Songstress and composer Vyktoria Pratt Keating will help Main Street Grille patrons celebrate Christmas in Celtic style on Friday, Nov. 30.
"I love Christmas. I love the melodies of traditional Christmas songs the best. There's nothing like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "The First Noel," Keating said.
She hails from Washington, D.C. and toured the Boston, Mass. singer-songwriter scene during her 20s.
"I was such a whippersnapper," she said.
Celtic music was popular in Irish pubs, at festivals and on the radio in the East.
Celtic music is in Keating's blood, as her ancestors hail from Scotland and Britain.
"When it's in the blood, you just feel it. You play it and you can get right in to it. So many of the songs are mournful; they are melancholy; they are haunting and I can really just wrap myself around them and sing them from my soul," Keating said.
Keating will sing some lighthearted secular songs and a couple of rock 'n' roll Christmas songs during the three-hour concert.
There is Emerson Lake and Palmer's "I Believe in Father Christmas," and a "dark" holiday song by Jethro Tull.
Keating opened 42 shows for Jethro Tull in 1999.
When Keating passes around a stocking with the 12 parts of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" written on paper, she looks forward to the fun of listening to audience members sing the part they draw.
The old European Christmas carols that Keating performs may not be specifically Celtic in origin, but with her softly lilting soprano voice, she weaves a Celtic thread through the arrangements.
"Then I use these amazing open tunings, so the whole thing has a Celtic aura and vibe," Keating said.
The notes EADGBE is the standard tuning for an acoustic guitar.
"In open tuning, each string is tuned differently so that when you strum without fretting any chords, it is already a chord. So, you can do a lot of interesting things -- picking and getting some big lush sounds you would not normally get," she said.
Joni Mitchell is a musician who uses open tunings.
The Celtic Christmas performance includes several of Keating's original compositions. "Holy Day" is one song.
"It was not written as a Christmas song, but it is Christmas-y. It is very snowy. I wrote it on a winter's day in January," Keating said.
She always has songs brewing in her mind, but said she does not write that often.
When she is ready to compose, she gets out her "tools," her guitars, paper, pen and a recording device.
When her muse is active, Keating writes about phenomena that intrigue her, such as UFOs and ghosts.
"You don't always need that bolt of inspiration," she said.
"All my songs are on the progressive side, but if it is not tuneful, it does not matter what the song is about," she added.
Snowdonia is a town in Wales. It is also the title of Keating's recent Christmas CD, available online at www.vyktoria.com.
As a professional musician, Keating has toured the United States and Europe. She settled near the red rocks of Arizona in 2001.
The state offered Keating nature to hike in, time for yoga classes, making pies and her own home to sleep in, rather than a tour bus.
Her repertoire includes 70s and 80s rock tunes that she "slowed down and stretched" when she translated them from band arrangements to a piece of music for a single vocal and an acoustic guitar.
Keating said it is a musicians' joke that there are eight gigs in the entire state, versus the East.
"Here, there are so many wonderful pockets of places to play. The people are appreciative and not jaded. Some fans become almost like family," Keating said.
Celtic Christmas is indoors at the Main Street Grille in Payson, from 7 to 10 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30.
Keating will also perform at Bootleg Alley Dec. 7 during First Friday Art and Antiques Walk.