The Irish-music band Cherish the Ladies has performed more than 250 shows with symphony orchestras around the world over the last 29 years.
It’s the type of gig that never gets old for group founder Joanie Madden.
“To have this little penny whistle with a 100-piece orchestra behind it is kind of surreal,” Madden said in a phone interview last week from Mesa. “It’s amazing how well it works.”
This weekend, Cherish the Ladies will perform with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra as part of the symphony’s Super Pops series.
The New York group will move through original and traditional tunes, pulled from its extensive repertoire.
Songs range from slow, haunting airs to fast-paced reels, driven by whistle, accordion, guitar, piano and fiddle.
Adding to the party will be four professional Irish step-dancers, including two-time world champion Garrett Coleman.
Madden said that symphony-goers who have never really thought about Irish music have learned quickly of its appeal.
“I don’t think they realize how much they are going to enjoy it,” she said. “We enjoy exposing them to it.”
Madden said the experience of playing with orchestras is humbling, not just for her, but for her band and her family.
Her father, Joe, was an All-Ireland champ on the accordion who came to the United States from East Galway.
Joe died in 2008, but not before seeing his daughter perform with an orchestral backing. “The first time he saw us perform with a symphony, the tears ran down his cheeks,” Madden said. “To think that this folk music could stand right up there with world-class symphonies.”
She hopes this weekend’s Tucson audiences have the same experience.
“These two types of music really do meld together,” she said. “When the strings come in, it is just beautiful.”