The Irish ensemble Cherish the Ladies took the stage twice on Saturday for a matinee and an evening performance of traditional music from Ireland. The sold-out crowd that enthusiastically greeted the group in the first show was a mixture of longtime fans and local enthusiasts of Irish music, as revealed when bandleader Joanie Madden posed the question to the audience.
The group was at the forefront of change in Irish music, because, at the time of their formation, women were largely shut out from the traditional music scene in the country. The band is an assemblage of accomplished Irish-American and native Irish female musicians who have been touring on-and-off as a collaboration for over three decades. New York-born Madden, an All-Ireland champion on the tin whistle and notable concert flutist, led a number of songs with anecdotes about the music’s origin and quips about Irish culture and people.
Built into the set were songs that prominently featured the other instruments that were played, including tunes by acoustic guitarist Mary Coogan, All-Ireland champion accordion player Mirella Murray, All-Scotland and All-Ireland champion piano player Kathleen Boyle and All-Ireland fiddle champion Liz Carroll. A combination of contemporary, original music and famous Irish songs made up the set.
The performance also featured special guests that worked to bring the music of Ireland to life with dance and vocals. Juno-winning trio The Ennis Sisters, out of Newfoundland, peppered the performance with stories of their own and came on to sing the more well-known songs. Also included were champion tap dancers Jason Oremus, Garrett Coleman and Julie Fitzgerald, who punctuated performances with complicated routines.
The success of this event speaks to the interest of Irish music in the area with annual performances of fiddle champion Eileen Ivers also selling out the Sharp Theater. Both the evening and the afternoon show were met with a standing ovation and accepted request for encores.