The Keane Edgeby Brendan Patrick Keane
- Exorcism of my inner Peter King
- Gas question: why give Ireland's enormous wealth away? the Norweigan alternative
- Bashing the Irish -- a break neck run down on Ireland's history of betrayal
- Stephen Fry to appear on Gaelic soap opera Ros na Rún
- Stolkholm Syndrome infects Dublin
"I'm a bit of a sneaker-head. Probably comes from growing up in Brooklyn," Patrick Mangan told me in an interview recently from the road. The Riverdance fiddler is scheduled to be back in town for St.Patrick's Day when the tour hits Radio City Music Hall from March 17-21. The whole Riverdance extravaganza ends its long road trip--and world-wide phenomenon--for good, after 15 years influencing the status of Irish traditional music so that it is now a fundamental genre in world music. When the tour's done, Mangan's returning to New York City for good, after months and months on the road--wearing out those sneakers.
"Twelve pairs of sneakers might seem a bit excessive," he told me, "but keep in mind it is an eight-month tour, so you kind of have to pack up your life into two big suitcases. They would be way overweight if I had to get on a plane but luckily the company travels with a luggage truck, so even when we fly, our bags travel by ground which is very handy. I usually acquire a few pairs on the road, too. Whenever I see something unique, especially in a city I might never return to, I feel compelled to pick a new pair." You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but not Brooklyn out of the boy.
"I've been touring full-time since summer of 2006 (usually with a few months off in between each tour)." he told me. "In that time I've been all across the States, and traveled to Canada, Mexico, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and China."
Managan started playing fiddle at the age of 5. His first exposure to violin came through Suzuki, a classical system for learning, developed in Japan, but his parents were lovers of the traditional Irish music of their family's heritage and exposed him to The Music (as people in it, call it) from the crib. He was a regular at the New York Irish festivals like the famous one at Snug Harbor where people like Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds were regulars. At age 8, Mangan's mother met Brian Conway at one such feis, and lessons soon followed. You can read a profile of Brian Conway's decade-long Wednesday night performance-seisiún here. Mangan's been hooked ever since.
In a display of excellent taste, Vanessa Williams, was at Ireland House last Friday night to enjoy as we all did, the music of Cormac Breatnach, Mike Considine and special-guest Ivan Goff in the second concert of five in the Blarney Star series happening this year. Don Meade's Blarney Star productions are landmark dates on the calendar of Irish New York, offering an intimate setting for connoisseurs of ceol in the heart of Greenwich Village and the shadow of Washington Square Park, on Fifth Avenue.
Cormac Breatnach comes from an interesting cultural background, that has influenced his music and his philosophy of Irish traditional music. At home, as a child, he was raised speaking Irish with his father, and Castillian Spanish with his mother, whom he would later discover had proud Basque roots. English would come easily enough his parents thought from the streets. He explores these personal influences on a variety of wind instruments and in compositions, and has been doing so professionally with such luminaries as Dónal Lunny and Máire Breatnach (no relation). He was a member of Donal Lunny's Celtic Orchestra in 1985, with members Arty McGlynn, Nollaig Casey (Coolfin), Manus Lunny (Capercaillie), Steve White, Seán Óg Potts and Damien Quinn. He then founded Méristem which featured Máire Breatnach, Niall Ó Callanáin & Steve White; and later Deiseal. You can read his extensive discography, here. Audience members were buying up his "Musical Journey" CD like hot-cakes after the show.
Mike Considine is an Irish Londoner, whose people come from Cinn Mhara (Kinvara), on the Galway Bay (Loch Lurgan). He spent much time living in Galway and New Zealand, learning his music by ear, and becoming one of Irish traditional music's finest bouzouki players and a most sought-after accompanist.
During the Easter Rising of 1916, the British administration engaged in a shock and awe campaign to destroy Dublin, and the morale of Dubliners, by the brute force of its army. Destruction and looting was a psychological tactic, and much treasure was whisked from the capital city of Ireland, back to the imperial city of London, as trophies of the British empire's brutal resistance to self-determination.
Dublin City Councillor Jim O'Callaghan is urging his City Manager John Tierney to join the growing pressure being put on the British Imperial War Museum to return a treasured flag, looted from the home of Constance Markiewicz. The flag is called Gal Gréine which is the sunburst symbol of Irish nationhood, found in Ireland's most ancient manuscripts and resumed in the modern period by culturistas and politicos of the Irish national renaissance.
A group of people has also formed on Facebook to advocate the return, and their site can be found here.
The Irish button accordion is an accoustic instrument that can fill a dance hall with a melodic heart beat few hands but those of a true box master can finger. Joe Burke is an Olympian in the pantheon of Irish traditional musicians that will forever be beloved in the memory of this magical tradition.
A master musician, and brilliant speaker, Joe Burke wrote a note to Monsignor Father Charlie Coen as they sat near each other in the beautifully designed Irish American Center in Mineola before either had yet been called up to accept their awards. As he gave his speech, he pulled the note from his pocket, and read aloud what he had written in question:
"Now that I seem to be on the same level as a Monsignor, what am I supposed to do?"
The napkin with this query also had Monsignor Coen's response written on it. Joe called Paul Keating, the Master of Ceremonies over to read to us what Charlie had scribbled in answer before passing it back.
"I feel like I'm being set up," Paul said as just before he read the word Father Charlie had written, which was: "repent."
Thousands of Dubliners have joined a Facebook site to piece together the story of one of Dublin's beloved characters, an elegant woman called "Mary," who used to dance and dole out tidbits to passersby, no matter the abuse she got from the occasional bollox. She hasn't been seen for sometime, and the rumor is that she has fallen very ill. If anyone knows more about her, join in on the conversation.
And another FB site dedicated to Dublin's Street Characters.
Below are some comments gleaned from the site dedicated to Dublin's lovely dancing lady.
I had a wonderful day yesterday. Firstly, I visited with Séamus Blake, the host of WFUV's Míle Fáilte, and then I attended Colm Tóibín's book signing for Brooklyn at Ireland House. My meeting with Séamus was transformative and informative--what a great mind. He is a highly respected scholar of Irish literature, and it was a conversation I can not wait to continue. I'll be writing about my interview with him in the coming days. Afterwards, I ran over to Colm Tóibín's book signing when my friend Jane Kelton alerted me to it. I've read many of Tóibín's essays, his novel Blackwater Lightship and I've listened to the audio book for The Master. I don't know how I haven't read Mothers & Sons yet. I will be writing more about his funny and eventful talk next week. I didn't have a chance to meet Peter Quinn last night, but I have heard him speak, and we once had an exciting moment at the talk he gave with Pete Hamil and others on Tammany Hall, where there was some controversy about the moderator's interpretation of the analysis being offered. Peter Quinn is of course the author of Banished Children of Eve, a very important book in the canon of Irish American literature, and a book called Hour of the Cat, I have yet to read. Maura Mulligan was at the book signing too. She's an exceptional teacher and writer, who has finished a book. I look forward to reading it. Fine fine day.
As reported, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will be honoring publicans who have supported the Irish musical tradition, by providing a home for traditional sessions.
I'm sure no one at CCÉ meant insult, but the list was (as reported)--incomplete--and the fault is mine for leaking their list before the awards were given out. There was some upset, which I want to fix. Investigative journalism is an on-going process, and I'm glad it's all being sorted. I'll do my best to report updates on the publican honors.
The New York Irish Center--situated a train stop from Grand Central Station in Long Island City--is many things to all those who volunteer, work and use the splendid facilities, but it has become an especially important hub for the Gaeilgeoirí of New York City and their friends.
Paul Finnegan is the center's director and was host to an interesting evening of bi-lingual talks about Irish language revival in Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter, where multi-tasking leaders like Máirtín Ó Muilleoir found freedom by adopting Irish amidst an occupation by soldiers from England. Irish is now a major draw that brings untold tourist dollars to the city, because the renaissance there is unique and fascinating.
Daithí MacLochlainn is doing everything he can to recreate something like that in New York City. He's one of many culturistas that have been building up the Irish language community here with book clubs, laethanta Gaeilge, immersion weeks, and unique classes. New York Irish Center's language teacher, Maura Mulligan, uses wonderful techniques to get Irish into the heads and hearts of her students. She's one of many teachers around the city, and region available to teach the teanga, and I'll be writing more about them in time.
