The six current members of Celtic Thunder, two former members and a special guest crowded the stage of American University's Kreeger Theatre Saturday night to celebrate the Baltimore/Washington band's 10th anniversary as one of the most satisfying traditional Irish folk bands in North America. As always, Celtic Thunder offered a nicely varied show of story songs, dance instrumentals and step-dancing as well as a refreshing balance of genders (four of the nine performers were women). The best news of the night, though, was that the band's long-awaited second album, "The Light of Other Days," is scheduled for January release.
The title comes from the old ballad "Oft in the Stilly Night," which Laura Murphy sang in her pure, aching soprano. Her predecessor, Nita Conley, reprised one of the band's most requested songs, the Nova Scotian ballad "Fiunary," which ended in breathtaking five-part harmonies. Dominick Murray used his rich-grained tenor to strengthen the rhythm as much as the melody on the waltz "Jack Hagerty." Current fiddler Rob Thornburgh and former flutist Linda Hickman played a hornpipe and three reels that were as much musical dialogues as duets.
From the start the unchanging core of the band has been the Winch brothers. Terry Winch played his ancient green accordion on his original reels like "Nita's Rambles" and "The Thunder Reel"; Jesse Winch anchored the band's tumbling rhythms with virtuoso turns on bodhran, guitar and bouzouki. Those rhythms were translated into flying knees and ankles by the band's champion step-dancer, Regan Wick, and his sister Linnane Wick, the evening's special guest from Colorado.