boursaw said...

I love reading your suggestions, because it gets me out of my same-few-musicians rut. Will check these out.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Sheryl said...

Thanks for always providing great information and new artists to discover!

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I'll have to give these a listen I'm so sick of hearing the same holiday music over and over again.

12:17 PM  

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