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Celtic Woman charms Kleinhans with 'The Best of Christmas'

Kleinhans Music Hall was a serene scene on Tuesday night with a snow-globe setting outside the beautiful building, and a pleasant performance inside of “The Best of Christmas” by Irish outfit Celtic Woman with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Influenced by Riverdance and following a familiar path, PBS-propelled Celtic Woman is four women, as the singular name eschews grammar in favor of glamour. Vocalists Máiréad Carlin, Éabha McMahon, Megan Walsh and violinist Tara McNeill graced the stage with an understated serving of seasonal songs along with a few Celtic classics. Their touring conductor Lloyd Butler led the BPO and a supporting trio added piano, percussion and Irish instrumentation.  

After starting with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” the ensemble was in perfect form on the melismatic melody of “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” as the singers’ heavenly harmony made for symphonic soaring over the orchestra. Dublin native McMahon then proudly introduced “Once in Royal David’s City” as written by an Irishwoman (Cecil Frances Alexander). She then gave the cast a break in a bilingual solo singing of “Silent Night,” her delicately deep alto guiding the BPO’s brilliant arrangement complete with a sweeping harp.

Newest member and County Meath native Walsh (the group has had frequent turnover since its 2004 founding) offered a more theatrical tone accompanied only by piano on “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” before fellow soprano Carlin’s stirring “Ave Maria.” Banter leader and ever the charmer, the Derry native Carlin introduced a song for all seasons, “Danny Boy,” as being performed by many greats before them - “Johnny, Cash, Dinah Washington, Elvis Presley, The Muppets - we think The Muppets sing it better than we do.”

Perhaps the highlight of the first set, Antrim native McNeill paced “Amazing Grace” as the BPO string section joined in the intro before the vocalists and percussionists carried to crescendo before coming down to commercial ground with “Deck the Halls” to close the first set.

A similar-sounding second set included McMahon’s lovely fluttering over “White Christmas,” Uilleann pipes pacing “What Child is This?” and a nice arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” - perhaps an accidental nod to Buffalo’s own Harold Arlen - before they wished the calm crowd a Merry Christmas and went on their merry way.


Celtic Woman, Nov. 27 in Kleinhans Music Hall


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