“Now that we’re living in Philly again, we should go on vacation in Ireland.” My wife said this to me just a few months ago, when we moved back home after spending the past 18 years in Phoenix. I definitely agreed, as we’ve always wanted to visit the Emerald Isle.
While it may be a while until we plan and go on that trip, we’ll have an opportunity to see and hear the next best thing on Sunday, March 26, when Michael Londra brings his national tour of “Ireland with Michael – LIVE” to the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Mt. Airy.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better guide than Londra for your virtual trip to Ireland. Are you looking for bona fides? He is Ireland’s leading tenor. He was the lead singer for "Riverdance on Broadway" as well as two national tours of the musical. He has performed with Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli.
Londra accompanies several groups to Ireland every year, offering top class tours of the spectacular countryside and tourist destinations but also paying homage to Ireland’s musical heritage and the inspiration behind his career to date.
More importantly, he also created and hosted two seasons of the national PBS series "Ireland with Michael," a travelogue that proudly shows viewers the best of Ireland’s music, landscape and culture. That TV series is the inspiration for the live show. It’s truly an immersive experience with singing, world champion Irish dancers, fiddles and pipes, and visual media that draw you across the Atlantic Ocean from Philadelphia to Ireland.
“It will be really special to perform at the Commodore Barry Center. I am amazed that I have never performed there,” Londra said after traveling on a cross-country flight to Philadelphia. “I grew up in Wexford, where Commodore Barry was from, and I lived nearby his statue, so this venue really has special meaning for me.”
It's also easy to tell that Londra is excited about this entire tour. “It’s so wonderful to be back out on the road and laughing with my band, many of whom have been with me for 20 years,” he continued. “Touring can be hard work, so you have to pick the right team – talented and good people. I’m fortunate to have established great relationships with the best players.”
Among them is Irish dancer Trent Kowalik, a world champion who also won a Tony award for his performance in the show “Billy Elliott” on Broadway. “Trent just has mad crazy skills,” Londra said. “He will absolutely amaze you. He’s truly at the top of his game, and at the same time he’s just so quiet and humble.”
The live show is not solely a showcase of traditional Irish music and dance. Londra also tells the stories about the artists that he showcases on his TV series “Ireland with Michael,” which he says provides a cultural context for the songs.
“I view Ireland through a slightly different lens,” said Londra who moved from Ireland to the U.S. several years ago. “It’s not just beautiful scenery that people love about Ireland; it is the people, the artists and the painters, and their emotions. People email and write to me all the time asking about these local artists that we showcase and interview on the TV show....”
Londra adds, “We are here to connect with people and deliver a good time to everyone. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. When [the performers and audience] are all laughing our way through the show, that’s how I know it’s working!”
When asked about what he missed most about touring (during the restrictive early days of COVID), he immediately answers, “It’s definitely the connecting and talking to people after the show. There’s always a great emotional bond there. The Commodore Barry Center will be a particularly good venue for that, because it’s a little smaller than some of the other places we play, so there is even more opportunity for us to connect one-on-one.”
"Ireland with Michael - LIVE" will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center, 6815 Emlen St., Mt. Airy, across from the Carpenter Street SEPTA station. For information, call 215-843-8051. Tickets are on sale at the box office or at theirishcenter.org.