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Emory stars in broadcast of Southern Celtic Christmas celebration

Faculty and students from Emory’s performing arts programs plus a crown jewel of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library are featured in “A Southern Celtic Christmas Concert” to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. on Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB).

Produced in Ireland, in the region of Appalachia, and on the stage of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, “A Southern Celtic Christmas” celebrates in music, dance, poetry, song and story the high spirits and mystical beauty of the Christmas traditions of the Celtic lands and their connection with similar traditions of the American South.

The concert was filmed live at Emory in 2010. Several Emory faculty members have solo roles on the program and a chorus of students trained by Eric Nelson, professor of music and director of choral studies, perform against a stage design by Sarah Ward of the Department of Theater Studies. James Flannery, Winship Professor of the Arts and Humanities Emeritus, is the producer, director and host of the program.

The papers of Nobel laureate and poet Seamus Heaney, who had many personal and professional connections to Emory, are considered among the crown jewels of the Rose Library’s collection of Irish material. A rare interview with Heaney, who died in 2013, just a few months after visiting and giving a reading at Emory, is a highlight of the program. In the setting of the ancient gravestones of Glendalough, Ireland, Heaney talks about his poem “St. Kevin and the Blackbird,” based on the fable of the sixth century Irish monk. 

He says that St. Kevin’s message of love is emulated by Pope Francis. “It would seem that Pope Francis is challenging us to embrace a similar unity founded on ‘the miracle of love,’ a love which has no limit, natural or supernatural, thus establishing a universal brotherhood of souls,” Heaney says in the program.

“It strikes me that [a] realization of the deeply spiritual side of Ireland is what has attracted people to the national broadcast,” remarks Flannery.

The program also features performances by a number of world-class artists, including Moya Brennan, Alison Brown, John Doyle, Joe Craven, “Riverdance” composer Bill Whelan and the soulful gospel harmonies of Rising Appalachia.

This is the eighth consecutive year that GPB has aired the program statewide as a one of their holiday offerings.

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