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Sing of Old Éire and the Ancient Ways: The Irish Heritage Singers

By Monica Friedman November 19, 2014

Chicago Based Celtic Musical Group Carries Tradition on Wings of Song

For nearly three decades, Irish American musicians in the Chicago area have gathered together under the auspices of the Irish American Heritage Center to share their love of singing and their cultural heritage, transmitting their joyous history by means of music. The Irish Heritage Singers perform in English and Gaelic, with a set list comprising liturgical, traditional, and contemporary Irish songs. From a small informal group that began singing together in the late seventies, the Irish Heritage Singers have grown to a vibrant choir of three or four dozen voices with an admirable performance schedule and multiple CDs for sale.

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Shining through every note in their repertoire is a palpable joy evident to listeners. This is a group that illustrates the pure pleasure of singing, and watching them sing is an exercise in delight.

Judy Loevy, the chair of the group’s board and a performer as well, has a long tradition of music in her own life. She comes, “from a singing family. My mother sang all day,” Loevy recalls. “She had a beautiful voice.” Many years ago, upon attending her first IHS concert, “I knew that I wanted to be a part of this ensemble.” With frequent performances throughout Chicagoland and nearby regions of the Midwest (along with the occasional trip to perform in Ireland), participation in the Irish Heritage Singers affords plenty of opportunities to share that beautiful tradition. The group has even been honored to perform for not one but two presidents of Ireland; for the marriage-minded lovers of Irish music, they are available to perform at weddings.

Ears and Eyes Wide Open

Irish music exhibits “great depth and passion,” says Loevy, citing modern songwriters such as Bono and Enya along with older influences such as sean-nós (literally “old style,” traditionally performed in a haunting, solo, a capella voice) and the poetry of WB Yeats, which is often performed set to melody. The Irish Heritage Singers may perform Latin mass, or they may tackle a rowdy pub tune. “Music is an integral piece of the Irish culture,” she explains. Historically, Irish music served as a means of transmitting news and keeping Irish history vibrantly alive long before the invention of the printing press. Now, with the modern world’s glut of information, the tables have turned. It is the music, rather than the news, which requires particular attention for continued survival. Considering the vast scope of the tradition, the Irish Heritage Singers have a huge catalog from which to choose.

While Irish music runs the full spectrum from sacred to worldly, the experience of singing in the choir requires plain organization. Planning ahead and keeping things orderly prevents mishaps and keeps the group singing strong. When things go wrong, which happens rarely, performers keep calm, although, on one occasion the clouds opened up during an outdoor performance and the singers had to run for cover as lightning lit up the sky. Another time, while putting on a musical version of “Finnegan’s Wake,” the actor playing the corpse, “fell asleep and began snoring.” Unfazed, Loevy reports, “We gently pinched him and continued on.” The show, of course, must go on.

Selling the Show

The Irish Heritage singers are longtime fans of TicketPrinting.com. “Your product is really very high quality,” says Loevy, adding, “The design and ordering process is very user friendly.” It’s easy to navigate the online ordering system to choose and customize one of the hundreds of available designs, or to reorder tickets from a previous order. She specifically requested TicketPrinting.com tickets ordered for an upcoming performance due to the fact that she had been so satisfied by her past experiences with the company. Photorealistic printing on high quality card stock ensures a product that helps performers sell their shows and get on with the business of performing. “The quality of the ticket simply enhances what we are trying to do with our publicity,” she says.

Those other publicity efforts include “massive emails blasts,” sent out to the mailing list in advance of their concerts, apprising fans of upcoming events. They also produce flyers and posters, which are distributed to merchants, churches, and the IAHC, and displayed locally to help share event details with the community and generate interest in concerts. The group enjoys being featured in local newspapers such as the Irish American News as well as on Irish themed radio programs. In addition to their own website, they make use of the IAHC website for publicity purposes, and maintain their own Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel. YouTube is an especially powerful tool for musical groups, allowing for a showcase that can present the highlights of a concert, while selling future concerts to viewers.

History is Now

Irish music celebrates the past and brings it to life in the present, goals that the Irish Heritage Singers look forward to continuing in the future. After twenty-nine years, they continue to audition new singers, with the goal of remaining “a quality ensemble for many years to come.” Their mission, “to carry on the traditions and culture of the Irish people,” remains safe as long as the love of music persists in Irish American people. Potential new members are invited to contact the group for more details by calling 773 282 7035 and asking for extension 34 or e-mailing irishheritagesingers@irishahc.org.