From The Hobby Paul Keating
- New Jersey Fleadh weekend a huge success
- Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Congress celebrates growth - with 415 branches in 15 countries
- Recalling the great Irish musician Felix Dolan - VIDEO
- The Yanks are coming - debut album of New York City favorite building a buzz
- New York Irish Center hosts great night - Oliver O’Connell, Mickey Dunne live in Queens
Parsippany, New Jersey -- In last week’s column we extolled the virtues of the visionary people who were concerned with the disappearance of traditional Irish music and dance after World War II and took action to reverse the tide before it was too late.
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann had created a fleadh system in rudimentary fashion as a vehicle to encourage young people to learn music and provide incentives for taking on their native music. As we noted, the concept has mushroomed to the point where there are probably more people playing and enjoying Irish traditional music than at any time in its history on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
DUBLIN -- I’ve only just arrived back from the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Congress held at the Monkstown Culturlann headquarters of the worldwide Irish cultural movement that has 415 branches in 15 countries in time to write this column.
CCE was founded in 1951 in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath to halt a serious decline in preservation of the traditional arts of music, song, dance and the Irish language for myriad reasons in Ireland at that historical timeframe.
The New York City area is buzzing with anticipation for the long-awaited CD launch of The Yanks, the exceptional new recording that as much as anything else reflects the very healthy state of Irish traditional music among young people in the metropolitan New York area.
The self-titled maiden voyage sonically was recorded in East Durham in three days by John Walsh, who captured Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney, Isaac Alderson and Sean Earnest in peak form at the Blackthorn Resort during the Catskills Irish Arts Week.
Last week there was a wonderful night out at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, with another capacity turnout for a great night of storytelling, music and charity.
It certainly was a sterling example of what a brilliant Irish community center that place on Jackson Avenue has become when it welcomed two visiting musicians from Ireland in Oliver O’Connell from Clare and Mickey Dunne from Limerick who were on a one-week tour with stops in Virginia, Massachusetts and New York.
The return this spring of that occasional super group the Teetotallers -- Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford and John Doyle -- is very welcome. The three superstars of Irish music relish the opportunity to match their talents and performances with one another whenever they can carve out time in their own busy schedules.
The results have been fantastic given the reaction thus far in Ireland and around the U.S. for their shows in the last year and a half.
There is nothing that soothes the soul like going out and hearing live music and watching a talented and creative artist work their magic with a responsive audience. That is one of the underlying principles stoking the music performance arena at the Irish Arts Center in New York City, a small Irish Cultural Center more than punching above its weight in massively overstimulated Big Apple marketplace. Their recent initiatives like their Masters in Collaboration series and more particularly SongLives shows have sparked creativity and new performances at their black box theater space called the Donaghy Theater on the ground floor of the former garage building in Hell’s Kitchen, more fashionably known as Clinton these days on Manhattan’s far West Side in Midtown.
Last year , Dubliner Declan O’Rourke made an appearance with SongLives Curator and singer songwriter Susan McKeown as she sought to give much needed exposure to many gifted Irish singer-songwriters plying their trade on either side of the Atlantic these days. Contemporary folk singers need all the help they can get to muster out folks grown sedentary and housebound glued to television or computer screens. O’Rourke made an amazing first impression in the series and when he was anxious to come back to New York City for a full evening’s show, the Irish Arts Center enticed him with the offer of a one-week residency which was too good to pass up.
When all the cylinders are clicking and you are at your most creative, it seems like good ideas keep regenerating, looking for opportunities to unfold.
In this vein, when New York’s Irish Arts Center launched another novel series last year introducing us to a whole generation of brilliant contemporary singer songwriters from Ireland and America in a series aptly named “SongLives” it tapped into an appetite for more programming like this that they were only too willing to supply.
Last Friday on a cold rainy and windy day, one of New York’s most popular Irish musicians, Felix Dolan, was laid to rest in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla as family and friends shared a final prayer and a couple of tunes.
