There’s going to be a large dose of Christmas music delivered with a Nova Scotia accent at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 when the Canadian folk quartet Còig, based in the island province, comes to the Barre Opera House.
Còig is not new to Vermont audiences. The band has performed at the New World Festival in Randolph and wowed audiences with its multi-instrumental prowess, its song interpretations and its duo step dancing. In those Labor Day performances, Còig concentrated on its wide ranging, yet basically Celtic song repertoire.
The band, comprised of fiddler-dancers Chrissy Crowley and Rachel Davis, multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen, and guitarist Thierry Clouette, dug deep into a repertoire based on three albums of songs, jigs, reels and ballads. On their latest album, 2019’s “Ashlar,” the band pulled off several interesting arrangements including adding a whole new dimension to the contemporary old time melody “Farewell Trion” and the lovely and sad ballad “Home from the Forest” by Canadian folk icon Gordon Lightfoot.
What the audience didn’t hear in that show was the wealth of Christmas-themed music Còig has performed and recorded. On 2015’s “Carols,” and 2019’s “Carols Too” Còig shows itself possessing both a solid foundation in traditional holiday music and the ability to arrange that music for a folk band that plays fiddles, guitars, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and piano.
On “Carols” the quartet brought new arrangements to “Carol of the Celts,” “The Wexford Carol,” “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “The Cherry Tree Carol,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” “O Holy Night” and several others. They also played with the holiday theme on “I Heard Three Jigs” and “Swingle Jingle Bells.” Perhaps the loveliest instrumental is the timeless Nat King Cole song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” done as a soulful piano arrangement.
On “Carols Too” the band stretched out a bit with a Galician Carol “Moita Festa,” “Scrooge Tune,” “Daddy’s Beer” and “Have A Bari Merry Christmas,” along with “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “The Christmas Song.”
In all, the band has recorded 23 holiday songs, more than enough to fill the program at the opera house. What you will not hear in Còig’s holiday music is the blaring noise of electric guitars and drum sets, which in the opinion of many can demean the spirit of the holiday.
With a combined total of over 30 group and solo awards and nominations, the four members of the band are well-respected players in the Celtic world.
The group’s debut album “Five,” released in June 2014, earned them a 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award, Music Nova Scotia Award and the 2015 East Coast Music Award for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year. The band’s third album, “Rove,” won the group a 2018 East Coast Music Award, as well as was recognized with a JUNO Award and Canadian Folk Music Award nomination.
The band also won the 2020 Canadian Folk Music Awards Traditional Singer of the Year for its album “Ashlar,” and the 2020 East Coast Music Awards Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year nomination again for “Ashlar.”
Còig’s music is a unique combination of influences: It’s traditional but it’s performed in a lot of non-traditional ways.
“We all come from sort of a traditional background, but then we have different influences that we’re interested in,” explains fiddler and singer Rachel Davis. “Chrissy likes to dive into a lot of world music, Darren comes from a kind of Irish theme from playing around. More of the traditional Cape Breton music is really what I love, plus all the folk songs, so it’s an interesting mix.”
What you’re going to hear at the concert in Barre is a band of superb musicians and singers that have built a repertoire of interestingly arranged holiday music that is full of the sincerity and warmth from the Canadian and American songbooks.