Down through the long storied history of the Blarney Star concert series and its predecessor at the Eagle Tavern, one of its more valued attributes has been the ability to balance presenting great touring artists in the traditional music world with core people in the local scene around New York City, some who operated under the radar of notoriety and publicity.
Musician Don Meade has curated that series (www.blarneystar.com) for over two decades as it moved from the Eagle in the West Village to the actual Blarney Star Pub on Murray Street and for a number of years, and now at Glucksman Ireland House near Washington Square in Manhattan.
Coming up this Friday, January 28, in the first of the series in the new year are the Pearl River Mommas who anchor the great teaching and learning environ that has established that bustling Rockland County community as the center for Irish music education thus far in the 21st century.
Patty Conway (accordion), Rose Conway Flanagan (fiddle) and Margie Mulvihill (flute and whistles), who all studied with the legendary West Limerick music maestro and teacher Martin Mulvihill (a cousin of Margie’s father Tom) in the Bronx where they grew up, are coming back into the Big Apple to perform as a trio.
Since choosing Pearl River as the town to settle in and raise their families, these three ladies have also brought their love of Irish traditional music from the Bronx by way of the Irish masters who trained them in their youth in the 1970s and 1980s.
Branching out in their respective instruments, they have taught and influenced hundreds of children, turning their homes into learning centers. On many an occasion they also transformed those homes into the vital social settings that have spearheaded the development and appreciation for the music in this new golden era of Irish music in New York.
Their direct involvement as teachers encouraging their students to raise their standard of playing and in competition has led to a massive revival in the New York Fleadh, for which they also are key cogs in the organizational end of things for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.
Concurrently they have also helped develop and maintain a thriving New York area ceili scene by their participation in great ceili bands like the Green Gates Ceili Band and the Pride of Moyvane and Coolmagort ceili bands in the past decade that ensured wonderful dance music that would rival any locality on either side of the ocean. Without question this has helped galvanize and embellish the local Irish music scene to go along with their wonderful work in the teaching arena.
This Friday night is a rare opportunity to go and hear Patty, Rose and Margie for the wonderful music they produce in their own right as artists who get overlooked because they are part of a larger circle most often.
Mulvihill was a founding member of Morning Star Band in the Bronx with Mary Courtney and recorded a few albums there as they performed around town. She has blossomed with all the music she has been teaching and playing in ceili bands and sessions incessantly along with her husband John Reynolds.
Furlong recorded a solo album a few years ago and is in demand around the country for her box-playing at workshops, and like Mulvihill has a great command of the Sliabh Luachra style of playing.
Flanagan has yet to record a solo album, though she has been encouraged to do so as she remains in the shadow of her better known older brother Brian Conway who has several successful CDs to his credit.
Both Rose and Brian are principal exponents of the Sligo New York style of fiddle playing which they proudly and expertly pass onto their own students and children, as it was generously given to them by their father James Conway and fellow fiddlers like Martin Wynne, Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds.
Who knows where this music collaborative performance might lead, and if it is to a recording studio collectively or as individuals the New York Irish music community will be the better for it for sure.
Joining them on the night is the premier accompanist and NYU archivist Brendan Dolan on keyboards.
Make your way down to Glucksman Ireland House for Friday night where the sets begin at 9 p.m. Call 212-998-3950 or visit www.nyu.edu/pages/irelandhouse.