When it comes to encouraging children to take lessons in Irish traditional music, a key component is often what's in the genes and the role that families play in ensuring that it passes from one generation to the next. The support from parents and the extended family to youngsters learning the tin whistle, flute, accordion, fiddle, piano or singing and entering them into competitive fleadhs or summer schools to raise their standard of performance is vital to its success. It is also an important component in the Woodlawn School of Irish Music established in the Bronx enclave bordering on Yonkers, which could easily be considered an Irish village in America. Thanks to the patronage of local businessman Martin O'Grady, two talented ladies, Michelle Bergin and Mary Rafferty, began the school around five years ago to teach classes on a regular basis there. They have now been joined by Mary Coogan, Deirdre Connolly, Jerry O'Sullivan and Brendan Fahey in a collaborative effort to keep the tradition alive there in the north Bronx. All four women have been part of the Cherish the Ladies phenomenon here in New York City which grew out of the Fathers and Daughters project almost a quarter century ago. To help encourage the kids and to raise some much-needed funds for this summer's Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann which is once again in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, the Woodlawn School is getting way out in front of the New York Fleadh (May 30 and 31 in Pearl River) in scheduling its major annual benefit. The calendar isn't playing tricks on you, and we'll still in the depths of winter, but founders Bergin (now McLoughlin as the wife of fellow musician Chris) and Rafferty (now Clancy as the wife of fellow musician Donal Clancy) are in the family way themselves, each with a baby expected later this spring. (April for Mary Clancy and her third child and May for Michelle Bergin for her first). The timing is better now to organize the concert and raffles well ahead of the hustle and bustle that accompanies Fleadh preparations. On Sunday, February 8 from 1-5 p.m. the Killeshandra Room of Rory Dolan's (890 McLean Avenue in Yonkers) will be alive with the sound of music. With Joanie Madden as the woman of the house (MC), a star-studded cast featuring Mike Rafferty, Mattie Connolly, Willie Kelly, Jerry O'Sullivan, Tony DeMarco, Kathy Ludlow, Mary Coogan, Chris McLoughlin, Annmarie Acosta and Brendan Fahey will provide music for entertainment and a few sets. The students will also perform during the event. Admission will by donation and there will be many raffles, Chinese and otherwise, available for the cause. Visit www.woodlawn irishmusic.com. Also this Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. two New York City session hounds, fiddler DeMarco and piper Ivan Goff make an appearance at the historically quaint Newtown Meeting House in Newtown, Connecticut (31 Main Street) accompanied by Ryan McGiver on guitar. If pub sessions aren't your scene then this is an acoustically lovely place to hear this fine trio who showcased recently at the APAP conference as part of great group of musicians from this side of the pond. This is a concert sponsored by the Shamrock Irish Traditional Music Society (www.shamrockirishmusic.org).
Must-see off the beaten track spots around Ireland (PHOTOS)