"A Celtic Christmas" is all about a simpler time. In it, Irish storyteller Tomasseen Foley entertains audiences with stories from his childhood in a rural parish, Teampall an Ghleanntain, in western Ireland.
Without cars, telephones or even electricity, Teampall retained its old-fashioned charm into the middle of the 20th century.
What: "A Celtic Christmas"
When: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford
Tickets: Matinee costs $22-$30 or $12-$20 for ages 18 and younger; evening show costs $26-$32 or $16-$22 for ages 18 and younger
"People would gather at each other's houses at Christmastime," Foley says. "These houses were called 'rambling houses,' and people would bring their musical instruments, and we'd spend the night playing music, singing, dancing and telling stories."
Foley and his contingent of Irish musicians and dancers re-create those nights in the rambling house in "A Celtic Christmas." The 15th annual shows will be at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.
The production has become a local holiday tradition, "kind of like an Irish 'Nutcracker,' " Foley says.
"Despite all the glitz and artificiality of Christmas, people deep down are longing for something authentic, and this show is authentic," he says.
This year, Scottish piano-accordion player and champion Irish dancer Ciara Cullen will join Foley and the others for her first American tour.
"She's all of probably 5 feet tall, but she's very dynamic onstage," Foley says.
The rest of the "Celtic Christmas" clan is music director and Grammy Award-winning, steel-string guitarist William Coulter; uilleann piper and world-class Irish stepdancer Brian Bigley; and traditional Irish multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Kathleen Keane, who studied Irish stepdancing under Michael Flatley ("Lord of the Dance") and is returning to the show after a six-year hiatus. (Look for Keane's songs on the "Backdraft," "Road to Perdition" and "Cinderella Man" soundtracks.)
The program centers around stories from Foley's youth and stories told at the communal gatherings. If they don't make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, they most certainly will make you laugh. Foley says his parish was notorious for having a large number of bachelors. Many of the stories are at the expense of these lonesome souls and the local matchmakers.
Stories are interspersed with dancing and traditional Irish carols, including "The Kerry Christmas Carol," "The Wexford Carol" and others.
"There is still a strong communal sense in the community," Foley says. "My family is still there on the farm. We've been there at least 200 years ... but it's not what it was."
Matinee tickets cost $22, $26 and $30, or $12, $16 and $20 for ages 18 and younger. Tickets for the evening show cost $26, $28 and $32, or $16, $18 and $22 for ages 18 and younger. Group pricing is available. Tickets are available at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.