Courtesy photoTouch of Ireland: Tenor Michael Londra — known for appeareances in “Riverdance” — brings his varied holiday show to The City.

Singer Michael Londra sings a cool ‘Celtic Yuletide’

“It’s like a full circle experience for me,” says singer Michael Londra of his return to San Francisco in “Celtic Yuletide” at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre.

“When I first came over to the U.S. in ’99, I was the lead singer with ‘Riverdance’ and we did a month here. It was the best month of my whole tour with the show. My family and best friends came over from Ireland. It just seemed like I was on vacation.”

“It was,” he adds, “a wild time, I will also say. Now I feel like a grown-up which, given the fact I’m in my mid-40s … it’s about time!”

Currently based in Chicago, Londra today opens a three-week run of a holiday show he developed, putting an Eire accent on traditional holiday observances.

As part of promotional activities, he recently appeared, with some trepidation, at the opening of the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink on Union Square.

“Irish fellas don’t skate,” he says. “There’s one ice skating rink in the whole country and there was a big hoo-hah when it opened because there’s no snow or ice in Ireland. So on Union Square I was terrified they’d ask me to skate … or wear a unitard!”

Instead, he got the pleasure of seeing trained professionals skate to “Beyond the Star,” a song he wrote for his 2009 holiday compilation CD of the same name. “It’s not often you have that experience,” he says. “I felt like a proud Irish boy that day.”

Londra is eager to expand the American public’s concept of Irish culture beyond the vigorous stepping “Riverdance” and “Danny Boy,” too often treated as an oversung aria. He’s long felt both obligation and resistance to that famous song and his recently released recording is a spare, gentle and elegant rendition, which just passed 5 million downloads.

“Irish-Americans have had a tendency to focus on shamrocks, shillelaghs and famine boats,” says Londra. “Ireland, particularly in the past 15 to 20 years, has essentially overhauled itself. Despite the recession of the past two years, it’s a very dynamic, modern society with very modern influences.”

According to Londra, that modern assimilation, combined with a reverence for Irish musical traditions is the very heart of his show, which combines fiddles and bodhrans (drums) with a string section and some electronic instrumentation.

“The whole point,” he says, “is to blend all these influences and put them into the Irish music or take American songs and give them that kind of Celtic feel.”

IF YOU GO

Michael Londra in Celtic Yuletide

Where: Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and most Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and this Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Dec. 24 and Jan. 1, 2 and 9 p.m. Dec. 31; closes Jan. 1

Tickets: $35 to $100

Contact: (415) 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com

artsentertainmentmusicPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

DA Boudin to stop charging for contraband at traffic stops, gang enhancements

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced policy changes Friday aimed at reducing racial… Continue reading

New case of coronavirus reported in Santa Clara County

Infection second this week in Bay Area not linked to travel

City Attorney targets permit expediter, developers in new round of subpoenas

San Francisco’s corruption scandal is the dumpster fire that keeps on giving… Continue reading

SF to introduce legislation authorizing safe injection sites

Mayor Breed and Supervisor Haney join forces to create regulations, permit process for nonprofits

Most Read