NORTH BEND — As Christmas Opry returns to the Little Theatre On the Bay in North Bend this week, one of its former performers is working, and enjoying, An Irish Christmas on the road.
Regular visitors to the South Coast's Opry stage will likely remember Koral Aakre as a singer and Opry dancer. So, they probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that she is continuing to put her talents to good use on stages all over the country.
The 27-year-old, who now calls southern California home, recently paid a quick visit home before heading back out on the road again as part of the touring show called “Kerry Records: An Irish Christmas.”
“I am the vocal captain,” Aakre said, during a brief visit to her old stomping grounds inside the LTOB theatre. “We have four singers, one male, three female, and we sing Gaelic and English songs. The whole point, when our director was coming up with the ideas for the show — she is from Kerry, Ireland, and has lived in Los Angeles for the last 20 years — (was that) she wanted to make a show that showed her love of both cultures.”
Kerry Records is an Irish-owned production company, based in L.A., that promotes and celebrates the Irish culture and traditions.
While the show comes from a specific background, Aakre says it is really not a complete departure from the kinds of shows that LTOB's Opry performs each year.
“I think, actually, the whole Opry style is very similar. We like connecting with our audience a lot, a lot of audience participation. But, really, I just think growing up in a great theater, having a lot of support being on stage, love of the arts, has definitely translated to this show. I think that is why I love it so much. It reminds me a little bit of home.”
It also keeps her, and the audience members, smiling.
“We have a full dance group and we kind of contribute with the dancers on a couple of songs. We have a full Irish band, and they are just phenomenal. It just kind of weaves in and out of singing and dancing, and American and Irish, into one big hoopla of fun I guess,” she said with a laugh.
Tracing its own roots back to the hugely popular Riverdance show that exploded in America in the mid-'90s, An Irish Christmas similarly offers to entertain even those without a Celtic history.
“I think it has a lot to do with the call-and-response. Even when the dancers are dancing, they always encourage the audience to yell and woot along with them. The singers also do that, we encourage each other and the audience feels comfortable yelling along with us,” Aakre said.
“We do traditional Irish music, we do Silent Night in Gaelic and translate into English and invite the audience to sing along with us. It just kind of has a nice homey, family feel to it. It's just a really good time. It's not like just being at a concert, you are going to have an experience.”
Unfortunately, for this year anyway, it is an experience that local residents will have to track down out of town.
Aakre arrived in Oregon's Bay Area after wrapping up most of the Midwest portion of the group's tour. Then she headed back out to engage audience members at sites around California, Washington, Colorado and Arizona.
She is hoping they might get a little closer to home next year, and she expects to be back with them on stage. Many of the members do keep coming back, year after year.
“I'm having a great time, but I miss home and am happy to be back for a little break.”
If you are planning to travel, and want to try to catch the show before it wraps its tour on Dec. 21, check out their website at anirishchristmastour.com.