Tuesday night found the Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies unveiling its "Celtic Christmas" program in Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall.
Trying to avoid superlatives when reviewing this show has been difficult for most of the media in areas where it has been performed and, as anyone who was present Tuesday night can probably attest, the women of Cherish the Ladies are top-notch musicians and entertainers.
Founding member and tin whistle/flutist extraordinaire Joanie Madden is also quite the raconteur, providing much of the stage commentary. She outlined a bit of the band's history, told jokes with a well-practiced flair and introduced the various members of the group.
Considering her outsized personality, Madden's dynamic whistle playing was all that could be expected, dancing with melodies, cutting through the sound mix with a high-pitched tooting. Her fluid, subtle and superbly nuanced flute playing stood out just by virtue of its contrast with the more overtly acrobatic whistle artistry.
The rest of the players in Cherish the Ladies, while not as overtly showy as their leader, were more than capable of holding their own in her company.
Guitarist Mary Coogan, another founding member, was a solid if somewhat understated musician, while fiddler Roisin Dillon and accordion player Mirella Murray took advantage of their solo spots to showcase their prodigious talents. It should also be noted that pianist Kathleen Boyle, the lone Scot on the stage, was excellent as the rhythmic anchor and occasional soloist.
While the instrumentalists were all quite talented, Heidi Talbot, the lead singer and bodhran (frame drum) player, was a revelation. With a voice that was wispy and delicate but with an undeniable presence, Talbot's artistry was unassumingly beautiful. Her singing, in Irish and English, of "Silent Night" was gorgeous and comfortable at the same time, a rare trick indeed, especially since she was battling a cold.
Step dancers Michael Boyle and Noelle Curran added percussive punch and visual dynamics to the proceedings, coming out from behind the curtains at key moments in the concert to add their abilities to the proceedings.
Most of the material in the concert came from the Cherish the Ladies Christmas album, including "The Castle of Dromor" and "Ding Dong Merrily on High," but "The Jolly Seven" and a few other tunes from their most recent release ("Woman of the House") were welcome additions.
Cherish the Ladies Celtic Christmas
Tuesday night in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall.