Well into the show Tuesday night, the lights went down and Paddy Moloney, front man for the Chieftains, played solo for the Proctors audience.
With a photo of his younger self looking over the Irish countryside, he played a beautiful and solemn tune on his tin whistle. Then he switched to the uilleann pipes — Irish pipes — joined by a harpist, and they gave us a haunting, reflective melody.
The concert offered a range of treats beyond the band, including guest dancers and singers from New York to Scotland, and a local choir, step dance group, and bag pipers. This all added to the charm of the night.
Toward the halfway mark, Matt Molloy rose from his chair for the first time of the night to play on his flute, alone, “Easter Snow,” another thoughtful melody that felt drenched in Irish lore. His second piece was from 1794 Belfast.
The night was mostly instrumentals, though Kevin Conneff sang a silly tune about a boy who took a farm job where whacky things happened. He sang unaccompanied in the spirit of an old Irish tradition.
Moloney spoke a bit about Nelson Mandela, who he called a friend. They wrote “The Troublemaker’s Jig,” which they played with some verve, while Irish dancers let loose to the side of the stage.
A local choir of young men and women, called Home and Away, sang “Oh Shenandoah” with the group, a song the Chieftains performed with Van Morrison. The choir then had a moment on their own for a verse of “Stand by Me,” which they pulled off quite well.
Fiddler Nathan Pilatzke, with his brother, performed some intense, high-octane Irish dance, mixed with modern moves. During his solo time, he played some Canadian-born tunes — he apologized for his Canadian heritage — and spoke some French to the chagrin of his bandmates. It had a slightly classical feel next to the Celtic and Gaelic music we heard all night.
Alyth McCormack, from Scotland, came out to sing a rowdy Scottish medley that inspired the audience to clap the beat through the song, raising the energy of the evening.
Triona Marshall played a beautiful harp through the night, Moloney joking that it was their first time playing together though it was apparent after the cohesive sound of the first verse that she was a regular member.
Moloney is 79 years old and has been leading the Chieftains since 1963. He still has his humor, his musical chops, and his Irish soul. When some of the guest acts were done — he slowly rose from his seat, and motioned with his arms for the guests to “bug off” like a grumpy old Irish man. It was funny.
The show also featured The An Clar School of Irish Dance, which comprised seven local, young step dancers who did a great job with the band and the audience.
Next came out the Schenectady Pipe Band. The pipers and drum corps joined the group to bring a large dose of volume and excitement to stage.
Paddy’s high-pitched, thin whistling instrument managed to hover above the group, creating a nice contrasting layer.
When the full seven-piece band chimed in together, we got a great full sound of Celtic music. For an Irish show, there was pleasantly little talk — maybe not even one mention? — of whiskey and beer.
The show ended with the encore “Andro,” a song from the 8th Century. All the dancers, pipers, drummers, and singers came out to join the fun. They then were led out through the aisles, up the back and down the aisle onto the stage, at which point large numbers of audience members had joined the dance line. This made for a fun, chaotic, and festive ending.
The band was celebrating its 56th year. The show started with a montage of video and photos showing their long career, and the stars and VIPs who they hob-nobbed with through the years. Tuesday night gave us a small glimpse of their long career, and an entertaining family-friendly presentation of authentic Irish music and culture.