With a professional dancer for a mom and a rock singer for a dad, Louise Barry always knew she was destined to be a performer.
“I started as soon as I could walk and talk,” Barry recalled. “My first real performance was at the age of 2. Given my parents’ backgrounds, I got to see through the looking glass, and I was hooked. It’s part of me, and I don’t think I could do anything else.”
She said her mother was a ballerina and choreographer, and her father sang in Irish show bands but was best known as lead singer of The Memories. (Barry’s grandfather was also a professional performer – he was a percussionist for the London Philharmonic and concert orchestras.)
Today, Barry is writer, director and choreographer of the Celtic Angels, a group that shares the music and dance of her beloved homeland of Ireland. Barry will bring the “Celtic Angels Ireland” show to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Monday, March 27, at 7 p.m. The Celtic Angels will be joined by the Celtic Knight Dancers and the Trinity Band Ensemble of Dublin.
“I, like a lot of performers, are quite hyperactive, and I found that branching out into many facets of the performing arts felt so natural,” Barry said. “The more juggling balls the better. I love to be a performer, but I do love to watch and nurture others. To see ideas develop and to witness the many twists and turns a thought can take when others are involved. That’s where my choreography and directing came into play. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities I have had in all of these roles.”
Barry joined the Celtic Angels in 2021. “With COVID, Irish-based performers were grounded, so operations moved to the U.S.,” she said. “I was honored to take on the roles of writer, director and choreographer — I am surrounded by immense talent.”
Daniel Thompson, their musical director, was previously with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, with additional arrangements for Celtic Angels created by Peter Sheridan from Celtic Thunder. Dan Drew, the Irish step choreographer, is a champion Irish dancer. Sarah Costello, casting director and assistant director, is an Irish dance professional and adjudicator.
The group travels to shows by convoy with four vehicles hauling 20 people. They perform during the holiday season of Thanksgiving-Christmas Eve, then again for the “Irish Season” of February-April, Barry said.
“On this current tour, we will perform in 20 states,” she said. “We haven’t taken this group out of the country yet, but there are big plans in the works.”
Barry said they are talking about adding some summer and fall tour dates. She noted that touring “isn’t for everyone,” but added that she really enjoys it.
“You get to see so much of this beautiful country and so many stunning venues,” she said, noting that the group currently was driving past the Badlands in South Dakota. “I’ve visited 47 states – only Nebraska, North Dakota and Alaska are left of my list.”
Barry says she splits her time between homes in New York and Dublin. “I am married,” she said. “My brilliant husband Dave started his career as a drummer and has evolved into a multi-instrumentalist and singer. He is currently on tour with fiddle star Eileen Ivers. When we’re not on our separate tours, we perform together as The Diddley Idols.”
The couple released an album, “We Said We Would,” which is available on music streaming services, along with a cover of their most requested song, “Zombie,” by another Irish band, The Cranberries. “We had fun doing that,” she said.
Berry also is featured on background vocals for “countless albums with Irish artists back home. “And, I was lucky enough to be asked to sing on Eileen Ivers most recent release, ‘Scatter The Light.’ ”
‘THE MAJESTY OF SONG’
Concertgoers at the NPAC show can expect an evening of “craic” (fun), “ceol” (music) and “traidisiun” (tradition), Barry promises.
“I like to think of the Celtic Angels as an immersive experience,” she said. “Our story is told through the majesty of song performed in close harmony by our diva angels – Olivia Bradley, Michaela Growth, Chloe Haven and myself. It’s filled with good Irish craic but, as with all Irish stories, tinged with some heartache and tragedy.”
The “fifth angel” is fiddle virtuoso Danielle Turano who “commands the stage with her playing,” Barry said.
The group is complete with the Celtic Knight Dancers who “set your heart pumping and have your jaws dropping with their dynamic and powerful dances” and the live band, the Trinity Ensemble, who “will have your hands clapping and your feet stomping.”
Barry said it is hard to decide what her favorite part of the show is. “It’s non-stop from start to finish, so it’s hard to pick just one thing,” she said. “Our storytelling is aided by the use of video projections and a very special guest narration throughout.”
Barry hopes that concertgoers will learn something new about the Emerald Isle during the show. “We touch on some of the history of my beautiful country,” she said. “I took inspiration from a piece of jewelry we have at home which shows the history of Ireland in symbols.”
‘MORE THAN JUST TRADITIONAL TUNES’
She added: “I try to instill that Irish music is more than just traditional tunes. We have some of the biggest rock and pop bands in the world, so there are a few nods in that direction, too.”
For those who want to take a little bit of the show home with them, the band will be selling their “Christmas Alive” album at the concert. “It’s a live recording of our Christmas production, featuring Christmas and Irish classics,” she said. “It’s lovely.”
But mostly, their concert is just fun, she said. “Irish traditional music is infectious,” Barry said. “It’s primal and tribal. It resonates to the core. There are so many movements in Irish music, it’s hard not to become involved in it – be it clapping, singing or crying.”