“A Winter Gift” is performed by The Legends of the Celtic Harp: Patrick Ball, Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter, who invite us to join them in a magical world of Irish and English literature, Celtic legend and traditional folk beliefs Friday, Dec. 8, at the Town Hall Theatre, 469 Main St. in Quincy. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.
The program draws out tales such as “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” a chapter from “The Wind in the Willows,” and passages from Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats and Thomas Hardy, and mingles them with beloved and original pieces of seasonal music.
All of the music and all of the stories touch on the central message of the spirit of Christmas and nature of the winter season. Hope. Hope for something wondrous. Hope for a light in the darkness.
Patrick Ball was introduced to the Celtic harp in the 1980s at a Renaissance fair. As a student of Irish history, a storyteller and a musician, he was attracted to the harp’s rich, bell-like qualities.
Today, Ball is well recognized as one of the premier Celtic harp players in the world and a captivating spoken word artist. He has traveled internationally, presenting his theatrical histories and playing a wire-strung Celtic harp made by luthier Jay Witcher.
He has also recorded nine instrumental and four spoken word albums which have sold well over a half million copies internationally, winning national awards in both the music and spoken word categories.
Patrick Ball has brought a number of his shows to local stages over the last several decades and is always met with concert halls and school auditoriums filled with delighted fans. He has become such a local favorite that his image was chosen for the mural on the back of the Town Hall Theatre that will be completed prior to his visit.
“The theme of the mural wall was to capture a few of the remarkable artists that have enriched our community in a combined collage of international and local artists,” explained Roxanne Valladao, executive director of Plumas Arts, the organization that owns and manages the Town Hall Theatre.
“The photo of Patrick was one of the first images chosen for, and painted on, the mural wall. Our muralist, and Feather River College Art Instructor Rafael Blanco did such an amazing job that I can’t wait for Patrick to see himself as part of our tribute to the performing arts.”
Patrick Ball is described by San Francisco Chronicle as “An American master of the Irish instrument, a peripatetic modern day bard, combining tale-telling, history and music into a seamless compound that reaches all ages and types of listeners.”
During this encore visit to Plumas County, Ball, a consummate educator renowned for his school assembly programs, will visit C. Roy Carmichael and Quincy Elementary schools thanks to the support of their parent teacher organizations and Plumas Arts.
Ball has also been awarded grants for his work by the Zellerbach Family Fund and the California Arts Council and is the recipient of the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Association.
Ball is “a rare artist.” For in playing the ancient, legendary brass-strung harp of Ireland with its crystalline, bell-like voice and performing marvelous tales of wit and enchantment, he not only brings new life to two cherished traditions, but blends them in concert to create “a richly theatrical and hauntingly beautiful performance.”
Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter also share parallel histories. They each have about 15 solo albums, were introduced to the harp at Renaissance fairs and have backgrounds in slightly more “upbeat” music.
In the 1980s, Frankfurter played electric violin in a progressive rock band, and Lynne played bass in a heavy-metal band. The musicians have long since discovered their affinity for the harp. Lynne and Frankfurter are independent musicians with their own record labels and studios. The two perform as a duo and as solo musicians.
For “A Winter Gift,” Ball plays the metal-strung harp and performs the spoken word pieces, Lynne plays a nylon-strung harp, mandolin and bouzouki and Frankfurter plays a nylon-strung harp, Swedish nyckelharpa and Irish cittern.
As for the name or their group, Legends of the Celtic Harp, Lynne remarked, the name “is a humorous thing because it’s not that we are the legends. It is that we play and tell the actual legends of how the Celtic harp traveled through history. There’s mystery and humor in a collection of stories and songs related to the harp. But it’s not just about the harp, it’s about humanity.”
The story of the Celtic harp
More than 200 years ago, the wire-strung harp disappeared from the Celtic repertoire as a result of Irish subjugation by the English. With the expulsion of the age-old instrument, much of the music, which had never been recorded, was lost.
Since the 1970s, musicians and historians have sought to resurrect the instrument along with its forgotten melodies.
“Irish folk harps should not be confused with the big, golden, pedal harps you see in orchestras, which were developed much later — in the 17th century — when Renaissance music went into classical,” Lynne said. Celtic harps have a much warmer, earthy sound, she says.
According to California Music Magazine, “The harp itself sounds so glorious … with some of the most interesting and heart-stoppingly gorgeous music … that it’s quite understandable why it’s reputed to be the instrument of choice among the angels.”
General Admission to the concert is $25. Plumas Arts members discount price is $20. Tickets are available at the Plumas Arts Gallery, Quincy Natural Foods, Quincy Provisions and online at plumasarts.org.
For a sampling of the show, visit youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=–Ee7Xl8OUo.