I love Christmas. I usually start humming carols as soon as the last trick-or-treater leaves my porch. But Frank Daly has me beat by a mile. Or, more accurately, by four months.
He was playing Christmas music in the car last July, driving his four kids to the shore for vacation. “I was saying, what do you think about this one?” recalls Daly, lead singer for Jamison Celtic Rock and co-founder of American Paddy’s Productions. “And my kids were, ‘Really, Dad?’”
Daly wasn’t rushing the season but planning for it. With his American Paddy’s partner, C.J. Mills, he’s producing his second American Celtic Christmas show for December 7 at Bensalem High School. Producing a show—and they have a thousand moving parts–isn’t like Christmas shopping. It takes more than a couple of months and you sure can’t do it the night before.
It took more than a year to plan the first one—from finding the venue, nailing down the performers and yes, selecting the music of the season when it wasn’t the season. But he loves it. “I have a passion for theater, for theatrics and incorporating a lot of moving parts,” he admits.
He’s also partial to Christmas. “I am a Christmas lover. Always. How can you tell?” he laughed. “I make a conscious effort this time of year not to be overwhelmed by shopping, stress, time constraints, weather. Many years ago I was talking to a priest and he was telling me that when he does funerals, he always asks [the deceased’s loved ones] about vacations and Christmas because those are the memories that are strongest in most people’s minds. That stuck with me.”
There were 1,000 people at last year’s show, which featured former Causeway singer Kim Killen, Celtic Flame Dancers, the Bucks County Dance School, a hip-hop DJ, and, of course, Jamison. Killen, Celtic Flame, the Bucks County Dance School and Jamison will be back, and joining them this year will be singer-songwriter John Byrne (who will be performing solo and with Jamison) and DJ Dan Cronin, founder of the Hair O’ The Dog black tie charity event (which this year benefits the Claddagh Fund and takes place on November 27 at Vanity Nightclub in Philadelphia).
American Paddy’s other event, The Philadelphia Fleadh, held in Pennypack Park last June, mixed traditional Irish music and culture with Celtic rock and other strictly American music. Hip-hop DJs, uillean pipe players, Irish step dancers in full Book of Kells regalia, and modern dancers in leotards all came together at the big Irish-American table. Likewise, the American Celtic Christmas Show is a genre-twisting night of Irish culture. As Daly likes to say, “we celebrate being Irish American and not just Irish.” So the Celtic Flame Dancers will be dancing to a technoclub song—you’ll see how step dancing easily makes the genre leap—while the Bucks County Dancers will do a modern dance to an Irish reel.
Daly and Mills hoped that the show would take off and become a holiday tradition for Irish-American families and they saw evidence of that last year. “A lot of people started buying tickets for family groups,” says Daly. “People were telling us they invited family from an hour or two hours away and had a dinner. It served as their Christmas gathering because it gets so crazy the week of Christmas.”
Daly also hoped it took off because he quit his day job last year when the planning got bigger than he could handle in a 24-hour day. (He was director of marketing for the McGrogan Group, which owns Kildare’s, Harvest, and other restaurants). It was a gutsy move. “I quit with no means of support except what we make in the band. And I have four kids and a mortgage.”
But there was that love thing too. “I absolutely love this, it’s all I ever wanted to do,” he says. “I never worked so hard in my life but I never felt so satisfied. It’s been a really good couple of years.”
Pick up some of that Christmas spirit yourself. There are two American Celtic Christmas shows this year, one at 3 PM and the other at 7 PM on Saturday, December 7, at Bensalem High School, 4319 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem, PA. Tickets range from $10 to $20, with a 10 percent discount for groups of 10 or more. For more information, go to the website. You can also purchase tickets by clicking on the American Celtic Christmas ad you see at the top of our pages.