That bone-chilling last ritual followed a truly extraordinary Mass further south in Westchester at the Church of Our Lady of Fatima Church, the parish church of Felix and Joan Dolan, his widow and wife of 53 years.
Once again the Masters in Collaboration presentation at the Irish Arts Center was one for the ages.
If Easter has come and gone, then one of the harbingers of spring in the Irish traditional music scene is the annual North American convention of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, a four day celebration of music and dance under one roof usually at a posh suburban hotel.
Doing the honors this year as the host branch is the O’Neill-Malcom CCE centered around Washington, D.C. They’ve taken on the sizeable chore of organizing the massive entertainment and workshop weekend as well as the business sessions slotted for the first full day of activity on Friday.
On a brief tour of Massachusetts and New York next week are two very lively entertainers from Ireland who each in their own way are the bedrock upon which Irish traditional music survives and flows into the next generation.
Oliver O’Connell, originally from Doolin, Co. Clare, is a historical storyteller, songwriter and musician. He is teaming up with Limerick piper Mickey Dunne for a series of enlightening concerts that will provide a great deal of information about the importance of the traveling community in Ireland in preserving and passing on so much traditional music over the years.
Coming up this Friday night at Glucksman Ireland House is another pure-drop tandem visiting from Ireland in fiddler Pat O’Connor from Ennis, Co. Clare and Eoghan O’Sullivan from Co. Cork. They are touring around the U.S. and hitting the Big Apple.
It is part of the Glucksman Ireland House Blarney Star Concert series that gets underway at 8 p.m. at 1 Washington Mews on Fifth Avenue just north of Washington Square in Manhattan.
Joanie Madden marching in the McLean Avenue parade
Over the past month, some PBS stations acknowledged that there might be more than one group of Celtic women who are making beautiful music that grew out of the heartland of Irish America, so they opened up their airwaves to a production that was filmed at Bushnell University last year.
Among many of the exciting programming features of Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center, there are none that appeal to me more than the Masters in Collaboration series now in its seventh edition.
It’s coming up next week as singer-songwriters and interpreters Karan Casey and Aoife O’Donovan join forces for the week long exploration of one another’s music and creativity.
Nothing proves the depth of the wellspring of Irish traditional music these days than the annual awarding of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards by the Irish language television channel announced last month.
Since they were first were given out in 1998, many of the outstanding traditional musicians in the contemporary era have been recognized in one category or another.
Mick Moloney and the Irish Arts Center triumphed once again at the historic Upper West Side cultural bastion known as Symphony Space which serves as a large platform for its increasingly popular themed variety shows.
With a capacity crowd of nearly 800 people in the restored edifice (that is a tribute to the vision of the late Isaiah Sheffer who died last November) the Irish Arts Center latest show Celtic Appalachia II managed to upstage St. Patrick’s Day celebrated earlier that day at the parade. It wasn’t just a great day for the Irish but also for the Celts, most of whom were represented in some way at the evening performance.
I think part of the charm of the St. Patrick’s season is that it really is a harbinger of spring when people are ready to shed any hibernation tendencies.
Newtown, Connecticut --It was indeed a picturesque New England town in Connecticut before that awful day in December when a deranged young man perpetrated a senseless killing spree that claimed the lives of 26 beautiful educators and children who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The world saw a different, harsher image of the bucolic town on the edge of suburbia just a few months ago than the one in my mind from a number of lovely visits to hear Irish music there hosted by the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society (STIMS) rooted in Fairfield County.
In Parsippany, New Jersey, the Sheraton Hotel has joined with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann for a St. Patrick’s party on Friday, March 15 starting around 8 p.m. in the Tipperary Pub. This is both a social night and fundraiser for the CCE children’s fleadh education fund in the mid-Atlantic region, bolstering the efforts of the provincial fleadh which will take place over May 10-12 also in Parsippany (www.nyfleadh.com).
