Colleen Raney and band interpret Celtic classics

Photo: Colleen Raney and band perform at Stivers School for the Arts this Sunday.

By Tim Smith

The Dayton area has long held an affection for Celtic music and all things Irish. One of the most popular current interpreters of Celtic music is Colleen Raney. She and her band will be bringing their special music to Stivers School for the Arts on Dec. 10. The benefit concert for We Care Arts will also feature the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance, and local Celtic band Dulahan.

Colleen Raney has gained a wide following due to her ability to convey her love of Irish music. Her latest album release, Here This is Home, is described by Irish Music Magazine as “a rich treasure that, with the wealth of creative talent within, places the contemporary firmly within the tradition and positions Raney amongst the best in her genre.” This performance will mark her first visit to the Dayton area. She will perform with her band, including Hanz Araki on flute and vocals, Bethany Waickman on guitar and Ryan Davidson on upright bass and vocals. In addition to singing, Colleen also plays guitar and bodhran.

“The band and I are very excited to be in Dayton in December,” Raney says. “We’re working on some of our favorite songs and tune sets as well as a few holiday pieces and some songs from my forthcoming new album, which will be out in early 2018. Hopefully, we’ll get some folks in the audience singing along with us – it’s always more fun that way.”

Raney and her troupe tour extensively throughout the year. When the Dayton City Paper caught up with her, she was introducing her brand of Celtic music to Japan. She noticed that there were cultural similarities and an instant appreciation for the music.

“I am very lucky to tour as much as I do,” she says. “I’m currently on tour in Japan where I can say that Irish music, and songs in particular, are immediately and enthusiastically welcomed. There are so many similarities between Japanese culture and Irish culture – each is steeped in the connection to community and regional connection – that I believe the music naturally resonates here in a really specific and beautiful way. We have played all around the States and in Ireland for audiences of people both familiar and unfamiliar with the music, and each is different and distinct. But Japan seems to hold a particular joy in its heart for Irish music and song in particular.”

This performance was put together by Sunni Russo, owner of Sunnyskies Music. The proceeds will benefit We Care Arts, and the program will include some local Celtic talent as well.

“We Care Arts uses art to inspire those with disabilities to reach their full potential, so it seemed a perfect fit to raise funds for them at a live music event,” Russo says. “The art created by their students is sold in several locations, and proceeds from sales benefit the individual artist and also help to fund the programs offered. The Celtic Academy of Irish Dance is one of Dayton’s fine Irish Dance schools. They strive to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the Irish culture through dance. Many of the students compete at the local, national and international levels, and they are a joy to watch! Dulahan is a great local Celtic band. Their style is a mix of Celtic and Americana, and I love the harmonies. They play original music and have been together since 2001. They will take the stage after the Irish dance performance.”

Raney is delighted that audiences are discovering and developing an appreciation for Celtic music, and she has a theory for this phenomenon.

“I think in the digital age in which we find ourselves, there is a part of each of us that craves connection and community, and Irish music may be the conduit for that connection,” she says. “Not only does it involve mastery of an art form, which is appealing regardless of genre, it speaks to the sense of belonging that we all desire. In the states – the great melting pot – I find that people are far more invested in their ethnic connection to the music. We hear a lot of ‘my grandmother is Irish so I love the music’ or ‘I come from an Irish background so I really feel strongly about the songs’ from audience members, all of which may be true, but I like to translate that a bit more broadly. People crave belonging. And one way to feel that is to identify strongly with an ethnic tradition.”

Raney wants to share her love of her native music with those in attendance, and lift their spirits along the way.

“Most importantly, I would love for audiences to just enjoy the experience of the music and the stories,” she says. “It’s not a master class or a lecture, but we carefully craft the concerts to take us on a journey – emotionally, historically, musically – that will hopefully let audiences feel more deeply and see just a small bit differently. I remember seeing a movie a number of years ago that so affected me in the 2 hours I was in the theatre, that the whole world looked just the tiniest bit different to me as I stepped out of the theatre. I hope we can do that for the wonderful people who join us each night.”

Colleen Raney will appear at Stivers School for the Arts, 1313 E. 5th St., Dayton, on Dec. 10. The performance will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.00 and are available at,, or by calling 937.829.4620. More information about Colleen Raney can be found at

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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