Nothing shouts Christmas like a visit by the Leahy family. Their fiddles and fancy footwork propel everyone within range to their feet. Once again, they bring their Canadian musical heritage of Celtic melodies and dance to George Mason University's Center for the Arts. Two years after their last performance there, the eight siblings from the family of 11 musicians reprise an evening reminiscent of those they enjoyed as children. The band members are Angus, Donnell, Doug, Erin, Frank, Maria, Siobheann and Denise, who is filling in as keyboardist, dancer and singer for Agnes, currently awaiting her next baby. To double the joy, the band is joined onstage by eight precocious nieces and nephews for an outpouring of musical traditions.
"We grew up on a farm where everyone had the responsibility of chores," Angus explained. "Our parents did not allow us to waste our free time watching television. They said if we wanted to hear music, we would have to make it ourselves, so we did. Everyone selected an instrument. I chose the fiddle, but we all fool around on all the instruments and play whatever fits the occasion.
"We all learned the traditional dances that the early Celt, Irish, Scottish and English settlers brought from their homeland to Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia. The step dances originated in the Canadian lumber camps, where the men came together for the winter when they couldn't work. To entertain themselves, they played music and danced. The result of all the cultures coming together was the creation of dances unique to that part of the world."
|'A Leahy Family Christmas'|
|Where: George Mason Center for the Arts Concert Hall, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax|
|When 7 p.m. Sunday|
|Info: $25 to $50; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu|
Dance punctuates the lively numbers with intense rhythm as the musicians ply their individual instruments. Donnell, Angus and Doug hold forth on fiddle, Siobheann plays bass, Erin is at the piano, Maria strums the guitar, and Frank is the drummer, surrounded by Plexiglas to control the volume. Erin and Siobheann are the designated singers, but everyone participates when needed.
Just as the entire family excels musically, so do they shine in sports. Donnell, Doug, Angus and Frank favor soccer, hockey and golf. Each year, Frank hosts an annual golf tournament. Maria and Erin play in the local women's soccer league, while Siobheann balances her love of the outdoors with painting and Agnes participates in swing dancing and sports of all kinds when she is not baking.
"As any family who grew up together connected musically, this is something we just have to do," Angus said. "Our tours are separate from Natalie's, but occasionally her band and ours come together on the road. It's rewarding for us all to conduct the camp each summer and see the interest the kids who attend have and the good that comes out of it. Whether we're performing there or onstage during our tours, we want everyone to go away energized and motivated to make music."