Arts | Holidays

Review: Magical Strings' Celtic Yuletide Concerts

A magical holiday show with step dancing, juggling, Irish instruments and a dress-up parade

Beautiful music, unusual instruments, Irish step dancing, juggling and a dress-up parade: The Magical Strings Celtic Yuletide holiday show, performed at a number of venues in December, offers a fun outing for families.

Magical Strings is an Irish musical group made up of members of the Boulding family, sometimes called the “Von Trapps of the Northwest." They are performing their 36th season of Celtic Yuletide concerts, with three generations of musicians playing, dancing, juggling and telling stories in the show.

Phillip and Pam Boulding, founders of the Magical Strings School of Music, play celtic harp, hammered dulcimer, penny whistle and the accordion. In the show we saw, two of their sons joined them on stage to play the cello, whistle and organ. The family was accompanied by Canadian fiddler and dancer Jocelyn Petit, as well as percussionist Matt Jerrel and Colm MacCarthaigh, a guitarist and singer from Dublin.

The music alternated between slow, soulful melodies and faster jigs. In between songs, Phillip and Pam told stories about their recent trip to Ireland and the origins of some of the original compositions. The Tara Academy dancers added a fun visual element to the show with lightning-fast step dancing. Two tiny Boulding grandchildren danced along with them, and were nothing short of adorable. My family enjoyed the variety of instruments, especially the fiddle. 

During intermission, audience members (adults and kids) were invited to don a costume and join in a processional down the aisle and around the stage, led by one of the musicians playing a penny whistle. At the end of the second act, the lights came up and the audience was invited to join in singing a few Christmas carols.

Parents should know

All three of my children, ages 7, 11 and 15, enjoyed the concert for different reasons (juggling, dancing and music, respectively), but the show was a bit long (about 2.5 hours total) and the first act too slow for my younger kids.

My teen, husband and I did thoroughly enjoy the beautiful music and dancing and there were many younger kids in the audience who obviously enjoyed the show. Parents know best their kids’ attention span, and for kids interested in Celtic music or Irish dance, this show is a must.

Make sure your kids know about the opportunity to put on a costume during intermission and join the processional down the aisle and up onto the stage. In the show we saw, kids could also sit on the stage and watch the juggling before the music began for the second act.

If you go ...

When: Celtic Yuletide concerts will be performed in Tacoma, Bellevue, Seattle, Mount Vernon, Portland and Leavenworth through Dec. 19. Find the full schedule or see the list below.

Prices: Ticket prices vary by venue, and performers vary by show.

SEATTLE: Saturday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Seattle

MOUNT VERNON: Sunday, Dec. 14, 3 p.m., The Lincoln Theatre

BELLEVUE: Monday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., The Theater at Meydenbauer

LEAVENWORTH: Friday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m., The Snowy Owl Theater

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