Joanie Madden: The Christmas Letter

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Monday December 07, 2015

From Irish America

Joanie Madden: The Christmas Letter
By: Mary Pat Kelly

Irish music was the soundtrack to life for Joanie Madden growing up in the Bronx, NY back in the 1970s. Her father, Joe Madden, from Portumna in East Galway, was an All-Ireland accordion champion, who headed a popular 13-piece band for years, playing weddings and county dances. Her mother was a traditional Irish set dancer from Miltown Malbay, County Clare.

‘I was lucky ‘” even if you didn’t want to hear it, or weren’t into it, you were learning Irish music by osmosis,’ said Joanie in an interview with Irish America earlier this year. She received her musical training on the tin whistle and the flute early in life and in a short time began winning awards. She was the first American to win the senior all-Ireland championship on the tin whistle in 1984, and since 1985 has been the central force behind Cherish the Ladies, the all-female traditional Irish music group, leading them to international acclaim.

The group has produced 17 albums to date. In addition, Joanie is the top-selling whistle player in history, having sold over 500,000 solo albums, and she is in high demand as a studio musician and has performed on over a hundred albums, running the gamut from Pete Seeger to Sinead O’Connor. She is also a gifted composer, and many of her tunes have become standards in traditional music circles.

To celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary, Cherish the Ladies have been on a year-long tour ‘” with sold-out concerts across the U.S. and Ireland, including at such venues as the legendary Beacon Theatre in New York City, where they played November 27, the day after Thanksgiving. Somehow they also found the time to rehearse and record a Christmas album. The group’s first album to be recorded in Ireland, it features old standards such as ‘Come All Ye Faithful,’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ but also a beautiful rendition of ‘Christmas Letter,’ a poignant poem that Joanie set to music, and a recitation of another poem ‘An Irish Christmas.’

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