My dad still feels the guilt of having to chose between keeping the life he was building for himself in America, or being deported for attending his father's funeral.
The anxiety of my dad's generation hasn't been resolved for the new generation of Irish, who now more than ever in the past decade are coming to America.
A petition is being circulating nation-wide to Get The Irish Home For Christmas.
Mick Moloney once made the observation that Irish traditional music is unique in that it can break out anywhere, like a good conversation between musicians.
Like conversation, acoustic and rhythmic music from fiddles or pipes or flutes can start up at a real Irish pub, where the publican understands his or her role as steward of traditional forms of community-building entertainment. Most Irish bars that go for the pub aesthetic fail this basic test of authenticity, where traditional Irish music is welcome, and the musicians who make it are treated with the respect they deserve as inheritors of an ancient musical tradition.
Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship of pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you are not married.....When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you're sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.
When the Irish American scholar Joseph Campbell was growing up in New York City, he was a regular visitor to the Natural Museum of History, where he had discovered Native American peoples, and their metaphorical systems, or what we call mythology. This led the young man to pursue his own knowledge, and dig into his own soul.
It brought him to his own heritage, where he discovered ancient Irish mythology and James Joyce's modern Irish mythos, Finnegans Wake. He used Finnegans Wake and the Celtic myths of Arthur to unlock the universal mythology of the human unconscious. Finnegans Wake is littered with a dictionary-sized Gaelic Irish vocabulary and much talk of Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn Mac Cool) who was the hero of the Fenian cycle or the Fiannaidheacht wherein some of the earliest romantic love themes and poetry were composed.
The apparent suicide of Alexander McQueen (Lee McQueen), was committed it is widely reported in response to the death of his mother. He was a a 21st century romantic who explored the sinister that lurks beneath the traditional costumes of the gentleman and lady. He was futuristic and a dark revisionist of the entire canon of English fashion.
He was a rebel who invoked his Scottish heritage from the very beginning of his career and throughout, using traditional Gaelic materials such as tartan, lace and tweed. He also famously insulted the pretender to the throne of Wales.
Alexander McQueen was born the youngest of six children on March 17th 1969 in London to a working class family. His father was a hackney driver. His mother Joyce a teacher. When he was 16, he was watching a television program about the declining number of traditional tailor apprentices, quit school, and became a master of the trade. In time he would be christened "the hooligan of English fashion."
Below are some pictures from a recent evening in Pearl River, New York with Willie Kelly, Rose Conway Flanagan, Patty Furlong and Galway transplant John Creaven playing music for some of the talented children from one of the largest Irish-American communities in the United States. The night of dancing and music is a regular event at the Hibernian Hall. Scholar Mary Holt Moore often teaches kids Irish language at the gathering. Many of the musicians' students joined the session on a variety of instruments such as fiddles, whistles and accordions. Proud parents watched-on as the next generation had some fun in the old Irish traditions long kept strong in New York.
Tinsmith, storyteller and legendary traditional fiddler, Johnny Doherty was in the 1970s still traveling the hills of Donegal at an advanced age, playing music and making a living. The documentary below was made in 1972 by Seán O'Haughey of the Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann (Irish Folklore Commission). You can watch it in its entirety, in five parts.
Johnny Doherty (Seán Ó Dochartaigh) was born in Ardara, County Donegal (Ard an Rátha, Co. Thír Chonaill) at an unknown year.
The O'Doherty family were travelers in the culturally rich Gleann Cholm Cille area. Johnny's father Mickey was a fiddler, and his mother Mary McConnell was a singer. Johnny was the youngest of nine children. As a teenager, Johnny was not allowed to play fiddle in the company of his parents until he had mastered the reel "Bonny Kate." Johnny's brother, also called Mickey, was noted for his style after the recording artist Michael Coleman ( Mícheál Ó Clúmháin), and Mickey can be heard play on "The Gravel Walks."
TPI Magazine hosts the Total Production International Awards which brings roadies, riggers, truckers and gofers together to vote on which rock tour blew the roof most spectacularly. U2 won it hands down, with The Edge's roadie Dallas Schoo picking up an award and the tour's chief production head Willie Williams getting two trophies.
