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
The parking lot of the Pearl River High School was overflowing, and long lines of hopeful ticket seekers stood outside the auditorium entrance for what was billed as the midwest summer tour kickoff concert for a talented home-grown group of young women (and one New Jerseyite) collectively known as Girsa.
So massive was the crowd that extra chairs were necessary for the sold-out performance space, with over 700 theater style seats in place making the night successful beyond the organizer’s dreams. It also went a long way towards providing a proper springboard to the summer of their lives for the eight talented and fast developing artists who comprise the emerging force in Irish music in America.
Bridging the gap between Ireland’s great musical and literary genius is the wealth of historic, poignant and even ordinary songs in the folk tradition that paint powerful word images in their verses.
Last month I had the opportunity to visit the inspirational new home for the Irish World Academy of Irish music and Dance resting on the Clare side of the Shannon River at the foot of the iconic “Living Bridge,” as director Micheal O’Suilleabhain proclaims it as the spring semester was winding down.
In a month’s time cars from all over the country and nearby Canada will roll into a sleepy hamlet called East Durham in upstate New York ready to rock and reel at one of the U.S.’s most respected summer schools where traditional Irish music and dance are king.
Ordinarily summer time jobs for college students are fairly mundane, so it’s the lucky few who can pull in a few quid doing something they really enjoy or interning in a profession where their future may lie.
Back in the 1970s when the Comhaltas movement was making its move to America, it had some advantages in establishing a firm footing over here for its grass-roots branch network.
The Irish music organization was waning, but key people and places proved ready-made branches ripe for takeover under the CCE aegis.
Helping to establish that beachhead, certainly in the New York area, was the already-tested system of music competitions in Ireland that we commonly refer to as fleadhs now, and the New York Fleadh was one of the first and longest running in America. It was only possible because there was already a solid teaching base for Irish musicians extant in New York City at the time led by people like Martin Mulvihill, Pete Kelly and John and Maureen Glynn, who organized students into schools that dominated the early fleadhs in the seventies.