There are already dozens of holiday-themed events to enjoy in Kern County this month -- how about one more? The Kerry Dance Troupe adds its "An Irish Christmas" to local holiday entertainment lineup, with a performance the Fox Theater Saturday evening.
Set in a 19th century household, "An Irish Christmas" sets out to show the magic of Irish culture and traditions -- the ability to make the humblest of tasks an occasion for singing and dancing; the ability to make the ordinary seem to be the work of fairies and elves. The troupe of singers, actors, dancers and instrumentalists will mix well-known Christmas songs and carols with Irish-language work songs and dances in a display of home life and holiday celebrating in an Irish village of another time.
"An Irish Christmas" is the brainchild of Margaret O'Carroll, founder of the Kerry Dance Troupe and a native of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. Trained in classical music, O'Carroll became involved with the Irish National Folk Theater as a child.
"It was a life-changing thing for me," O'Carroll said. "That's the inspiration for ('An Irish Christmas'), that the old traditions are preserved."
"We bring in everything from the mythology of the wren to the Straw Boys to the traditional carols," O'Carroll said.
The "Day of the Wren" occurs on Dec. 26, also known as St. Stephen's Day. O'Carroll explained the celebration in which costumed boys and girls go from house to house carrying a wren tied to holly, dancing and singing and collecting donations. (The tradition once used real birds; that was later changed to a fake bird as a symbol.)
"It's a symbol of the end of the old year and the start of the new year through the eyes of a bird," O'Carroll said.
Straw Boys also dress in costume and may appear at any kind of social gathering, telling stories, dancing and singing in return for treats or small gifts.
Other traditions on display are the songs and dances associated with such basic tasks and sweeping floors (the brush dance), and churning butter, ways to lessen the burdens of the labor. The Irish songs will be sung in Gaelic, and are mixed in with such traditional carols as "Silent Night," "The Twelve Days of Christmas," "What Child is This?" and "The Little Drummer Boy."
The cast includes several champions of Irish dance, including Collette Dunne, Kevin Horton and Ciaran Maguire. Horton and Maguire are both alums of "Riverdance;" Maguire also worked with stars Colin Dunne and Jean Burton in their show, "Dancing on Dangerous Ground." Collette Dunne and Maguire are also principal dancers for "Magic of the Dance." Like "Riverdance" and similar shows, "An Irish Christmas" also includes singing and live music performed on traditional Irish instruments such as the Uilleann pipes, the Celtic fiddle and the bodhrÃ¡n.
"An Irish Christmas" plays for one night only at the Fox. Tickets range from $38.50 to $58.50, with discounts for children and seniors. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 6:30.