From The Hobby Paul Keating
- Boston’s WGBH to present 11th annual broadcast of “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn”
- At concerts across the tristate area, artists will celebrate an Irish Christmas
- Owners of Boston’s Burren Pub to host CD release party while helping homeless
- Darrah Carr celebrates 15 years of transforming Irish dance into a style she calls ModErin
- The Orio J. Palmer Foundation gives scholarships to Irish artists
And before Solas goes deep into the "Celtic Christmas Sojourn" bubble for rehearsal and the 12-show run, they have some gigs of their own. Visit www.solasmusic.com for dates.
I think we would all agree that the Irish have the right notions about how to celebrate Christmas and make it last as long as possible. It is a time of high and plentiful spirits, good cheer and getting together family and friends to escape from the everyday cares and woes and obsessive shopping pressures bombarding us.
Nothing adds to the merriment like enjoying live Irish music mixed with seasonal carols and melodies that warm our hearts and enrich our souls. And for my fellow trad hearts there is a wealth of opportunities coming up with some of the top performing troupes in Irish music all around us for the next three weeks.
While it is not a Christmas show, the idea of giving to those less fortunate is a prime beneficiary of a very special night up in the Boston area on Wednesday, December 4 as part of the Burren Backroom Series produced by Brian O’Donovan of WGBH and Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, the owners of the Pub.
Since opening the Burren Pub in 1990s Tommy and Louise have welcomed and hosted so many Irish musicians over the years and given them a platform to perform while remaining in the background as ardent supporters.
The Orio J. Palmer Foundation, a non-profit organization spearheaded by the Bronx-based Cara Art Studio, awarded eight scholarships on November 2 to aspiring young artists living in the Irish community of Woodlawn.
The foundation, in memory of FDNY Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer who was killed on 9/11, is also in recognition of his mother, Agnes Palmer, who started taking art classes at the studio shortly after her son died.
The Cork balladeer Donie Carroll from Douglas has once again organized a massive night of entertainment on behalf of the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, whose very difficult mission is to improve the lot of children who are the victims of the drug and sex slave culture in the city slums.
By offering much needed medical attention and educational opportunities to so many under the watchful and attentive eye of Father Joe Maier over many decades, it provides a ray of hope in their otherwise sorrowful lives.
From tiny acorns it is said that mighty oak trees grow, and granted in the concrete jungle that is Manhattan, one has to be realistic about growth prospects.
But it is important to recognize that all events or festivals must start somewhere and lay the seeds that lead to potential fruit down the road. And so the New York Trad Festival organized by Tony DeMarco last weekend began to take root
modestly and demonstrate that not only is the Big Apple awash with many talented traditional Irish musicians, it can come together in a special way to display much of that talent on stage at one time.
If it is healthy and vibrant today, it is only because of the gallant efforts of men like Michael Tubridy and James Keane.
When you are the last one piped aboard a star-studded musical lineup that adorned last February’s Joanie Madden Folk ‘n’ Irish cruise, making a big first impression among the Irish music aficionados sailing the Caribbean waters that week can be a daunting task.
After stowing away my gear on the Norwegian EPIC, I joined Padraig Allen and his McLean Avenue bandmates Buddy Connolly and Tony Ryan in one of the dining areas above deck, and into an open seat sat a young performer whom I never met before by the name of Mickey Coleman.
The Ennis songbird Maura O’Connell who burst upon the Irish scene as the vocalist with Frankie Gavin’s De Danann group in the early 1980s has reached a personal and professional crossroads this year.
O’Connell has decided that the solo career she embarked on after leaving De Danann and moving to Nashville to investigate a wider range of music no longer is viable in the present musical climate where folk clubs and CD sales are so diminished it no longer pays enough to do them.
In the razzle-dazzle atmosphere surrounding the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan these days with their seemingly non-stop programming and the building excitement about their new Clinton headquarters, it doesn’t do any harm to look back on its more humble beginnings that helped establish a foundation.
We were reminded of that in a recent interview with Bill Ochs, one of the first music teachers for the fledgling Irish cultural center known as An Claidheamh Soluis founded by Brian Heron in 1972.
When we talk about the living tradition of Irish music, nowhere is it more robust in the U.S. than the town of Pearl River in Rockland County.
Thanks to the Pearl River School of Music’s year-round activity and music lessons, hundreds of children have embraced traditional music and the friendship it engenders among its fanatical following.
If you spend any amount of time around fiddler Tony DeMarco, you know he is a true-blue New Yawker fiercely proud of his Brooklyn roots and also his Italian and Irish heritage.
