Kitty Donohoe musically marks life’s major milestones. The longtime Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter will celebrate her 70th birthday February 9 at The Ark with family, friends and fans. It’s an annual tradition Donohoe follows to reflect on nearly five decades in music.
“I’m inviting a lot of friends that I’ve made music with over the years. I used to live in East Lansing, and there are a lot of (my friends) there, and a number of them are going to come,” Donohoe said. “My older brother is flying in from Portland, Oregon, he’s a musician, and my younger brother, who’s going to be here from Grand Rapids, is also a musician. It’s going to be a wonderful everybody-get-up-and-celebrate-and-sing-some-music.”
‘The Irishman’s Daughter’
During the show, Donohoe will revisit her extensive catalog and share a couple of new tracks she’s written during recent trips to Ireland. She also will perform songs from her latest album, “The Irishman’s Daughter,” which dropped in 2017.
“I wanted to do a diaspora thing about my own family coming over from Ireland, and that’s kind of where it started, and then the more time went by, I found other songs, so it’s essentially a snapshot of songs that have in some way been important to me as an Irish-American,” said Donohoe, who grew up in a large, creative family outside of Detroit.
“The Irishman’s Daughter” takes a poignant, 12-track sonic journey through Donohoe’s heritage and provides exquisite interpretations of traditional tales as well as life experiences. The album’s opener features a breathtaking instrumental rendition of the Irish ballad, “Star of the County Down,” with delicate piano and thoughtful fiddle.
From larks to fish
“I found out about this ne’er-do-well guy named ‘Bold Jack Donohoe,’ so all the rhymes are with ‘hoo’ instead of ‘hoe,’ and that got me thinking about my own family’s heritage,” said Donohoe, who discovered traditional Celtic sounds while living in Nova Scotia at age 19. “Things like that I sort of connected with as well, so this guy has my name, and he moved to Australia, and got hanged. You know, a little cozy, family connection.”
As a part of a non-Catholic Irish-American family, Donohoe shares her childhood fascination about living outside of her heritage’s traditional faith in “Fish on Fridays.” A deep-tone acoustic guitar and accordion transport listeners to Donohoe’s youth and reveal her confession of wanting a First Communion dress. “Every time I do that song in public, women always say, ‘I also wanted to wear the dress,’” Donohoe said with a laugh.
Irish music tours
Donohoe shares her love of Irish heritage and culture with like-minded people during Irish music tours. Each year, she joins a group of tourists who visit different parts of Ireland, stop at seaside towns, stay at small family hotels and listen to traditional Irish music. Donohoe will embark on her next Irish music tour in May.
“There are a number of people who have signed up with me three or four times now because they just love everything about it, and then there’s everything to love. The whole point of these tours is to hear traditional Irish music, which most tours don’t focus on,” Donohoe said. “(Most tours) are about the scenery and going to the pubs. We have traditional Irish music every single night on our tours, and that makes it really special.”
Doors 7 pm, Show 7:30 pm | Sunday, February 9
The Ark, 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor
Tickets: $20 at theark.org