Songs of an Irish fantasy

Published 1:18 pm Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Northwestern Singers are primed to take their audience on a magical trip when they perform “A Celtic Fantasy,” next weekend at the Paramount Theatre.

The annual show has been a mainstay during the winter months for music lovers and this year’s show will be no different.

This year’s concert will feature a host of songs with a Celtic flair, including the favorite “O Danny Boy,” Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” and a celebration of American culture in the aptly named “O America.”

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“It’s really nice music, beautiful,” said longtime member Alice Holst.

The winter concert has been a longstanding tradition for a number years, dating back to the 1950s when the group was an all-male choir.

Through the years, as the Northwestern Singers have evolved, the winter concert has remained a fan favorite.

While past shows have involved a certain level of choreography, this year’s show will have more of a focus on singing with backing music.

“We’ll have mostly strings behind us,” said Sue Viehauser as the backing music looks to keep the feel of the Celtic-themed mix.

The singers will also play the part of storyteller as the show gradually takes listeners through the journey of Irish immigrants coming to the United States.

“It’s telling the story of coming here from Ireland,” Holst said.

The singers will also host the addition of child singers from the MacPhail Center for Music.

“MacPhail’s children’s chorus will be joining us,” Holst said. “It’s always fun to have the kids.”

Direction of this year’s show will take a slight twist. Nikki Tolde, who usually takes up the direction, will instead be needed in the choir. So, Maria Wilson will take over the directing for this performance.

The singing group has had a longstanding tradition of bringing song to the people of Austin and the surrounding area.

A large part of that success has to do with the singers themselves — and not just because of the talent, which, of course, is a large part of the popularity.

“The Northwestern Singers have survived this long because it’s this wonderful mix of singers,” Holst said. “It’s a range of ages between 19 and 70.”

And, a singing group like this is only as good as its’ accompanist, Rachel Sippel.

“She’s just so fabulous,” Viehauser said. “We have thrown some stuff at her that is really different. She’s really amazing.”

The concert will feature two shows: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 18 at the Historic Paramount Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students.