In becoming one of the pre-eminent fiddlers in the New York-Sligo style of music, he learned from the very best and has kept that music alive through his prodigious session work around town.
This Saturday, October 19, is being celebrated as International Piping Day around the world and is sponsored in part by Na Piobairi Uilleann. (www.pipers.ie) NPU, based on Henrietta Street in Dublin, was established in 1968 in Bettystown, Co. Meath as a formal organization devoted to the promotion of Ireland’s native instrument.
) at 8 p.m., and on Sunday in Baltimore at a time and place not available at deadline, but check local listings and Facebook as they say for Dan Issacson’s music sessions, perhaps at Liam Flynn’s Ale House.
Bantry House is one of the finest manor houses still operating in Ireland perched high upon a hill overlooking Bantry Bay and the Beara Peninsula.
With the cooperation of the current occupants who are descended from Lord Bantry, the imposing house and gardens are open to the public much of the year and, in particular, have become a special home for music organized by a committed outfit called West Cork Music (WCM) that organizes three great festivals around it cultivating a serious audience who know and respect classical music.
One of the other missions undertaken by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann over the years is to organize concert tours around Ireland, Britain, North America and other countries at the invitation of the Irish government as part of a cultural visit.
The tours were a great opportunity to showcase some of the All-Ireland champions after winning fleadh competitions, and also a mentoring experience for younger musicians to travel and perform with more senior musicians.
Back in 1951 in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, a group of traditional Irish musicians gathered together to bring a halt to the decline of their native music and the heritage enveloped in it. It was the start of the cultural movement called Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann or the Irish Musicians Organization.
Emigration and low self-esteem were problems for the fledgling Irish nation, taking its toll on the number of musicians playing its own folk music. This visionary group sought to encourage musical education throughout Ireland and initiated an annual festival or “fleadh” featuring competitions to aid the oral tradition associated with the music.
William Butler Yeats first made us aware of the Fiddler of Dooney in his imaginative poem, but for aficionados of Irish music it has also been associated with being one of the top recognitions that can be bestowed on a fiddler since 1965.
The competition to proclaim a winner has been renewed in recent years under the ramped up Sligo Live program (www.sligolive.ie), and in this year of The Gathering they have reached over to New York to seek a candidate from the Big Apple to compete in Sligo town at the end of October.
The wellspring of tradition seems to be overflowing as there is so much great music swirling around for us to enjoy and share with people who embrace it and know the importance of having an audience for artists no matter where they perform.
This simple fact was brought home to me on a recent trip to Dublin a couple of weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to be in town for the opening night of a Music Network traditional music tour.
I would like to say farewell to a wonderful gentleman and scholar of Irish music, Tomás Ó Canainn who passed away on Sunday at the age of 82. The Derry native was long resident in Co. Cork where he taught for many years in the engineering and music schools of UCC. He was a student of Sean O’Riada’s there and took over his classes when O’Riada passed away.
O’Canainn was a brilliant writer, poet and musician whose early work with the group Na Fili with Matt Cranitch and Tom Barry was recognized as one of the finer treatments for traditional music and he remained an inspiration until his dying day. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
The Blarney Star Concert Series at Glucksman Ireland House in Manhattan is looking forward to a great season of Friday nights there under the directorship of Don Meade. Coming up on Friday, September 27 is the unique pairing of Eamon O’Leary and Jefferson Hamer, collectively known as the Murphy Beds, who display a very contemporary approach to traditional roots ballads.
They released a sublime recording almost a year ago containing 10 gorgeous ballads from the Irish and English folk canon well known to the native Dubliner O’Leary and the Americana stream where Hamer’s music flourishes.
For more info contact Dan Dennehy at 914-588-2710.
Most of what we hear about the debate on immigration reform tends to dwell on the negative, with emphasis on people in the U.S. illegally taking advantage of what this country has to offer or taking jobs away from deserving American born citizens.
While we pay lip service to the fact that the U.S. is really a nation of immigrants, we don’t always appreciate what a brilliant tapestry we have created here and why our American melting pot is the envy of so many peoples around the world.
As proof that the summer is still officially in season, the Irish festival circuit still continues. The cooler crisp days of September make for wonder forays to hear some great Irish music assembled in various locales.
For 39 years folks from the Delaware Valley area of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania have looked forward to a hard-core trad festival organized by the Philadelphia Ceili Group which was one of the pioneering festivals in the U.S. devoted to that genre exclusively. The festival has been held at the Commodore Barry Irish Center in Mount Airy section of Philadelphia in recent years which is the home base of the PCG (www.philadelphiaceiligroup.org), making it more feasible to operate.
