By Alison Baumgartner
In the mid-19th century, pushed by famine, taxes, persecution, and war, half of the population of Ireland ended up on the shores of foreign lands. Celtic Nights, the internationally-acclaimed group of Irish singers and dancers, venture to tell that story in Oceans of Hope. Established in 2012, Celtic Nights has traveled the world, sharing songs from their homeland and stories about the places their ancestors voyaged to. What began as a show that delved into the reasons why Irish emigrants made the journey to America, has now become an exploration of Irish history in an all-new production coming to the Fort Collins Lincoln Center March 6.
From America to Australia, the melodies and rhythms of Irish music and dance weave a rich tapestry of a people that may have left home behind, but never abandoned it in their hearts. Oceans of Hope will take the audience on an epic journey through moments of joy and sadness, and tell the stories of Irish ancestors. “We wanted Celtic Nights to combine every aspect of the Irish tradition,” states Celtic Nights singer Ciaran Olohan. “We have songs, dance, and story-telling, so we can give a real taste of every aspect in our culture.”
“Every Irish song has a story,” says Celtic Nights singer, Rebekah Johanne. “If you’re listening to the lyrics, you’re in the story.” In fact, it’s one of the reasons why this show is unique as compared to other Celtic shows. While the show is about exhibiting Irish culture, it’s also about inviting everyone into it.
“There are no walls between the performers and the audience,” says Johanne as she describes the wealth of emotions that the show explores, from the serious and reflective, to the comedic and heart-warming.
“The most incredible part of the show,” says Olohan, “is when the whole audience is on their feet and enjoying the show. We’ve given them an experience to connect themselves to their history.”
Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister of Ireland praised Celtic Nights as a group that has “brought our distinctive and evolving music and dance tradition to the world stage and showcased our tradition in spectacular fashion.” Johanne adds that the show is “very Ireland.”
But Celtic Nights: Oceans of Hope is not just about the past and the Irish diaspora and the hardship that forced them away from their homes and led them in alien lands. It’s about the now. It’s about the future. It’s about the family that we all share.
Celtic Nights is excited to come back to Colorado. Last time they were here in 2016, they just happened to be in a Denver Irish pub the day the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 — which left them with the impression that Coloradoans are excessively friendly and happy. (We argue this to be true no matter the circumstance, but we may be a tad bit biased.) “We look forward to seeing everyone in Colorado again,” says Johanne.