Entertainment will be by Jameson’s Revenge. Call Tom Vesey at 973-977-8863 . . .
Well, if last year’s event was any indicator, it certainly looked like the novel gathering at Regis High School in Manhattan for the first annual Sober St. Patrick’s day was an idea long overdue. The sold out crowd packed the Catholic high school with great enthusiasm and curiosity for the visionary occasion organized by television producer William Spencer Reilly.
As one of the pre-eminent folklorists in Irish American music history, Dr. Mick Moloney has spent a lot of time in the 19th and 20th centuries studying aspects of performance, especially as it appeals to the Irish emigrant community in the United States.
I am not sure anyone can juggle a roster of artists like he can in the series of shows he has been doing for the Irish Arts Center in recent years. Upcoming is another spectacular production and the second year exploring the mountain music of Appalachia and the crossover connections to traditional Irish music.
It is time once again to make our readers aware of the multitude of musical opportunities with within the tradosphere as the Green Season is upon us.
Get your exercise in marching in all the local parades, then relax and take in some great Irish music by some of the finest artists anywhere, and in some new venues for the first time as well. You can show your Irishness by supporting the arts and the musicians who create it.
While the talent and entertainment options abounded around the Norwegian Epic all week, some soirees really will stay in my mind’s eye as emblematic of what a friendly gathering it was.
Once again Gabriel Donahue played a crucial role in helping Donie Carroll navigate the seaboard launch of his newly pressed CD Divil of a Noise that arrived just in time to make the ship’s departure from Miami. Since he worked closely with Donie on this album from his state of the art studio in Center City Philadelphia and also Donie’s maiden effort a few years ago, Gabe was well clued in on how to let it play out on ship and steered a steady course.
The heart of the Irish is in their music and songs, and with stalwarts like Madden traveling the world by land, sea and air the Irish folk tradition is alive and well. Long may it continue.
Temple Bar, Dublin -- In the year of The Gathering, the massive Tourism Ireland initiative attempting to stimulate travel to Ireland in 2013 from the Irish Diaspora around the world, you can’t get too early a start reaping the hoped-for harvest.
So the Temple Bar Trad Festival (TBTF) drew the important role of being the first big festival enticing visitors to the Dublin’s capital city and also marking the first traditional Irish music festival to get out of the blocks as well.
The remembrance lasted over two and half hours on a cold blustery Sunday in Dublin Town, and his many friends and fellow musicians fondly recalled the wonderful voyage that Barney McKenna took through his life. Many will look forward to meeting up again in Fiddler’s Green someday.
Maguire will finish off his New York visit with a guest appearance at the weekly Monday night music session at the Landmark Tavern from 8-11 p.m. at 46th Street and 11th Avenue.
or phone 908-813-8617 for more info on the Alan Morrisroe experience.
Joseph K. Cunningham of Crusheen, Co. Clare reached the century mark earlier this year, born around the time the Titanic set sail, only he was more successful in reaching America in 1929 at the age of 17. An accordion player, he started the Joe Cunningham Orchestra in 1931, entertaining Irish American audiences for 60 years and turning over the legacy to his sons Joe and Jimmy who as the Cunningham Brothers have maintained a reputation as one of the top Irish bands in the greater New York area.
Joe’s span in the New York Irish traditional music scene was highlighted by his own playing and his work with the historically more well-known Michael Coleman and James Morrison from Sligo, whose recordings helped stoke the revival of the genre back in Ireland and also establish it here for the many Irish immigrants.
His longevity and sharp memory right up to the end made him a go-to source for researchers like Harry Bradley and Martin Enright for information. He made significant contributions to the Sligo/New York history as witnessed by visits to the Morrison Teach Cheoil in Riverstown, Co. Sligo in recent years as a contemporary of Coleman, Morrison, Paddy Killoran, Lad O’Beirne and Martin Wynne.
The whole evening was a credit to GIRSA and their families and friends, and it is remarkable to witness the road they have traveled thus far not alone but in the company of so many who share the same passion for Irish music.
It is always a bit of a risk to move from comfortable surroundings and a smaller venue where there are not a multiplicity of factors at play for your performance.
But there are times when you have worked hard to make a production the best it can be and you seek validation of a wider audience, even if you have had success at your home base.
If you can pull it off there is so much more to gain, so that is what infused the brain trust that produces the annual show An Irish Christmas: A Musical Solstice Celebration at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan to move uptown to the Bronx and the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University for a one-time show this past Sunday afternoon.
for information on the cruise and end of year tour dates.
As we all realize now after Hurricane Sandy, we are one big community, whether we share it at a live performance or over comforting airwaves that seek to unite our common bonds.
That wonderful Irish spirit of Meitheal, with neighbor helping neighbor, is a custom that is appropriate for any generation and never more so than now. You will find plenty of helpful organizations and grass roots folks to direct you to where you can help out and you’ll come away feeling better than you arrive. So don your work clothes and gloves and pitch in as soon as you can and especially on Saturday, November 24 for the Irish Day of Action.
Christy McNamara, the Clare musician and photographer from Crusheen outside of Ennis, is opening an exhibit of photographs taken over a two-decade span mostly of traditional musicians revealing much more than spare black and white images thanks to his insights into the times and places where they were captured.
Entitled “From Clare to Here -- A Journey in Photographs,” the exhibition will hang at the Irish Consulate (345 Park Avenue, 17th Floor) from November 16-December 21. Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaelthacht, Jimmy Deenihan from Kerry, will do the honors of opening the exhibit this Friday at a special reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Last minute attendees need to send an affirmative RSVP via email to email@example.com.
for more information.
And the boardwalk will be rebuilt so once again we can enjoys the sea breeze and calming walks and look out over the Atlantic towards the Emerald Isle.
With two CDs to their credit and appearances at many major Irish festivals, the multi-talented septet of Maeve and Bernadette Flanagan, Deirdre Brennan, Pamela Geraghty, Emily McShane, Blaithin Loughran and Margaret Dudasik always give a spirited performance in the place where it all began for them. For more info check out girsamusic.com.
For those of us who cannot be there in person, we can help support the cause from long distance through the purchase of a special CD compilation, When Hope Dawns at Sunrise ($15 plus shipping at $2.50) or via regular donations made payable to the Maurice Lennon Fundraiser, c/o Ella Riordan-Pacheco, Signature Bank, 6400 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago, Illinois 60631. For more information on the event or to make a CD purchase or donation via Paypal visit www.mauricelennonfundraiser.com.
The Irish Arts Center currently has a humanities lecture series underway at its Hell’s Kitchen home called “Two Roads Diverged: A Dialogue on Irish and Black Contributions to American Culture.” Developed by Lenwood O. Sloan and Dr. Mick Moloney, it deals with a variety of aspects that characterized their interactions here in America over the centuries.
The second lecture is on Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. entitled “Jimmy Crack Corn: Irish and Black Diaspora in Appalachia,” The third occurs two weeks later on November 7 at 7 p.m. dealing with the period 1830-1876 with the subject title being “Banjo and Fiddle, Tambo and Bones.” Visit www.irishartscenter.org.
For those of you who may be looking to avoid listening to election night returns, there is a special treat in New York City on November 6 at 8 p.m. Mary Black and her daughter Roisin O’Reilly are performing at the Soho supper club City Winery (155 Varick Street; www.citywinery.com). Music very definitely runs in the family as many of us were introduced to the Black family from early recordings from the Dublin family. Mary’s sons are in the indie rock band the Coronas.
Part of the special allure of the weekend is the friendly gathering enhanced by the one campus atmosphere and meals at the venerable family resort and meals can be purchased. The bar is also the site for the amazing Saturday night concert featuring the teaching staff which is open to the public on general admission and worth the trip alone.