Celtic ensemble Cherish the Ladies bring their Christmas spirit to Columbus tonight when the group plays with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.
Santa is expected to arrive downtown on a firetruck before the concert and children are invited to visit Santa during intermission in the lobby of the RiverCenter.
Cherish the Ladies aren’t new to town. The group performed a sold-out concert in Columbus during the RiverCenter’s first season.
The RiverCenter “is one of the most beautiful theaters we’d played in the South,” Joanie Madden, whistle player and flutist, said. “We started playing with all the big orchestras, but we found we prefer playing with smaller towns’ orchestras. A lot of them are big fans of folk music.
“We really enjoyed it last time in Columbus.”
Cherish the Ladies is a group of six female musicians. Mary Coogan plays guitar, mandolin and banjo; Roisin Dillon plays fiddle; Michelle Burke sings; Mirella Murray plays accordion; and Kathleen Boyle plays piano.
“I never set out to have an all-girl band,” Madden said. “Everyone is an incredible musician. We all record. We have all great tune writers.”
Some members even live in Ireland and the group rehearses just before they start touring. This month, they have 14 dates, though Madden says it’s not as busy as last year.
Cherish the Ladies toured for the first time in 1987. Madden and Coogan are original members.
“Because we are women, when we get married and have babies, it gets hard,” Madden said. “Me, I can’t even keep a plant alive.”
Besides the women in the band, they have an additional two singers and four step dancers. The dancers include Noelle Curran, who has performed with Riverdance; Kara Butler, who tours with the Chieftains; and Joe Dwyer, one of the best male dancers in the world.
“We have four dancers, six musicians and the symphony. If that’s not enough, I don’t know what would be. You get Irish music. You get dancing. And we have fun with the audience.”
Madden faced tragedy earlier this year when her father died after slipping.
“We buried him on a Thursday and we had a show on Saturday,” she said. She missed a couple of shows, the first ever in the Cherish the Ladies’ 22-year history.
“There were 4,000 people at his wake,” Madden said. “And 1,000 people at the funeral. He got quite a send-up.”
Madden performed, along with 34 other musicians.
“I don’t know where the inner strength came from. But I got through it. My mother told me, ‘He’d want you to.’ I got a standing ovation in church when I finished playing. I really don’t know how I did it, but I did. I played my heart out for him.”
She and her family couldn’t believe the outpouring of love from fans.
“We got all these beautiful cards and letters and flowers. People I don’t even know were kind. They knew how much my father meant to me. We even got a letter from the president of Ireland.”
New York-based Madden’s parents both emigrated from Ireland to New York. They instilled in their daughter a love of traditional Irish music.