To find out more visit www.tradirishsongs.com.
One of my favorite music shops in Dublin is the Celtic Note on Nassau Street across from Trinity College and steps away from Grafton Street and Dublin’s central shopping district.
Whenever I am in town I make a point to stop there as I can expect to find new releases along with some of the classic trad recordings that somehow eluded me over the years.
The Irish music sextet Full Set recently completed a long U.S. tour that unfortunately did not include any New York metropolitan area performances in support of their sensational new CD Notes After Dark.
Just a few years old now, the young troupe have made a fast impression for their high-powered trad music anchored deep in the well of the tradition.
The snail mailbag brings many treats to me in the form of new (or sometimes old) music contained in those disappearing artifacts known as CDs.
I still like holding the covers or booklets describing the musical contents that artists or agents send my way for a listen. Some are greatly detailed revealing extensive research along with the necessary production elements and others simply give you the basic facts. And I’ll share three wonderful CDs with you that came my way this summer.
If you tried to keep up with the East Clare fiddler Martin Hayes these days you would have logged quite a few thousand miles, and you would still be amazed at the dazzling creativity that he spawns not only in his own music but in the works of all those who sit alongside of him, including long-time partner and accompanist Dennis Cahill.
For a score of years they have carved out a marvelous career as a duet all around the world, drawing us into centuries-old Irish melodies made new and fresh through their masterful interpretation.
Within the realm of Irish traditional music followers there is a special place for music that is played in the fireside manor so authentic you can imagine a whiff of peat in the air as you listen.
Images conjured up are those of the ould fellas sitting close to the fire sharing chunes after a hard day’s labor in the fields around the farm with one another and neighbors who rambled along for the occasion.
I am not sure if the current spate of warm summer weather in the Irish countryside can be credited to the release of a much anticipated new CD this month by concertina player Edel Fox and fiddler Neill Byrne, but the title, The Sunny Banks, suggests that the tide of great Irish music is still rising anyway.
American audiences in the Northeast will have the pleasure of experiencing this great new duet from two of Ireland’s finest young musicians keeping the tradition alive when they tour here in August in support of the new album launched earlier this month at the Willie Clancy Summer School.
You have to go back to the eighties in New York City to see the revival of traditional music on festival stages around New York as it seemed to lag behind places like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia in recognizing the grand old masters to be found in the metropolitan area and the blossoming Irish American generation of musicians they were spawning.
Most notably through the Snug Harbor Irish Traditional Music Festivals out in Staten Island organized by folklorist Becky Miller for the Irish Arts Center, there were memorable performances from Jack Coen, Mike Rafferty, Martin Mulvihill, Mike Preston, Paddy Reynolds, Andy McGann, Joe Madden, Mattie Connolly and other old time masters.
Speaking of New York institutions and pub sessions, I have to give a special shout out to O’Neill’s Irish Bar on Third Avenue which has been hosting Irish trad sessions since 1997 when owner Ciaran Staunton invited fiddler Brian Conway to start a Saturday night session.
Eventually a Sunday night session run by guitarist and singer Johnny Cuomo was added on and the popular Midtown Manhattan hostelry was a fixture for the local and visiting trad music aficionados
Sessions that run that long are no flash in the pan and usually reflect a rare commitment from the publican.
In recent years we have seen Irish musicians collaborating outside their usual comfort zones, and it has led to some fascinating combinations that often times became touring models for those periods when their main gigs were inactive.
You would have heard mention of the Teetotallers for example, Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford and John Doyle, as a prominent example for artists who find occasional work together when not engaged in their regular tour gigs.
It was a warm, humid Friday night last week that brought a number of Irish music lovers and supporters to the East Side town house of Irish businessman Tony White and his wife Clare for a very special occasion.
In a manner reminiscent of the patrons of Irish pipers and harpers centuries ago, White recently spied and admired a young animated young uilleann piper playing at the weekly Saturday afternoon session at Lillie’s Victorian Bar to whom he would open his own beautiful home for a CD launch in New York when it was released.
One of the fascinating aspects of Irish traditional music as a “Living Tradition” that keeps up with the times while preserving its essence is exploring what happens behind the scenes of the stage performances, sessions, workshops and festivals. And in the hands of visionary documentary producers who share the passion and the interest in Irish music we gain a greater insight into what keeps its vibrant and thriving as an art form.
