A Galway to Broadway Christmas!

On December 14, the Garner Performing Arts Center opened its fourth season of Broadway Voices by featuring a group of talented musicians, led by Ciarán Sheehan.  Sheehan is most known for his time spent portraying the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera – over 1,000 performances in total!  Sheehan was joined by Irish singer/songwriter Gabriel Donahue, pianist Sue Anderson, and violinist Heather Martin Bixler.  In contrast to previous performers of the series, Sheehan’s performance in Garner, North Carolina was not focused on his Broadway Career.   The majority of the music performed was rooted in his Irish background.   And, due to the pending holiday season, he sang some classic Christmas tunes – with an Irish twist. 
As someone who loves musical theatre, I was fairly disappointed that there were very few Broadway songs during the course of the show.  Sheehan’s interpretations of “Music of the Night” and “Bring Him Home” were beautiful.  However, if I were being picky, I would say that “Music of the Night” would have been a whole lot better had he sang the ballad legato rather than staccato. However, his Irish music was superb and any lover of Celtic style would be pleased! Sheehan was right on track to provide a wide range of music for his audience. 
I got so excited when I saw that Sue Anderson was to perform that night.  I had previously heard her play at another event, and her piano skills are INCREDIBLE!!!  To my dismay, Sue was not featured or given a chance to show off her own skills like the other performers.  (Note: Sue Anderson has worked as a musical director and conductor for Broadway and national touring companies, CATS in particular).
On the other hand, I was impressed with Gabriel Donahue.  He definitely has stage presence, that’s for sure.  Donahue was given some time on stage to show off his own skills as a singer and guitarist, at which time he sang “Stairway to Heaven,” “Wannabe,” and “I Will Survive”.  He also played some traditional Irish songs, using a loop pedal to provide percussion and additional melodies. 
My mother, who went to the concert with us, has always wanted to play the violin.  So, she was very impressed with Bixler.  Whenever one hears a violin playing Irish music, it is impossible not to envision Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.   So, it was no surprise when a young, North Carolina girl stepped onstage to perform a couple of Irish dances along with Bixler’s instrumentals. 

One highlight of the performance is how well the group blends together.  Not only do they play well together, they also seem like a big, happy family of friends.   A friend of mine, who works in the sound booth at GPAC, told me later that the performers stayed long after the audience had left and had their own personal jam session.   If you are given the chance to see any of these wonderful musicians, please do!
For more information on the individual performers, here are links to their websites:
For more information about the Broadway Voices concert series, visit Garner Performing Arts Center.

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