It never fails — at some point during the Christmas season, someone will drop by your house with a gift you absolutely weren’t expecting. Like most people, I keep a few “just-in-case” presents under the tree — but the trick is to choose items that convey the message “Merry Christmas” instead of “Um, here you go.” Some good choices include wine (a nice red in the $10-$12 range plus a bar of organic dark chocolate make a nice pairing); a box of good quality Irish tea is nice with a couple of boxes of biscuits or a travel mug. Have them wrapped to go, with gift tag attached –all you have to do is fill in a name, and you’re set.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll present gift ideas that struck my fancy – some related to Irish Echo advertisers, some not – to help you find the perfect present for everyone on your list. I welcome suggestions as well, so email me your best gift-giving tip at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, I’ll print my favorite, and the person who sent it in will receive a free, one-year subscription to the Irish Echo. (If more than one person submits the same idea, I’ll pick the winner’s name out of a hat. A Santa hat, of course.)
So here we go . . . and happy shopping!
For the music lover . . .
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in Person at Carnegie Hall – The Complete 1963 Concert (Sony Legacy) Anyone who grew up listening to the original live recording of this concert, which clocked in at a miserly 38 minutes (and eliminated pretty much all of the stage banter) will be thrilled by this gem found in Columbia Records’ dusty vaults. The concert took place on St. Patrick’s Day in 1963, and there is a wistful nostalgia in hearing the Clancys and Makem joke about “Big Jack” in the White House, and whether skipping Mass might be “a federal offense.” Available in CD and mp3 format, $14.99 at amazon.com.
Saints & Scoundrels (Compass Records) Fans of accordion virtuoso Sharon Shannon will be thrilled by her new album, which features not only her stellar playing, but also the talents of guest performers Shane MacGowan, Imelda May, Jerry Fish, Carol Keogh, Justin Adams, and the Cartoon Thieves. The CD ($16.95) is available for pre-order, but if you’re both impatient and technically-inclined, you can buy “Saints & Scoundrels” in MP3 format ($8.99) right now on Amazon.com.
Good Evening, New York City (Hear Music) Paul McCartney, who played the first and last concerts held at Shea Stadium, christened the Mets’ new home, Citifield, by headlining the first shows there last June. While this didn’t do a lot to help the baseball team, Macca fans agree that the former Beatle hit a grand slam with his sold-out shows last June. The best moments have been packaged on this CD/DVD combo, which features 33 tracks and a 2-1/2 concert movie. The material is split evenly between his Beatles work and his solo catalog, with standout work on “Let It Be.” On sale now.
Irish tee, anyone?
Looking for a wearable gift that will allow the recipient to stand out in a crowd? Try one of the cool tee shirts, hoodies or thermals from Wild Rover Clothing. Started by Brendan Burke (an Irish Echo 40 Under 40 honoree for 2009), the line features whimsical designs with an Irish theme. The men’s shirt pictured above (Style # WRMTRM018, $35) is available in sizes M-XXL. There are plenty of great choices for stylish lasses, as well. Be sure to check out the hooded sweatshirts — we hear they’re popular (and comfy.) Visit www.wildroverclothing.com.
A Wilde musical
This month, the brilliant Irish Repertory Theatre will present “Ernest in Love,” a musical adaptation of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s sublime verbal opera, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The show, directed by Charlotte Moore, with musical direction by Mark Hartman and choreography by Barry McNabb, opens on Dec. 12, and runs through Jan. 31, 2010. Tickets are $65 and $55, and can be ordered by calling (212) 727-2737.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Looking for a gift for the sports fan on your list? Are you sick of seeing them in the same old Yankee team jersey that says “Jeter” and “2”? (I agree that Derek’s the man, but enough already!) Throw your honey a little change-up with a team jersey from Soccer.com. The Umbro Ireland Away long-sleeve jersey (item #734821, $84.99) might be a too-painful reminder of the recent World Cup Qualifier debacle, but you’ll also find team strips for English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and major league Soccer, among others. Order online at www.soccer.com or by phone, 1 (800) 950-1994.
The sounds of the season . . .
Andy Cooney’s ‘The Magic of Christmas’
Andy Cooney is all about the holidays this year, and with good reason: both his new CD (highlighted at left) and his upcoming concert share the same title: “The Magic of Christmas.” The show, which takes place on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at New York City’s Carnegie Hall – the world’s most famous venue – stars Cooney, country megastar Crystal Gale, and fiddle virtuoso Eileen Ivers. Tickets range from $35-$80, and can be ordered by phone at (212) 247-7800 or online at www.carnegiehall.com.
Tony Kenny’s ‘Christmas Time in Ireland’
Irish singer and all-around entertainer Tony Kenny brings his “Christmas Time in Ireland” show to the New York area from Nov. 29 to Dec. 15, 2009. The show features popular performers Joe Cuddy, Victoria Kenny and the Dublin City Dancers. For dates, times and ticket information, see the Events listing in this issue, or visit www.TonyKenny.com.
Irish Arts Center presents An Irish Christmas
Irish music legend Mick Moloney hosts An Irish Christmas at the Irish Arts Center 553 West 51st St., NYC. The show, which features Athena Tergis, Brendan Dolan, Billy McComiskey, Liz Hanley and Niall O’Leary, runs over two weekends, Dec. 10-13, and Dec. 17-20. Tickets are $45 (general), $35 (members), and are available from Smarttix.com or (212) 868-4444.
Cherish the Ladies Celtic Christmas
This group of musicians, led by the great Joanie Madden, is one of the most popular traditional acts on the Irish music scene. Catch their Celtic Christmas show on Dec. 6, at 2 p.m., at the Shea Center for the Performing Arts at William Patterson University in Wayne, N.J. For tickets and information, visit wplive.org or call (973) 720-2371.
More shows . . .
A Special Irish Christmas Concert starring Ciaran Sheehan, Eily O’Grady Patterson, Gay Willis and Gaelic Singers & Harpists, will take place on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2:30 p.m., sponsored by the Parish of St. Patrick and Assumption All Saints Festival of Music, Bramhall & Ocean Ave., Jersey City, N.J. For information, call (201) 433-1258.
Merry Christmas, New York City, a benefit for the Faith & Family Foundation, will take place at Alice Tully Hall Starr Theater at Lincoln Center in NYC, on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call (212) 721-6500 or visit MerryChristmasNewYorkCity.com.