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Celtic Fire blazes new trail

Michael Londra and Celtic Fire perform Saturday at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.
Michael Londra and Celtic Fire perform Saturday at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

Irish-themed production makes first-ever trip to Fox

You can’t exactly call Celtic Fire a local act.

This Irish-themed music and dance troupe is national in scope, soon to film a PBS special. It’s in the middle of a tour which includes Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California.

Yet for many of the members, Saturday’s appearance at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox is a homecoming show – the first ever in Spokane.

Celtic Fire’s five-piece band includes three members of the well-known local Celtic group An Dochas. And the core of the 11-person dance ensemble consists of the Haran Irish Dancers of Kettle Falls and Spokane.

But they’ve never played here as part of Celtic Fire, which is headlined by a decidedly nonlocal name, Michael Londra.

Londra, the show’s singer and producer, is an Irish native who’s based in Chicago. He was the lead singer of “Riverdance Broadway” and has developed a national following over many years.

He’ll be filming a PBS special in California this spring, titled “Beyond Celtic,” with many of the musicians and dancers in Celtic Fire. It will air in late summer.

Celtic Fire also includes plenty of other national talent. The fiddle player is Caitlin Warbelow from New York, who has toured with the singing act Cherish the Ladies.

The keyboard player is Peter Storms from Chicago and a frequent Londra collaborator. And the lead dancer, Owen Barrington, is a “Riverdance” veteran out of Tacoma.

The local connection began several years ago when Londra connected with members of An Dochas to back him in his popular Celtic Yuletide shows.

An Dochas and the Haran Irish Dancers are longtime collaborators from their Stevens County roots, so when the idea arose for Celtic Fire, a more dance-oriented show, it made sense to recruit Claire Wooley of Haran as the choreographer, along with many of her dancers.

According to Mellad Abeid, the Spokane-based guitarist with An Dochas and Celtic Fire, Saturday’s show should be a great family St. Patrick’s Day outing.

St. Patrick’s Day? Isn’t that a couple of weeks away?

Not if you’re a touring Celtic act.

“Our St. Patrick’s Day runs from the end of January through April,” joked Abeid.

The other An Dochas members in Celtic Fire are David Schulz, on whistle and uilleann pipes, and Jeremy Oswin on bodhran, the Irish drum.