Catching up with the Irish Cultural Centre: Maureen McNally - ICC member, volunteer, and vocalist

Maureen McNally

Perhaps no one is looking forward to greeting families at the September 28th Halloween celebrations at the ICC Cottage more than vocalist and storyteller Maureen McNally. Maureen has been active with the Irish Cultural Centre of New England even before the Centre’s current building was built. She fondly recalls the "walk the land" event of over twenty years ago when volunteer planners and builders were getting a sense of the acreage. Today, she knows the grounds inside and out. She regularly joins sessions in the ICC Pub, attends events and views exhibits. She also helps to organize special family programs such as Halloween or Samhain at the ICC Cottage, Breakfast with Santa, the May Day meitheal or working party and the August 1st Lughnasadh (Lunasa) harvest gathering. Maureen sees the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton as a place that "keeps all aspects of Irish tradition alive; there’s everything at the ICC from sports to stories to history to music to dance to songs." For Maureen, "encouraging people to join in the tunes is an especially good way of helping them know Irish history." She’s sure to include singing and music in any of the ICC programs she helps to organize.
During her childhood in County Offaly Maureen grew up with the music of Ireland. Her brothers played mouth organs and guitar. In what Maureen describes as "the typical hand-down-tradition" of an Irish family, her grandmother and father made sure the children knew the ballads and traditional songs of the time. On the school bus and in the school yard her friends were always singing, and, she laughs, "most kids were good at it." It was not unusual for one of her school mates to lead a sing song session at lunch. For Maureen singing was a natural part of family, school and holiday times in Ireland.
Having a traditional cottage on site at the ICC inspires Maureen to create an authentic setting for the Halloween celebration. Past attendees describe the warmth of the cottage hearth as being "just like the one in a village in the countryside of Ireland." Maureen invites traditional musicians and storytellers to help her pass on the Irish songs and legends affiliated with the time of Samhain, or November 1st, the beginning of the first quarter of the Old Celtic New Year. Over time, Maureen explains, Christian aspects were blended into the harvest and divination activities of the Irish customs, and Samhain became Halloween. At the ICC cottage, children will hear Irish songs and stories as well as enjoy activities like costume parades and hay rides that bring all of the traditions together as an annual autumn experience for all ages.
Appreciating how easily song fits into Irish activities, Maureen approached ICC Executive Director Mary McTigue about her offering an evening of presentation and performance with musical perspective. While there are many genres to Irish song: unaccompanied traditional singing or sean-nós song; tenor; folk; country western; rock; and, pop, Maureen selected the Irish ballad as the genre of focus during her first Musical Perspective presentation on November 10th at the ICC. Maureen chose this genre, because she "loves how there’s a rich wealth of history put into the ballads." She’s looking forward to explaining the "code of lyrics" in many of the Irish ballads. For example she mentions how the favorite "Róisín Dubh" (Dark Rosaleen) appears to be a love song, it is in fact a political song and Róisín is actually a metaphor for Ireland and passing history on to others throughout the years."
For more information about the November 10th Musical Perspective presented by Maureen McNally and the October 28th Irish Halloween at the ICC event please visit www.irishculture.org or call 781-821-8291

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