LEWISTON — New England Celtic Arts will host Newfoundland’s top-rated Celtic band The Irish Descendants at the Franco American Heritage Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The band, a mainstay in the Newfoundland and Canadian music industry for more than two decades, will also perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Skye Theatre Performing Arts Center in Carthage; and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, at Unity College Center for the Performing Arts.

Formed in the spring of 1990, The Irish Descendants have since performed 4,000-plus shows. Founding members, all of whom hail from outpost fishing communities, set out to take the music they learned and performed home in their kitchens to festival stages, pubs and concert halls in Newfoundland. After the release of its first CD, “Misty Morning Shore,” in 1991, it was clear that the band was on track to take its music worldwide.

The band struck gold with its third recording, “Gypsies and Lovers,” in 1996.  Less than one year after its release, the recording attained certified Gold status in Canada. With that success came an East Coast Music Award for Entertainers of the Year, and then a coveted Juno Award (the American equivalent of a Grammy Award) for Best Roots Traditional Group. 

In 1997, the band was selected to perform for the 500th anniversary celebrations of John Cabot’s discovery of the island in 1497. This summerlong journey saw them perform for the Queen of England and the heads of state for Ireland and Spain. To date, the band has released 13 studio recordings, the most recent being “Southern Shore,” in 2008. Band members are working on another studio album, scheduled for release in early September.

Over the years, the band has been led by frontman and founding member Con O’Brien, known for his rich baritone voice. The current lineup for the winter and spring 2011 touring season includes regulars Robert Kelly, bass and vocals; and Dave Panting, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and vocals. They are joined by Kelly Russell, fiddle, bouzouki, concertina, whistles and vocals.

Tickets are $20 at the door. For reservations, call the Franco center at 783-1585, Skye Theatre at 562-4445 or UCCPA at 948-7469. The Franco center is at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston; Skye Theater is at 2 Highland Drive in Carthage; UCCPA is at 42 Depot St., Unity.


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