Anyone who has spent any time around musicians know how wedded they are to their instruments. The strongest bonds are built by those who actually know and develop a working and sympathetic relationship with the instrument maker, and one of the more prominent ones is flute maker Patrick Olwell, whose colorful career is depicted in The Keymaster: Patrick Olwell’s Story, produced and released earlier this year by Jem Moore and Blayne Chastain.
As we go to press this week, the annual musical feast known as the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy is well underway in its 41st year as the pre-eminent summer school devoted to traditional Irish music and dance.
To help mark the 40th anniversary of the legendary West Clare Willie Clancy Summer School, a documentary was produced this year to mark 40 years of extraordinary achievement in preserving and promoting traditional Irish music all over the world from the small village of Miltown Malbay, and was also launched as part of the opening celebrations to the week.
Somerville, Massachusetts – The cultural scene around Davis Square appeals to the hipsters who know their music, and the haunts that present artists who are pretty much on the cutting edge of whatever scene they represent.
When you are taking about Irish music, you know the Burren Pub owned and operated by Tommy McCarthy and his wife Louise Costello since 1996 will be in the mix. Their doors have been open to any trad musician known to mankind since then, either in the front bar room where nightly sessions were the norm or the spacious rectangular back room where the focus and sound can be presented more with a listening or participating audience.
Around New York there are some fine choices for some great music this coming weekend.
For those of you who are hankering for a very eclectic selection of roots-oriented folk music and dance non-stop over the weekend, aim for the Albany area for the 33rd annual Old Songs Festival (www.oldsongs.org/festival) at the Altamont Fairgrounds.
The news coming out of our nation’s capital doesn’t always make us jump for joy, but when a news release arrived a couple of weeks ago from the National Endowment for the Arts announcing that the Irish traditional musician Seamus Connolly would be one of its nine honorees receiving a National Heritage Award in September, it restored my faith in at least one institution down there.
Of course, I wasn’t surprised that Connolly’s candidacy was successful because I was one of many who advocated it by submitting a testimonial acknowledging the wonderful work he has performed since arriving permanently on American soil in 1976 from his native Killaloe in East Clare.
As I was leaving Dingle town last month, a big May bank holiday festival was just getting underway called Feile na Bealtaine featuring a rich array of music and arts programming which I hope to return to in the future.
To say it celebrates the cultural diversity and depth to be found in that part of the world inhabited by West Kerry natives and wannabes is an understatement. In particular, the link between poetry, song and music stands out, and some of that was brilliantly captured in a CD that I picked up there along with three others mentioned here in this column produced by three resident artists.
In recent weeks we have written about the role that fleadh competitions have played over the past half-century in spurring on young people to learn traditional music which may or may not stay with them as they age or move onto other interests.
What has been proven to be more enduring for all ages are dedicated classes where one can study technique and learn tunes and hone their skills. Summer schools and long weekends that provide a total immersion in Irish music in classes, lectures, concerts and pub sessions do the job quite nicely and have for decades and still seem to be proliferating both in Ireland and in North America. Here is a brief survey of some worth noting.
DINGLE -- In the year of The Gathering it is quite possible that you have Dear Old Erin’s Isle on your calendar just to get a piece of the craic that is happening over the course of the 2013 year dedicated to putting people in touch with their Irish roots.
If that is the case let me share some advice from my most recent trip to Ireland that can be employed this year, because it has long been something that I recommend to travelers to the Ould Sod, even first-timers.
There is a new festival called Gaelfest 2013 on Saturday, June 1 down the gateway to the Jersey Shore area at the Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, New Jersey.
It will focus on music, dance, the Irish language, literature, history and Gaelic games. It runs from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. with a Mass in Irish with Father Dan Cahill inside CBA for the first hour.
Out in Mineola, Long Island last Friday night was the kind of evening you only experience on the rarest of occasions. The annual fundraiser for the Donny Golden School of Irish Dance became a celebration or more like a “love-fest” for the Brooklyn-born dancing master who turned 60 years young this month.
The Irish American Center in Mineola, one of the places where Golden has taught for more than four decades, was bursting with excitement and anticipation for his arrival shortly after 9:30 p.m. because many of his former students had returned to be on hand for the occasion.
The New York area lost another one of its giants whose legacy will be forever entwined with the preservation and promulgation promotion of Irish traditional music beyond the Big Apple.
Daniel Michael Collins, a native of Manhattan, lost his long battle to lung cancer last Wednesday at his Jersey City home at the age of 75. Born to Irish parents (William from Meelin, Co. Cork, Bridget from Mountcollins, Co. Limerick) he and his brothers David and William and younger sister Kathleen were weaned on traditional Irish music and dance.
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.