The award is especially meaningful because it is decided by those workers that make the magic happen, and give Bono his ethereal platform.
Brian Kelly, a union rep in Kent, has become a 15 minute celebrity in England for lodging a complaint against a local politician, Councilor Ken Bamber. Bamber told Kelly a "Paddy" joke, to which the Irishman objected and lodged a complaint, spurring a whole new genre of jokes on Irish political correctness.
A few jokes to put the situation in context:
Q: What's black and blue and floats in the Irish Sea?
A: An Englishman who tells Irish jokes.
You're not Irish, you'll never be Irish. The idea stings some of us in the diaspora, but for me, I respect the assertion of native rights by Ireland-born people. I wish only the assertion was made in Irish, and not so often by Irish people that don't know the first thing about our common heritage, but that's the post-colonial condition. Nativism is sometimes healthy among smaller populations, otherwise the rights of self-determination and institutional freedom from more numerous and powerful foreign exploitators, or from unfair demographic shift, has no basis.
TG4.tv produces documentaries like Plastic Paddies that educate, entertain and deepen our collective identity as inheritors of ancestral traditions, heritage and that common story of our similar experiences. If you want to be "more" Irish, TG4 is the place to grapple with the issues involved.
Plastic Paddies on TG4 (in the Faisnéise Cartlann/archive) is a short half hour story about the children and grandchildren of the Irish who left Ireland for Britain, and raised them in Irish communities like those found in Manchester, Liverpool and London. According to some surveys, more than 25% of those living in Britain can claim an Irish passport, as I have done and many like me through our parents' nativity. It's a right placed in the Búnreacht so to recognize the truth of the Irish condition, which is diasporic.
The circumstantial evidence is pointing to Ríona. She had motive to kill her ex, she has the skills of a nurse, making it possible for her to make the fatal cut so efficiently, and her suicide attempt only puts her under suspicion, no matter how much pain she's going through.
We know who did it. We watched Tina--in the picture above, played by Tara Breathnach--cut her ex-husband's throat from ear to ear back in December. Few of us had much sympathy for him, to be honest, but Tina is no hero. She's trying to frame the murder on the De Búrca family, driving poor Ríona to desperate acts of suicide.
Ríona's sister Róise feels so isolated, she's receptive to Tina's fake council, and meaningless kind words of friendship. It's Vince, the father of the De Búrca family, that's not buying Tina's ploys. On Thursday we watched as he tried to suss out from Tina more details that might break her alibi and clear his daughter's name. You can watch that episode and past ones at tg4.tv. Click on the Dráma Cartlann for Ros na Rún episodes, and other shows.
That's my beautiful Mother, Theresa O'Shea from Ballymacelligott, County Kerry. I was out to see my parents in Queens for my Dad's birthday yesterday. It was a birthday that might not have happened, except that my Dad fought throat cancer and won. Excellent care and music got him through it.
Using a camcorder and some poor lighting choices, I made some YouTube videos last year for a channel we called Irish Music Therapy, putting down some of my Dad's memories and tunes during the period of his radiation treatments.
The bitter cold weather could not stop a big crowd of sixty at least from taking over three rooms on two levels of NYU's Ireland House. They had come for Lá Gaeilge, a five hour session with four teachers rotating between three groups at different levels of fluency. It was so much fun to be with such a big group of Irish-lovers in the middle of Greenwich Village.
Pádraig Ó Cearúill's success in creating so popular an Irish language program at NYU has been fifteen years in the making, since he first began as a lecturer at the university in 1995. A native of Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal (Tír Chonaill), he's responsible for making Gaeilgeoirí of many an American who've come to his wonderful classes at Ireland House. He's so popular in fact, he's the recipient of a student-voted Golden Dozen Teaching Award. As a result it's hard to get a spot in one of his accredited or more informal classes, but he's very accommodating, so e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and get yourself going, or advance from where you're at. He's a New York City treasure.
The Hedge School - An Scoil Chois Claí is associated with Iona College in New Rochelle, and was founded by Hilary Mhic Suibhne, also a teacher at NYU since 1998. She is a central figure and scholar in the Irish language community of New York and a wonderful teacher. You can also check out her Irish language blog called Hilary NY. She's hosting another Lá Gaeilge at Iona (how perfect a college name!), and lots of people get very excited about it, for example the Irish Gaelic Circle of Connecticut, who've posted the attached notice about on their blog.
