On the second Sunday of every month from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Billy O’Neill leads his band of local talented musicians through the lively, traditional dance music for all who come to the Irish Cultural Centre of New England to enjoy a real Irish céilí. Billy loves a big dancing crowd and gives everyone a friendly welcome and an Irish joke or two. He has a knack for knowing when the crowd is ready for a waltz or wants a spirited quickstep. As he calls out traditional dances such as “The Connemara Reel” or “The Donegal Set” parents and children, longtime friends, and newcomers take their place on the dance floor and step to the tunes. Dennis Galvin, Brendan Callahan and John Kelley have joined Billy and together they produce some of the best Irish music heard in New England.
At the January 13th ICC Céilí, folks turned out to catch up after the holidays and to work off the Christmas pudding. Children arrived in sparkly shoes, comfortable shirts and swirling skirts to take their turn on the floor. One group of young girls who have gotten to know each other at step dancing class came with their fiddles to play for the crowd. As the girls finished their playing, Billy lost no time in picking up his accordion to keep up the festive, easygoing mood set by the youngster’s playing. Sensitive to the fact that it is football season, Billy allowed for timely breaks so fans could pop into the pub for a pint and to watch the game.
Nora Walsh, longtime supporter of the ICC and member of the Centre’s Ladies group, along with other friends and volunteers magically transform one of the ICC function rooms into a traditional Irish dance hall complete with homemade Irish baked goods, piping hot tea, raffle prizes and plenty of tables for gathering with friends. Each month, Nora is especially touched “by the generosity of people who donate the raffle prizes.” This past Céilí there was a gorgeous woven scarf, a glass blown table centerpiece, gift certificates, an award-winning book signed by the author, and items related to ICC events.
As one family new to the ICC Céilí headed out after hours of good music, laughter and visiting, they told Billy that they would be back for the next ICC Céilí. The mom remarked that there “was a feeling of real Irish hospitality and the music kept us all going; the time flew by.” And, that’s just how it is when Billy , Dennis, Brendan and John play at the ICC Céilí. Your feet can’t keep still and your laughter can’t be quelled thanks to Billy’s talent at making everyone feel welcome and ready to dance.