Cara in festive spirit

Folk singer Cara Dillon
Folk singer Cara Dillon

If you are looking for an alternative to much of the musical festive fare currently swirling around shops and other places, Cara Dillon could help restore your faith in something more true to the Christmas spirit.

When the award-winning Irish folk singer reflects on the time of year, the inspiration is rooted in reverence, faith, joy and celebration.

Her approach was encapsulated beautifully in last year’s album, Upon A Winter’s Night, which realised her ambition of capturing the magic and the mystery of a time of year that is often overwhelmed by a tide of commercialism.

Produced by her musical partner and husband Sam Lakeman, it combined arrangements of traditional carols with original compositions.

The title track was written by Sam and the couple’s young son, Noah.

Now Cara is taking the Christmas show on the road again, including a date in Sheffield City Hall ballroom on Sunday, December 10.

It’s a chance to hear the most exquisite of voices and an assembly of fine musicians performing carols, Celtic hymns and other Christmas songs – “far away from Bing crooning and Noddy screaming” is how the tour is described.

As well as his expertise as a writer, arranger and producer for Cara and others, Sam is no slouch as a pianist and guitarist. Completing the touring line-up are guitarist Ed Boyd, Niall Murphy on fiddle and Luke Daniels (accordion).

For Cara, the tour follows the release of her seventh album, Wanderer, produced by Sam, which uses sparse piano and acoustic guitar arrangements to delve into the movement of people, emigration and the pursuit of love.

“Having lived outside Ireland for most of my adult life, I continue to identify with these songs of departure and longing for home on a very personal level,” says Cara.

“Several of the songs refer to places close to where I grew up, making them particularly emotional to sing. It feels like a gift to be able to share these stories as they continue to move and inspire a new generation of people.”

Born in County Derry, Cara Dillon’s sublime voice was soon attracting attention. She won the All Ireland singing trophy aged 14 and much of her teenage years were spent with bands including Irish legends, De Dannan.

At 19 she joined the folk ‘supergroup’ Equation which was also an important staging post in the careers of two young Barnsley folk singers, Kathryn Roberts and Kate Rusby (who is at Sheffield City Hall tonight, Thursday). It was also where Cara met her future husband.

She has taken the best of traditional and contemporary song around the world, including five times to China where her crystalline singing voice is used to help students learn English!

With Sam, she has collaborated on projects from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells III to dancefloor remixes.

In 2010 she was asked to record the title track to Disney’s Tinker Bell and The Great Fairy Rescue in Abbey Road Studios and also narrated the opening sequence of the film.

The mother of three (including twins born at only 26 weeks after she went into labour onstage) has also used her position to highlight living with Type 1 diabetes.

lLuke Daniels appears with Sheffield-based folk musician Nancy Kerr at The Greystones on Monday.