By: Mickayla Beckett
With all of the festivities and business in Cincinnati during autumn, it may seem a bit surprising that a non-themed concert could be completely packed. For many of the Irish-descended or Irish-interested people in Cincinnati, however, it seems that a concert was the best place to be. The concert was a stop in Loreena McKennitt’s 2016 world tour, and it was indeed completely packed at the Taft Theater on the 2016 Halloween night.
Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian with an Irish background and a love for the Celtic heritage generally, had only one concert in Cincinnati on this tour. Perhaps that was part of the attraction that drew people from their festivities to the event, or perhaps it was the night itself: sunset of All Hallow’s Eve would be the beginning of Samhain’s festival for the end of harvest. It would have been a day of feasting, music, and games in ancient Ireland and was also considered a time when the borders between this world and the otherworld weakened. With a history like that, perhaps an event centered on the rich history of Ireland made perfect sense. Playing the song “Samain Night” may have set the mood even more.
The concert featured plenty of music and stories, some from McKennitt’s life and travels and others from ancient myth, poetry, and sources contemporary to Irish events such as the Easter Rising of 1916, the centennial commemoration of which was a major part of Irish life. As such, the concert not only entertained but taught as well. The myths and legends of the bonny swamps, Anachie Gordon, and Brian Boru were paired with stories of red-haired mummies believed to be pre-Celtic being found in an ancient Chinese burial ground. McKennitt wove an atmosphere of learning with careful choices in music and literature. In the true Irish spirit, she also made sure to stress the future and the importance of making choices to take care of people, the environment, and our world as a whole. It was an experience that hints at the power a seanachie, or storyteller, may have had on the ancient Celts.
For some of the distant descendants of the Irish people, it may have been the closest they could get to connecting with their ancestral culture in the middle of a Cincinnati autumn and perhaps that is why the standard hours we set for Halloween celebrations were spent listening and feeling rather than eating candy or partying. Instead of all that, All Hallows’ Eve was spent nurturing the soul-felt connection to ancestors and heroes long gone.