The soft lilt of western accents will be all to the fore when the Matt Keane Christmas concerts are staged in the Claregalway Hotel on Saturday and Sunday, 6-7 January.

This is the 10th anniversary of the shows and patrons are in for a real treat as the Keane family and friends turn on the charm and style for these homely nights down west. These are the shows that reconnect hearts and minds with the true and easy-going spirit of people in the province, especially those from a rural background who are rooted in the culture and ethos of the region.

Matt will be joined by his brothers Seán and Pat, along with Orlaith and Laura Keane from the next generation of this famous Caherlistrane family. The regular musicians are back again and they are Maria Fahy, Colm Naughton, Pat Coyne, and Catherine McHugh. New to the Christmas show on this occasion are young Galway musicians Conor Connolly and Padraic Keane.

The Hernon Family from Carna in Connemara bring a lovely touch of a traditional Irish Christmas to the shows and have been popular favourites over the last two years. They are well known for their rich, vibrant music and sean-nós dancing.

Marcus Hernon is a renowned flute player, composer and performer. Some of his melodies are so evocative and haunting, especially the waltz tunes, that they seem to be in rhythm with the gentle swell and roll of the Atlantic waves of summertime along the Connemara shore.

He will be joined by his two talented sons, Proinnsias and Brendan, and their cousin, Labhrás Hernon, an excellent accompanist on keyboard and piano.

Making her debut at the Keane concerts this Christmas is Caitriona Ni Cheannabháin from Connemara. Caitriona was a finalist in the Glór Tíre series on TG4 earlier this year and is equally at home singing country and sean-nós songs. She has a new country album due for release in early 2018.

Matt Keane says they are looking forward in a special way to the anniversary shows.

“The years keeping rolling on and it is hard to believe that this will be the 10th anniversary of the concerts. They are very close to my heart as they are the main nights in the entire year that Seán, Pat and I are on the same stage together. The atmosphere is always warm and relaxed, a time to unwind and be entertained.

“We are blessed to have such loyal followers who come year after year. There is always a fine contingent from Co Galway and we get great support from Mayo as well, and the other neighbouring counties. They come from Tyrone and Donegal and other parts of the north, as well as from the Leinster and Munster counties. We had people here last Christmas from Laois and Cork, who were attending our shows for the first time because they read about them in Irish Country Living. They were delighted they made the journey.

“The Claregalway Hotel is a beautiful homely venue where Nora and Paul Gill, and their staff, have a special welcome for guests and concert patrons alike. The hotel has easy access and lots of parking available. There is now a tradition that a lot of people arrive early and relax in the bar and restaurant before the concert, and sure they are in fine fettle by the time we start,” says Matt.

These are nights for friends and salt of the earth people to come together and join in the music, songs and banter. And the late-night sessions after the concerts take on a life of their own. This is Keane country here.

  • • Tickets for the shows on 6-7 January are €25 and can be had from the Claregalway Hotel (091-738300), Quinn’s Shop in Tuam (093-26060) and Keane’s Shop, Caherlistrane. Doors open at 8pm and the shows get underway at 8.30pm. Both shows are expected to be sell-outs. CL