Editor's note: This story has been edited to update the rescheduling of RUNA’s concert to March 19 at 1 p.m.
I don't know what the Irish expression for dynamo is, but it would be the perfect fit for the celebratory, foot-stomping energies generated by the robust Celtic roots band called RUNA. An electrifying, eclectic transatlantic, acoustic quintet from Philadelphia, RUNA surges dramatically from joy to keening moods of sorrow and mellow storylines.
While the band's cryptic, Gaelic name RUNA (pronounced Roon-ah) resonates with runic hints of ancient incantations and mythic lore, there's absolutely no mystery about the music's instant accessibility and charm. The band performs Sunday, March 19, at 1 p.m. at the University of St. Joseph's American Roots Festival on the West Hartford campus at in the Hoffman Auditorium.
Its many musical qualities — including vibrant, textured sound and layered levels of feeling — have converted numerous fans throughout the United States and Canada. Their cult of devotees are proudly known as RUNATICS.
Celebrating the release of its fifth album, "RUNA Live," a festive performance recorded last St. Patrick's Day, the rising super band will serve its melting-pot mix of roots music — liberally seasoned with everything from Irish reels to Appalachian hoedowns.
Balancing its reverence for the Celtic music traditions of Ireland and Scotland and other sources, RUNA taps into many stylistic branches that have sprung up from those roots, genres that have flourished in other indigenous folk music expressions in North America.
RUNA artfully fuses these multiple offspring styles with authentic Celtic melodies and rhythms embracing American roots music from bluegrass ebullience to a folk-rooted, house-rocking, jamming jazz vibe.
One of RUNA's prime ingredients is its passion for interacting with audiences. That visceral connection is what vocalist Shannon Lambert-Ryan calls a house party mood that fuels the band's unflagging energy.
"We all seem to thrive on playing before live audiences because the interactions are different every single night in every hall we play. It's never the same," Lambert-Ryan says by phone. "Having that kind of excitement keeps the energy flowing. We're having a great time and want everybody to join in the fun with us."
A Philadelphia native and lifelong Phillies fan, Lambert-Ryan is RUNA's crystal-toned vocalist and storytelling sorceress-in-chief, who also plays bodhran (hand-held Irish drum), and even does step-dancing. Off-stage, she's the band's cool-headed manager.
Like her eclectic bandmates, she has a diverse musical background. Early on, she studied Irish step-dancing, piano and classical music, later performing in opera and musicals. Before RUNA was formed in 2008, she had toured widely with a world music band.
Originally, she wanted to be an actress. RUNA's reign has led to good karma, even to Lambert-Ryan's singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a Phillies game, uniting her lifelong passion for baseball and Irish music.
RUNA evolved out of a friendship between Lambert-Ryan and guitarist (also husband) Fionan de Barra, a Dublin native who speaks Gaelic; and bodhran player Cheryl Prashker, a classically trained percussionist from Canada.
RUNA also features virtuoso mandolinist Dave Curley, of Galway, who also sings, plays bodhran and step dances, and the phenomenal Kentucky fiddler, Maggie Estes White, who doubles on mandolin.
Collectively, RUNA's fab five wizards distill a potent VSOP elixir — tasty, intoxicating and very much in the American grain.
RUNA will be in concert at 1 p.m. March 19 at the University of St. Joseph's American Roots Festival on the West Hartford campus at in the Hoffman Auditorium. Tickets are $25, general; $20, seniors, USJ alumni; $15, students. 860-231-5555 and usj.edu/arts.