The Irish Descendants Christmas - A Newfoundland Live Music Tour I was honoured to receive an invite to attend the final 18th show of The Irish Descendants Christmas Tour across the island throughout the month of December. The final performance took place at the Arts and Culture Centre in Gander and was a wonderful finale for the successful holiday concert series. Members of the band included music icon and front man Con O’Brien, Justin Hickey, Terri-Lynn Humber, Mark Manning, Aaron Collis and Rowan Sherlock. The extremely talented group of musicians put off a very tight and flawless show, easily drawing me in and getting me bouncing in my seat in with toe tapping tunes.
Con treated the highly engaged audience to some beautiful Christmas songs he once sang at “midnight mass” while growing up on the rural Southern Shore of the island. Additionally, Con had myself and the crowd giggling out loud with stories of his younger years coming of age in a NL outport. One story, for example, involved him coming home from the local pub and taking out a lady’s fence after going sideways after a few drinks. His much admired amazing vocals shone through on traditional classics such as O’ Holy Night and Hallelujah, which got the audience singing right along in perfect harmony. The original Irish Descendants formed in 1990 and helped introduce traditional Irish Newfoundland music to a larger Canadian audience during that time.
Mark Manning and Aaron Collis of local NL folk music group Rum Ragged always blow me completely away with their incredible talent. I’m a band groupie and when I heard my favourite Christmas tune “Pop’s New Accordion” I had to sneak a quick video! Aaron Collis is unbelievable on the traditional button accordion, aka the “squeezebox”, and can also be found playing as part of well known folk band The Dardanelles. Mark Manning’s unique and captivating vocals, paired with an easygoing and humorous persona made songs like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” extra fun! The popular island group recently completed tours of the USA, Alberta and BC where they performed at the Canadian Country Music Hall of Honour in the town of Merritt. Additionally, Rum Ragged was nominated for a Juno Award in 2021 for their album “The Thing About Fish”, paying homage to their Newfoundland and Labrador roots and culture.
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rowan Sherlock hails from Waterford Ireland but now permanently resides in Newfoundland. The multi-talented artist performs with multiple bands in the province and is a trained music educator as well, sharing his craft with those wishing to learn how to play an instrument. As a lover of Irish fiddle and violin I enjoyed the effortless easy playing and switchover to mandolin for some songs. Is it even an Irish Newfoundland band without a fiddle?! You can catch Rowan getting the crowds going with his jigs and reels at popular live music venues around downtown St. John’s and throughout the island with his band Rugged Shores. Rugged Shores is a traditional folk band who released their first album in 2022 titled “Wild River”.
And finally, sweet couple Justin and Terri Lynn Hickey, are a complete joy to watch perform. As a huge fan of the tin whistle I was wowed by Terri-Lynn’s wild whistling skills, not to mention her beautiful performance on the grand piano. Not only can Justin sing and play a mean bass guitar he has a really great stage presence and it’s very evident how much he loves to be onstage rocking out with his beautiful wife by his side. You can also catch Justin and Terri-Lynn perform with their family Irish Newfoundland traditional band Kitchinparti who can sure get the dancers on the floor.
In conclusion, if visiting Newfoundland and Labrador in December during the Holiday Season be sure to add The Irish Descendants Christmas Show to your island entertainment bucketlist. If you enjoy or would like to experience traditional Newfoundland music in a comfortable theatre setting then this is the show for you! The Arts and Culture in Gander served alcohol beverages and guests were permitted to bring drinks into the theatre with the purchase of a 5$ plastic sipping cup for those audience members wishing to have a little something festive to sip on!!