Celtic Fire gives successful performance


Celtic Fire performing at Outside The Box Art Festival.

Kyle Cravens

 It could be attendants at Stephens Auditorium Monday night were still hyped from the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day, but the tone of Celtic Fire’s performance was energetic and lively. A perfect mixture of dance and song, Celtic Fire delivered on its promise: to share Irish culture with whoever was lucky enough to watch.

The show began with a musical number from Celtic Fire’s band, which was made up of extremely talented musicians. There was the drummer, the fiddler, the uilleann player (an elbow bagpipe), the guitar player, and the keyboardist. Combined, they created a rich and full harmony, sounding as traditional as their advertisements promised.

Celtic Fire was led by seasoned performer Michael Londra, who did an excellent job of keeping people amused. A native Irishman, Londra had enough stories from his travels and childhood to fill a book.

He has recently established his home away from home here in Ames, Iowa, so this performance was extremely special to him.

“I have toured around the world, and I chose this as my home because I can tell life is simple here,” said Londra. “This town gives me peace.”

You might run into Londra at the supermarket here in Ames, and you might mistake him for a pirate because of his accent, but do not sleep on his vocal talents or ability to command the stage.

Although his storytelling never fell flat, it took him a few songs for his voice to really sound as good as people say, the last song of the night, especially, moved everyone. His voice was sounded like the wind, but as tangible as water.

During the middle portion of the show, the song “The Water Is Wide” was effective in getting the crowd involved with the lyrics and Londra even exclaimed during the show, “Ames… you can sing!”

A story accompanied every song, and learning about Londra’s career one story at a time really made him feel like a friend, someone everyone in the audience knew personally.

These are the sort of stories people where Londra hails from share in pubs and taverns, such as his lessons of Gaelic speech or his time on Broadway. He had a big ego and never missed an opportunity to crack a joke. He could afford it because of his talent and experience.

While Londra succeeded in charming the audience over time, the professional river dancers that made up the other half of Celtic Fire did not hesitate to wow the crowd. The group was made up of four girls and two men, and their feet moved as fast as human eyes could perceive. The crowd ate every dance up, clapping along with the traditional music as the dancers flew across the stage, arms locked to their sides, tapping the ground that lent to the rhythm.

An especially exciting moment came about midway through the show when the two male dancers each tried to outdo the other in a river dance battle. Just when you thought they were moving as quick as humanly possible, in an instant they could turn it up to eleven.

The professional Celtic Fire dancers weren’t the only ones tapping around on stage. Local Ames dancers from Robert Thomas Dancenter’s Irish Performance Team had a couple special numbers during the show.

One of the Ames dancers, Frankie Feldmeier, a Junior at Iowa State majoring in Integrated Studio Arts, thought they were successful alongside the professional dancers.

“I am proud of the girls,” Feldmeier said. “I think they impressed people given most of the girls have none done anything to this scale.”

Feldmeier loves to be on stage and has been dancing since she was three years old.

“It was amazing to be up there on stage with Celtic Fire, such great energy combined with nerve-wracking feelings,” Feldmeier said. “I want to pursue something like this as a career, I want to see how Londra’s dancers got involved.”

The local dancers certainly pulled on the heartstrings of the audience and with any luck, Frankie Feldmeier and her fellow peers have a good shot at performing at the next level after associating with a big name such like Michael Londra.

A standing ovation met Londra and his band after the closing number, and everyone participating in the show deserved it. They captured the spirit of Ireland, and it rubbed off on everyone in the audience.

The crowd yelled a hearty Irish “HUP!” as the curtain closed. Londra must be proud of his achievement of spreading culture through song and dance.

Perhaps song and dance is a language we all understand.