For a band who performs a mixture of original and traditional Celtic folk songs and whose live shows includes lots of stepdancing, Runa is remarkable in this regard: Less than half of the band actually hails from the Emerald Isle.
But anyone who questions the authenticity of the band's performances based on that fact alone would be making a mistake, said Shannon Ryan-Lambert, the band's lead vocalist.
"We really are doing Celtic roots music," said Lambert-Ryan, one of two Americans in the band. "Our shows are very much a visual experience. There's a lot of stepdancing, a lot of percussion. We try to bring these songs to life for our audiences. I think putting a contemporary spin on these traditional Irish songs in that way helps make them feel very human."
Guitarist Fionan De Barra and Dave Curley are the band's Irish contingent, according to Runa's website.
The Philadelphia quintet, which performs at Irish and world music festivals across the country each year, will play a pair of hourlong sets March 9 as part of the city of Savannah's Tara Feis Irish Celebration in Emmet Park near the east end of Bay Street. The event is in its 22nd year.
Lambert-Ryan discusses her favorite Runa song to perform live, their songwriting process and playing Savannah for the first time.
Question. Savannah is a city known for being proud of its Irish heritage. Have you been to or performed in Savannah before?
Answer. We came here once during the summer. Not to perform, just to visit, and we fell in love with the city, so when we asked us to come back we were just ... over the moon. We were so excited. We've heard about how big St. Patrick's Day is down there.
Q. Would you describe your band as playing traditional Irish folk music?
A. I always hesitate to use that term because ... we're a song-based band. We do traditional Irish folk songs, but we infuse them with a little jazz or blues or bluegrass and really try to make them our own. We also write a lot of our own music as well.
Q. Last year, Runa released its third album, "Somewhere Along the Road." What is the band's recording process like?
A. Recording is expensive, so when we were going in to do this album, we knew what songs we were going to do and so we spent some time creating the arrangements and we tracked some of the songs the traditional way, where you each play individually and they are cut together. But we wanted to create something a little different for this album, so we tried to track as many of the songs live as we could. One of our strengths is our live performance, and we wanted to re-create that on the album.
Q. What is your favorite song to perform?
A. I know it's cliche, but that is a lot like getting asked to pick which of your children is your favorite. If I had to pick one, I'd say "Jealousy" is my favorite song to perform. The lyrics are just really, really cool, and it has a really catchy melody. It's a beautiful love song about not letting jealousy get the best of you. During the song, we each take a solo, and it's a chance for the audience to really see how different we are musically.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBGPatrick.