The Canadian folk music group Leahy, composed of eight siblings from a family of 11 siblings, divides the vocal duties evenly - among only the four women in the group.
According to Frank Leahy, who plays the drums in the group, there's a reason for the gender inequality.
"The guys did try, but we were told we weren't good enough," he said with a laugh. "And we accepted that."
The eight Leahy siblings will bring their Christmas tour to Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The band’s members are (from left); Angus Leahy, fiddle; Erin Leahy, piano; Doug Leahy, fiddle; Siobheann Donohue, bass; Donnell Leahy, fiddle; Agnes Enright, keyboards; Maria Leahy, guitar; and Frank Leahy, drums.
Leahy, 41, spoke with the Mirror recently from his home in Ontario in advance of his group's visit to the area for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State University Park campus.
The concert, which features the band's trademark mix of folk, country and Celtic music, highlighted by some stepdancing, is part of the group's "A Leahy Family Christmas" tour.
"This Christmas tour, we've done this for four years maybe," Leahy said. "It's a period of time in our life that we set aside certain months of the year to tour."
If you go
What: "A Leahy Family Christmas"
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State University Park campus, University Park
Tickets: $39 tickets for adults, $20 for University Park students and $31 for those ages 18 and younger. Tickets available online at www.cps.psu.edu or by calling 863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX
The Christmas season, he explained, is important to the family.
"It was always a big event in our house," Leahy said. "Lots of music, lots of goodies and lots of kids running around. ... [The Chirstmas tour is] all great because you're with your family and you have your kids."
The band began as The Leahy Family in the 1980s and toured into the early 1990s - in 1985, a short film about the group, titled "Leahy: Music Most of All," won a Student Academy Award for Best Foreign Student Film. After a hiatus, the group resumed recording and touring in 1997 and found great success.
They won two Juno awards (Canada's Grammy awards) in 1998, including Best New Group. They won another Juno in 1998, the same year they went on tour as the opening act for Shania Twain's "Come on Over Tour." Twain was at the height of her popularity, and the group was included on two television specials about the tour.
Since that boom period, the Leahys have slowed down a bit. Now in their 30s and 40s, some of the members of the band have drifted away from performing.
"There's 11 family members in the band and through time and marriages and university, that would fluctuate," Frank Leahy said. "Right now, there are eight family members in the band."
But that gap has been filled by the next generation of the Leahy family. According to Leahy, this year's Christmas tour will be augmented by performances by some of the band's 31 children. The kids, ages 4 to 11, weren't originally going to join the band.
"It definitely was not planned," he said. "We all have our own little children - I'm on my sixth child. We grew up playing music and it's always been part of our life, so it was natural that they were musical, too."
Performing with your kids is special, Leahy said.
"[But] it's not like, 'They're my kids, throw them out there.' They have their own jobs to do," he said.
It's a job that should make the University Park audience happy, according to Laura Sullivan, director of marketing for Eisenhower Auditorium.
"We've had great response so far and we're looking forward to the show," she said.
Sullivan said that the Center for the Performing Arts, which is sponsoring the show, has "been aware of them for quite some time.
"They've not performed here before, but we've had Natalie McMaster here for a Christmas program and she is married to one of the Leahys [band leader Donnell]," she said. "Her performance here was very successful - people loved her. Celtic music does very well here."
The "Leahy Family Christmas" tour wraps up on Dec. 23 - just in time for the family to celebrate the holiday together at home. Leahy said the family's own Christmas traditions include going to midnight Mass, a family curling tournament and perhaps a euchre tournament (euchre is a 19th-century card game that is still popular in Ontario).
But first, Leahy will grace Penn State and other tour stops with a mixture of familiar Christmas songs and original music.
"It's a combination of traditionals and a lot of it is still our own music," Leahy said. "The girls sing a lot of the Christmas carols, a lot of the Christmas hymns."
Then with a laugh, he added, "I just [play] what I'm told. When you have seven sisters, you learn that."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.