Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann celebrates 40 great years

Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann dance
For the Laoisman developing the concept of a North American tour of Irish traditional musicians and dancers 40 years ago, there was simply a pride and commitment to do what he could to promote the music and culture of his native Ireland.

Stitching together a network of cities that would host a series of shows for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in the United States and Canada proved to be a visionary accomplishment for the now 87-years young Bill McEvoy back then as CCE sought to extend its cultural movement to North America.

Getting a head start on many of the “professional” touring groups that came along decades later, the CCE tours exposed top-notch talent on an annual basis overseas that helped springboard a North American wing that will celebrate 40 years in 2012.

So a proud tradition continues when the CCE 60th anniversary concert tour of North America entitled “Echoes of Erin” takes place from October 9-22 through the Northeast and the Midwest this year.

The complement of 13 artists includes eight musicians, three dancers, a singer and a storyteller, many of whom can claim All-Ireland status on their respective instruments and other championship credentials in a show produced at CCE’s Culturlann in Monkstown where the first show takes place on Sunday, October 9 to bid them bon voyage from Dublin.

In the troupe this year are Oisin Morrison on harp from Dublin, Breda Shannon on flute and concertina from Roscommon, Maura Walsh on concertina and fiddle from Kerry, Conor Moriarty on button accordion and melodeon from Kerry, Roisin Ni Riain on fiddle from Kerry, Padraic Keena, a singer and box player from Westmeath, Padraig Donlon on uilleann pipes from Louth, Paul McMahon on guitar and piano accordion from Louth and Rhona Lynch on fiddle from Offaly who won the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney Award last year in Sligo.

The stepdancers are Mark Nestor from Clare and Clare McDermott from Cavan, and following up on an exceptional debut in San Antonio at the CCE Convention earlier this year is sean nos dancer Emma O’Sullivan from Galway. Offaly storyteller Joe Monahan rounds out the group.

This year’s itinerary once again relies on the branch network system for all but one show which reinforces the solidarity of the organization and builds ties that bind between the visiting artists and those branches offering not only a venue in which to perform but hospitality that makes them feel at home.

Fittingly it has become a tradition of its own in starting the tour in Mineola, Long Island where the first CCE branch was formed over here.  In recent years those opening days of the quite rigorous tour have begun in a very hospitable area called Fiddlers Green on Long Island’s North Shore arranged by resident Pete Murphy of the host Mulligan Quinn branch there in Mineola.            

The shows begin on Tuesday, October 11 in Mineola at the Irish American Center at 7:30 p.m. (297 Willis Avenue; 631-698-3305).

The rest of the Northeast schedule is Wednesday, October 12 in Middletown, New Jersey at the Middletown Arts Center (36 Church Street; 732-915-2191), Thursday, October 13 in Fairfield, Connecticut at the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at Sacred Heart University (5151 Park Avenue; 203-371-7908); Friday, October 14 at the Waltham High School in Waltham, Massachusetts (617 Lexington Street; 781-899-0911); Saturday, October 15 in Rome, New York at the Rome Free Academy Auditorium (95 Dart Circle; 315-827-4291); Sunday, October 16 in Buffalo at Erie Community College (6205 Main Street; 536-0490).

The tour then moves onto the Midwest for stops in Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago, with its concluding concert at the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northside of town.

More detailed information on the upcoming tour and Comhaltas, in general, can be found at www.comhaltas.ie.  The 2011 tour is being sponsored by Tourism Ireland.

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