Celtic Fire brings Irish spirit to Geneseo with personal stories, performance

Students and local Geneseo residents were treated to a night of Irish culture on Saturday Oct. 1 as Michael Londra’s Celtic Fire performed in Wadsworth Auditorium. Sponsored by Limelight and Accents Performing Art Series, the event consisted of a handful of Irish dances and songs, as well as fascinating stories about Londra’s Irish heritage and experiences.

Londra’s Celtic Fire travels all around the globe, spreading Irish culture wherever they go. The performance included world champion dancers from the cast of “Riverdance” on Broadway—a show in which Londra was the lead singer—and “Lord of Dance,” an Irish-American musical and dance production.

The show opened with four energetic dancers leaping to the music in front of the Celtic Fire band. They alternated solo dances and ended in punctual unison. The audience joined in the fun, clapping with the rhythm of the music and the dancers. All of the dances exhibited the two types of traditional Irish step dance: hard shoe and soft shoe.

After the opening number, Londra—who has performed in over 40 countries, and even starred in his own Emmy nominated PBS special “Beyond Celtic”—took the stage for a solo dance. He introduced himself to the audience, explaining his Irish background and offering some Irish humor. Between each song, Londra told stories or discussed his background in order to educate the audience on the meaning behind each performance.

He taught the audience how to say “hello” in Gaelic, assigning each half of the audience part of the Gaelic term dia duit as to make it into a collaborative lesson. Londra also encouraged everyone to get involved in the performances, claiming that there are two rules when listening to Irish music: participating in the music and exclaiming, “Hup!” in the middle of the song when it feels appropriate.

Londra also shared the famous Scottish song “The Water is Wide” with the audience, teaching them the lyrics so that they could sing along with him or on their own. Other melodies included “Zoli” and “One More Day,” which was a slower, more soulful ballad about missing loved ones.

“Flesh and Blood” was more reminiscent of American music than the other more traditional Irish songs performed. Londra even encouraged the audience to let out a “Yeehaw!” explaining the American influence on Irish music.

“We love singing and we love songs. We love traditional songs, we love songs of today that tell a story and they seem to be connected to America,” he said. “A lot of our songs are connected to the country scene in Nashville … and that’s why we feel connected [to America]. We brought our jigs to the Appalachians, and it has gradually filtered out through the whole of North America.”

In the end, it was Londra’s humor and interaction with the audience that made the performance worthwhile. Between the music and Londra’s charismatic personality, the band allowed Irish song, dance and stories to seep into the Geneseo community for one night—but ultimately left the audience with a greater appreciation for Irish culture as a whole.