The 11 siblings of the Leahy family from Ontario, Canada, grew up with parents who had their own dance band and played gigs at festivals throughout their area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The siblings learned to play a variety of instruments from their parents, although several of the children later studied violin, piano or voice with private teachers.
Years ago, eight of the siblings formed the group Leahy, which plays folk, country and Celtic tunes on the fiddle, bass, keyboards, guitar and drums. “Leahy: A Celtic Holiday Concert” is their special holiday show that will be presented on Monday night by the Santa Fe Concert Association in the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
“Our Christmas show features original holiday music that usually goes on in our homes during the holidays,” drummer Frank Leahy said by phone from Canada. “Music is a big part of what our family does during the holidays.”
While Leahy is known for folk, country and Celtic styles of music, their arrangements are influenced by their individual musical tastes.
“If you think of every genre of music that exists, some family member likes it,” said Leahy. “We all bring the musical styles we like to the music we play together as a family. A friend of mine was involved with African drumming. I’ve learned a lot about African drumming from him. Aspects of hip-hop can be found in our music. We’re not trying to stay in any one musical genre. We’re growing and changing all the time. Our music evolves as it is affected by different musical influences.”
While performances are planned and well thought-out, a Leahy concert also has spontaneous moments.
“One of us will add something different to one of our songs and that spurs on the next musician to do something different,” Leahy said. “It keeps the performance exciting for us.”
Leahy has been actively touring Canada and internationally since the early 1980s when they were known as The Leahy Family. In 1985, they were the subject of a short film entitled “Leahy: Music Most of All,” which received an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Student Film. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Leahy Family recorded a number of privately released LPs and cassettes that were sold at their concerts. In 1997, the siblings put out an instrumental album and rebranded itself simply as Leahy.
A year later, Leahy won two Juno awards for Best New Group and Best Instrumental Artist, and were added as the opening act for Canadian singer Shania Twain’s Come on Over tour.
For several years, Leahy has been working on a new album. “We’re still talking about what tunes will be on the album,” said Leahy. “With all we’ve got going on in our professional and personal lives, we just haven’t worked that out yet.”