One of the benefits of growing up in Ireland is that every child learns to play and sing the nation's traditional music as naturally as walking. It's not unusual for a youngster to learn two or more instruments to participate in jigs, reels, hornpipes and dances with families and friends and to develop the type of magnificent singing voice native to the land of leprechauns.
Danu, the six-member ensemble currently touring this country, not only remembers the old tunes but also composes new songs inspired by the styles that have come down through the centuries. To celebrate St. Patrick's Day at the Hylton Center, the musicians will perform irresistible rhythms and melodies unique to their heritage.
Like most Irish families, Benny McCarthy's folks spent evenings gathered around the hearth or the local pub singing and playing to their hearts' content. When he founded Danu in 1995, he had no idea how eager the rest of the world was to hear authentic Irish music. He remembers his surprise when, during a jam session with his band, someone approached him to invite the group to France to perform in the Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient. Thousands of participants from many nations fill the city annually to share their Celtic heritage.
"It's a very important event, so we were thrilled to be invited," McCarthy said. "They gave us an amazing reception and our name. Up until then, we didn't have one, so they named us for Danu, the mother goddess of Ireland and the most important figure in Irish mythology who represents the earth, sea and prosperity."
|» Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas|
|» When: 4 p.m. Sunday|
|» Info: $28 to $44; 888-945-2468; hyltoncenter.org|
Right after the festival, Danu received a contract for appearances and put out an album, the first of a string of CDs that have earned multiple awards. McCarthy attributes the band's success to music so intoxicating that the listeners are unable to resist clapping and moving with the rhythms.
"Our concerts are full of high energy with lots of foot stomping, hootin' and hollerin,' " McCarthy said. "David Clancy and I are the original members. He plays a guitar with a beautiful sound, and I play an Irish accordion that's smaller than the one most people are familiar with. It has a button keyboard, not piano keys. David and I come from Waterford, while our other members represent the four corners of the country. There is one from Dublin, one from County Donegal, one from County Kerry near Dingle, and another currently lives in Scotland.
"No matter the program, we have fun and continually interact with the audience. People always come away saying what a good time they had at our show. We hope that the Hylton audience enjoys it as much as we do and are inspired like many to visit Ireland."