Terrific Celtic Influenced Christmas Music

Bruce Von Stiers

Orla Fallon has become known as the premiere vocalist for the Celtic music genre. She was the leader of the Celtic Women vocal group. Even though she still retains an association with that group, Orla has embarked on a solo career.

Orla recorded a holiday special that is now being shown on American public television. The special is called Orla Fallon’s Celtic Christmas. This special features a guest performance by a Celtic Women alum, Meav. Also making a guest appearance is American Idol runner-up David Archuleta.

Along with the special, The Elevation Group is releasing a companion CD and DVD. Both have the title of Orla Fallon’s Celtic Christmas. I got a chance to listen to the CD and was very impressed. Not only does Orla have a beautiful voice, her guests made this an even better listening experience.

The special, as well as the DVD and musical album were produced by Dan Shea. He has a long list of credits including producing for greats such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Jim Brickman and even Savage Garden. He previously produced Orla’s album Distant Shore.

Along with producing the album, Dan Shea provided music on piano, keys, guitars, bass, percussion, accordion, and whistle and did the programming. Grammy nominee Illya Toshinsky was in the band Bering Strait. She plays acoustic guitar for Orla. Illya is also on the new Keith Urban album, Bullets In The Gun. Fionan DeBarra, who has played on albums by other Celtic Women alum also plays acoustic guitar here.

Peter Wahlers has been the bassist for the faith based Irish duo the Getty’s. He plays bass for Orla along with much sought after Nashville session player Mark Hill.

One very special guest is multiple Grammy winner Vince Gill.

Eric Darken, who also plays on the new Keith Urban album, shares percussion duties with Ken Lewis and Riverdance veteran Noel Eccles. Mary Pitchford, Stuart Duncan and Andy Leftwich played fiddle for Orla. Skip Cleavinger, who has done things with a lot of people, including Steve Green, plays the Uillean pipe and whistle on songs on the album.

Chance Scoggins has worked with Point of Grace and Sandi Patty. He was the choir director for the music for Orla and was the co-arranger for her rendition of Joy To The World.

Besides singing on film soundtracks, Felicia Wolfe has lent her backing vocals to performers like Sarah Brightman and John Tesh. She lends her vocal talents on backing vocals for the songs on the album. Lisa Cochran has been on albums such as Faith Hill’s Faith. She joins Felicia on backing vocals here. Other people lending their talents on backing vocals are Michael O’Brian, Terry White, Craig Swift, Michelle Swift and Ronnie Freeman.

As for Orla, besides singing she plays the harp on the album.

On the technical side of things, the music was recorded by Billy Whittington, Brian Masterson and Dan Shea. The entire album was mixed by Billy Whittington except Away In A Manger, which was mixed by Brian Masterson.

Joy To The World is one my all-time favorite Christmas songs. Orla has beautiful vocals on her rendition of the song. There is some wonderful fiddle music and terrific backing vocals.

I Saw Three Ships has a definite Celtic turn to it. I couldn’t help but keep tapping my feet while listening to this one.

Soft, gentle and almost haunting, Orla is joined by Meav in a great rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear?

Angelic vocals and beautiful music are in It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / The First Noel.

A nice surprise on the album was the guest performance by Vince Gill on Little Drummer Boy. They had separate pieces on the song and very touching duet segments.

Then there is a great duet with David Archuelta on Silent Night.

A head bopping, toe tapping piece is A’Soalin (Soul Cake). The chorus is pretty tough with great backing vocals. The music is really cool on the song too.

Smooth and gentle is the rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. I have heard many versions of this song over the years. Orla’s is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

There is an original tune on the album. Written by Dan Shea and John Betts, Bells of Christmas has velvety yet almost haunting vocals.

Anuna is an Irish choral group known for their work with Riverdance and now call themselves Anuna, Ireland’s National Choir. Orla was a member of this group for a short time. They join Orla for a very special rendition of Away In A Manger.

The album ends with a beautiful and endearing rendition of Emmanuel.

I am a fan of Celtic Women. I am also a fan of Orla Fallon. I love both Celtic and Christmas music. So I was extremely pleased that there is an album out that has Christmas music with a Celtic influence and performed by one of the top Celtic vocalists of all time. Orla Fallon’s Celtic Christmas has just become my favorite holiday album.

The album is out in stores now and is available online through outlets like amazon.com.

There are several web sites where you can learn about Orla Fallon, her music and this latest album. The official site is www.orlafallon.com. Other sites dedicated to Orla are www.myspace.com/orlafallonofficial,

www.facebook.com/orla-fallon-official-page and www.youtube.com/orlafallonofficial

You might also want to check out her record label’s web site for other great music. Their site can be found at at www.elevationgrp.com.


© 2010 Bruce E. Von Stiers