When Peter was a young man, the Armenians all called him "Irrrrish" (with a heavily pronounced rolled "R"). Why was that? Well, for one thing, he was blonde with blue eyes and light skin in a sea of Armenians with dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. (He looked Irish!) For another, he hung out in the "odar" community, the non-Armenian, American community. For another, as a young boy recently arrived in this country, America meant Brighton, where he grew up in the streets with the Irish boys, where he learned their ways. Folks were always warning his mother that she should be careful, for one day he would marry (pronounced with an Armenian accent, the word sounded like "merry" but with a heavily rolled "r" and intoned with threat) an Irrrish! (Don't forget to roll that rrr!)
It never happened. He married Armenian Jennie with the light brown hair (and light brown eyes and very white skin) and they lived happily ever after.
All of this as a preface to Marash Girl's telling you about a Celtic Christmas, performed at Bentley University this past Wednesday evening. In A Celtic Christmas, Tomáseen Foley's gentle Irish brogue brought us back to a two room cottage in the little village of Teampall an Ghleanntáin (meaning "church of the little glen"), a village in West County Limerick, Ireland. With warmth and humor, he remembered the days growing up in that little village, and related those memories, especially the advice and warnings of his grandmother. (Such expressions as "the only eye in the spud" referring to an only child, and her recommendation to "say nothing and keep saying it", with her ultimate advice: "We may as well enjoy ourselves; we'll be dead long enough.") Foley regaled the audience with memories of Christmas Eve in Teampall an Ghleanntain: cleaning the house in hopes that the Holy Family, if arrived, would feel welcome; awaiting the arrival of the postman with the yearly package from America (the villagers knew that in America, Christmas was 365 days a year), a package that would contain jackets, shirts and shoes for all the family (almost every cottage in the village received a package) and an envelope of American dollar bills. They sang and danced,
drank and ate, played the tin whistle, steel string guitar, fiddle, accordion, the uilleann pipes [píobaí uilleann (literally, "pipes of the elbow", the name , from the method of inflation, the national bagpipe of Ireland.] Foley explains that because the floors were often dirt floors, and thus uneven, the family would take the wooden door off of its hinges and lay it across the floor, iron hinges still attached, for the dancers to dance on with their hobnailed boots, the iron door hinges contributing to the rhythm of the dance.
"This year, Tomáseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas features Marcus Donnelly from Co. Galway, one of the most exhilarating, truly creative Irish dancers performing today. Internationally acclaimed master of the steel-string guitar William Coulter joins in, along with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marianne Knight from Co. Mayo (and world-champion level Irish dancer), and Brian Bigley on uilleann pipes, whistles and flute (also a world-champion level Irish dancer)." http://www.tomaseenfoley.com
The audience joined the performers in a rendition of "Silent Night", after which the night was not silent but ringing with applause, whistles and shouts of appreciation.
Filled with joy (as most were) at the end of the performance, and rising from the table to leave the room, Marash Girl turned around and was addressed by a youngish man who looked familiar, although Marash Girl did not know him. He was effusive. "I'm Irish, I am! I'm Irish! The show made me Irish." "A powerful performance," Marash Girl answered, similarly inspired. "Well, are you really Irish?" Marash Girl asked. "No, I'm Armenian," he answered. "Armenian?" Marash Girl was amazed. "Me, too! But Tomaseen has made us Irish for this one evening; as Irish as we are Armenian!"