Ireland has long been recognized as a land where music has truly permeated every part of its culture. After all, how many other countries so proudly display musical instruments on their official flag, coins and official government documents?
As a way to capture the spirit and excitement of the music, the high-octane touring show Celtic Crossroads was created, offering heart-wrenching ballads, foot-stomping jigs and reels, and incredible dance music.
“It tracks the history and influence that Irish music has projected onto the world, along with the energy and passion that only a show so fresh out of Ireland could do,” said the show’s producer and co-founder, Kevin Crosby. “With a focus on keeping the crossroads tradition alive, each performer nurtures this bygone concept and by virtue of their young age and raw talent, high-kick this tradition into the 21st century.”
Each of the musicians is a multi-award-winning champion on several instruments and a very successful artist in their own right, and so the formation of Celtic Crossroads marked the creation of an unprecedented “super group.”
The genesis of the performance troupe dates back to 2005, when Galway-born Crosby was working in an Irish-themed hotel in the United States and was horrified at what he saw there.
“I was very embarrassed in seeing how Irish culture was being portrayed in the U.S. and North America,” he said. “At the same time my brother Eamon was in Australia and when we came back to Ireland, he had a similar experience, so we decided to put on a street show and put together a unique collection of music and dance.”
The Crosby brothers teamed with friend Michael McClintock, now the show’s musical director, and created a fun summer-time street performance theater show, which grew and grew as positive word of mouth spread.
“From the very beginning patrons would say to us that we had finally come up with a truly authentic Irish show, embracing an exciting mixture of music, song and dance,” Crosby said. “In 2007, we became quite ambitious and decided to take it on tour. We never dreamed that it would turn into a show of worldwide audiences at some of the biggest stages.”
In just five years, Celtic Crossroads is doing for Irish music what Riverdance has done for Irish dance. People can see the excitement for themselves when Celtic Crossroads plays two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, at The Barns at Wolf Trap.
“I jumped on the bandwagon when they did their first U.S. tour and they have played here almost every time since,” said Peter Zimmerman, director of program and production for Wolf Trap. “This is a little different than other Celtic acts and has some great production value to it.”
One of the great things about Celtic Crossroads is the commitment to tradition. Since the beginning, every performer who has been part of the show has come from a background with a deep respect for the music.
“The Irish music scene is quite a close-knit community, so quite often some of the cast members have known each other since childhood,” said Diarmaid Hurley, who accompanies the acts on the bodhrán throughout the show. “The main thing I love about it is I’m traveling, living and playing music with a really good bunch of close friends who all come from different places and lives, but who came together through the love of the music.”
Marcus Donnelly, who serves as dance director for the show, feels that the constant stream of new material is what keeps Celtic Crossroads fresh and challenging for all involved.
“Every show is live and there is an energy and excitement which comes with having to perform on time every time,” he said. “Working with the boys and girls of Celtic Crossroads has been a roller coaster ride through hell and high water, from busking on the smallest streets of my hometown in the west of Ireland to sold-out arenas across North America.”