Held in the splendid performance chamber of the Society for Ethical Culture on Central Park West, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin--hugging well-wishers yesterday--was in town to honor Brighid with a concert last night.
The night was a celebration of the mythological as the feast day of Bríd marking the Imbolc holiday just passed.
Ó Súilleabháin introduced the concert from a stage with the words "The Place Where People Meet to Seek the Highest is Holy Ground" emblazoned on the Ethical Society's wall above him. It was a major gathering of New York Irish cultural institutions for the American premier of Ó Súilleabháin's reworked composition called Kýrie in a program with work by other composers.
The Irish for f@#k is foc. Foc seo (this). Foc sin (that).
You get the foc-in point? Yeah? Tommy Tiernan (watch video below) is a comic, sure, but a philosopher too, a philosopher about what it means that some Irish punctuate nearly every sentence with foc.
I won't ruin the punch line, but Tiernan's diagnosis of Irish anxiety within the hierarchy of English dialects is foc-in deadly.
Did you all tune in on Tuesday to Ros na Rún - 2/2/10? New shows are aired at 3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with both shown together again on Sunday. You can go to TG4.tv at the time of broadcast and watch it at the same time it's airing live in Ireland, or go to the Dráma - Cartlann and catch episodes in the archive. It's a great way to learn the language as it's spoken, and great for plot-twisting and character development.
Molly there above as played by Lisa Ní Laoire is Bríd's daughter. Mother and daughter are at odds because Molly is absolutely contemptuous of Mícheál--Bríd's love--while unquestionably adoring her own father Johnny who is a cocky artist come out of the blue to sort things out between his daughter and Bríd, and determined to cause problems for everyone.
Tadhg and Frances are back with baby from their honeymoon only to discover Jason has left the pub neglected. Jason it turns out saved Ríona's life from a suicide attempt. She's saying nothing, and has made a big mess for her family. Her suicide note was written with a confession, admitting to having killed the abusive father of her baby--O'Dowd, but she really did no such thing. It was really Tina who did that, and Tina talks to Ríona's sister Róise like a mentor, advising that the suicide note/confession letter be be handed over to authorities. This would pin Tina's murder on the distraught Ríona. Vincent, the father of both Ríona and Róise has caught on to Tina's evil, and we can expect he's going to confront the real murderer today at 3:30 when the second part airs.
The Irish calendar is divided into four quarter days, and four cross-quarter days, that help communities stay grounded in the seasons.
The wheel above depicts 8 seasonal holidays that mark the solstices, the equinoxes and the four days in between them called the cross quarter days.
Brighid means the Exalted One in Irish, and The Woman, is a figure of intense power in Irish mythological and religious imagination. In Ireland the mythological, the pagan, the local, and the universal, the philosophical, the religious and the topographical are mixed up. Time is not lost but put aside or walked around as though it were laid out on a map, in an always continuing whole, allowing for Tír na nÓg and notions beyond usual physical laws to become mixed into the resources of Irish, Gaelic and Celtic thinking. Such understanding is what draws artists, musicians and sensitive people--wonder-filled--to the treasure house of Irish tradition.
February 1st or 2nd is a day claimed by Celtic seasonal thinkers, who called the holiday Imbolc to celebrate Bríd in the form of cailleach-becoming-maiden who collects kindling to make fire in the winter that will warm the Spring and make her young again.
This holiday then is understood through the stories of incredible Brighid. She was the inventor of the mourning songs called caoineadh "keening." In the story, she keens to mourn the death of her son Ruadán and so invents the artform. Irish traditions are often attributed to a supernatural being giving it that unkillable quality that frustrates all snobbery against it.
When Ken Saro-Wiwa once demanded the right of native people to rule themselves and own their own natural resources, he was doing so against the super-human powers of Shell corporation in their quest to exploit and take Nigerian resources.
Similarly Shell is a major stakeholder in the Corrib gas pipeline saga of County Mayo in the west of Ireland. The mural above depicting Wiwa is from Ireland. Watch the video below for a better sense of how the Nigerian experience precedes and warns the Irish.