What may be one of the most charming and unique performances on the smorgasbord of holiday offerings this season (especially for those who have tired of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker ballet) is coming to Santa Paula. “A Winter Gift” — a concert of Celtic harp music (and other, some rare, string instruments) combined with tales — will be performed Thursday, Dec. 15, by the trio known as Legends of the Celtic Harp, as part of the Santa Paula Concert Series.
Called “powerful and riveting,” the performance includes stories of the extraordinary, legendary and mystical powers that are associated with the 1,000-year-old harp and those who play it. The holiday concert will include a montage of winter tales, composed of words from American poet Robert Frost, excerpts from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, a chapter from The Wind in the Willows, and passages from Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats and Thomas Hardy, set over Christmas standards like “Silent Night” and “The First Noel,” as well as original compositions.
The trio of musicians includes Patrick Ball (on harp and spoken word), along with noted Celtic harpists Lisa Lynne (who also plays Irish bouzouki and mandolin) and Aryeh Frankfurter (Swedish nyckelharpa and cittern are part of his repertoire.) The group has been blending stories, histories, myths and the spoken word over lilting strings for the past four years. (No slouches, the three musicians have sold over a million and a half records among them.) There’s quite some history — 1,000 years’ worth — to these harps and harpists throughout time. Individual harps took on a life of their own and became, if not more famous, then at least as famous as those who played them.
The traveling troupe of musicians has performed from Valdez, Alaska, to Toledo, Ohio; from Ojai and Santa Barbara to Honolulu; and just about every place in between. This is its first concert in Santa Paula.
Storytelling and music are both healing and an important part of the human experience, especially these days, with everyone’s nose buried in electronic devices. So grab your kids, their grandparents, your friends and family and turn off your cell phones, for crying out loud, and enjoy instead a memorable evening of live entertainment.
As noted on the group’s website: “All of the music and all of the stories touch on the central message of the Christmas/Winter season. Hope. Hope for something wondrous. Hope for a light in the darkness.”
If you can’t make this show, take heart. Tasty performances to date as part of the Santa Paula Concert Series have included everything from classical to international, and this eclectic approach to music is expected to continue. Past seasons have seen classical (the talented Sincopa String Quartet, which appeared last month), jazz (A Call to Peace), blues (Dirty Cello, Jim Scott), Vera Cruz-style (Chucumite) and sitar players gracing the stage (at the Santa Paula Theater Center) or sanctuary (at the Universalist Unitarian Church). Even the Rowan Brothers (whom I used to follow during my hippie salad days in the Bay Area) have appeared here; bluegrass player/singer Peter Rowan arrives in February.
“People love stories,” noted storyteller Ball, “and it has turned into a really engaging and gratifying show for all of us, particularly around Christmastime and especially now when things are so disjointed.”
A good reason for one and all to gather, heal and celebrate.
Legends of the Celtic Harp performs “A Winter Gift” on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Universalist Unitarian Church, 740 E. Main St., Santa Paula. For tickets and more information, call 525-4647 or visit www.uucsp.org.