It has been about a decade or so since Dr. Mick Moloney decided that the allure of New York City and its bountiful research topics and academic resources, along with multitudes of talent in Irish music, were too good to resist.
He signed on with New York University’s music department as a global distinguished professor of music and also affiliated with the Glucksman Ireland House Irish Studies program.
These pages have chronicled much of the great programming, lectures and workshops stimulated by the Limerick native’s fertile and incessant creativity. One of the more intriguing projects is an ongoing one that dovetails nicely with his digging for gold in Irish Americana like Tin Pan Alley and Harrigan and Hart and the McNultys.
Proselytizing a number of NYU graduate students initially who were musicians in other genres, he galvanized them into a recreational and educational band that harkened back to the first half of the 20th century, and hence the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra was born.
Anything but graduate assistants sent to dusty library confines, the group aids and abets the old professor by bringing alive in performance art much of the cultural history that shaped Irish America. And their new CD being launched in the March Madness, Since Maggie Dooley Learned the Hooley Hooley, is a vivid example of the zany but sophisticated joy they bring to their version of a university without walls on stage.
Since 2000 the fun-loving troupe has seen its ranks swell with more musicians from the Irish scene as the opportunities multiplied to perform as regulars in Moloney’s big and small stage shows, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Symphony Space to the Irish Arts Center to the offices of the consul general of Ireland.
Their forte is seeking out colorful songs that depict different eras of Irish America, sprinkled with solid and well arranged trad chunes that have historic significance in and outside the tradition.
There is a collegiality and relaxed attitude that comes from not taking themselves too seriously without ever compromising the performance standards and stage presence which grows by the show.
The 11 tracks on the new recording show a great variety and mastery of the form and spirit that characterize the selections. Mostly there are great songs that paint the pictures in a very amusing way.
It is an album that is unique and won’t sound like anything else in your collection without going over the top. One gets the sense that the musicians had as much fun recording it and performing it as the listener will have playing it over and over or seeing them.
The troupe contains an eclectic mix of artists with varying backgrounds who gravitated to the ensemble and now appear on the new CD. They are, in alphabetical order -- Kate Bowerman, Donie Carroll, Brendan Dolan, Lisa Farber, Suzanne Grossman, Liz Hanley, Linda Hood, Tony Horswill, Liz Kennedy Bradley, Don Meade, Dan Milner, Mick Moloney, Daniel Neely, Gail Neely, Scott Spencer, Louise Sullivan and guest appearances on the CD by piper Ivan Goff, and Gerry Timlin.
The CD was produced by Dan Neely and Ivan Goff with assistance from Moloney and attractively designed with track notes that are eminently readable for a change.
The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra have a full plate ahead of them starting this week with a concert and Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on March 10 at 7 p.m.
On March 11, they are part of the McNulty family extravaganza at Symphony Space in Manhattan (a sold out concert). On Saturday at noon they are participating in the Gaelic Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mott Street between Prince and Houston Streets.
All of that is prelude to their big CD launch at, appropriately enough, Glucksman Ireland House on the NYU campus just north of Washington Square on Friday, March 18 at 9 p.m. as part of the Blarney Star Concert Series.
The new CD will be available at the upcoming gigs and eventually on iTunes, CD Baby, etc. For more info visit www.facebook.com/WSHSO.