A young teenage blind piper Amy Campbell, aged 16 from Dublin, stole the show at the packed out Kennedy Center in Washington DC on the opening night of the Ireland 100 festival which will run through the next three weeks.
Undaunted by her handicap Amy won a sustained round of applause for her outstanding contribution to a wonderful opening night.
Hosted by actress Fiona Shaw who performed a show stopping edition of Easter 1916, the famous Yeats poem on the Easter Rising, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and numerous musicians storytellers, comedians, tenors and sean nós singers made it an evening to remember.
In their remarks both Vice President Biden and Taoiseach Kenny praised the Irish tradition of encouraging the arts and the outsize reputation Ireland has gained worldwide because of its outstanding artistic reputation.
In his remarks Taoiseach Kenny also mentioned the fact that VP Biden will be paying a family visit to Ireland at the end of June to connect up with his Mayo and Louth roots.
Biden referred to the person who the center is named after, John F. Kennedy and recalled his historic speech to the Irish parliament just a few months before his death.
Kennedy would love to see this the of Irish performance he said, he deeply loved his Irish roots.
Like Amy, Biden’s relative who came to America from Louth was blind and a musician, part of an Irish tradition dating back to O’Carolan in the 18th century who was a famous blind harpist.
Pipers expert Gay McKeown who played with her and teaches blind children how to play noted what an amazing achievement it was for Amy.
Gay McKeon said “There is a long association with blind people and Irish traditional music, most notably with the Harp and the uilleann pipes. The first ever recording of Irish traditional music, made in 1899, was of blind uilleann piper, Micí ‘Cumba’ Ó Súilleabháin and it is wonderful that terrific young players like Amy have the opportunity to showcase their talent on such a prestigious stage.”
As part of the Festival, Amy will also perform at a number of other functions and the pipers will provide opportunities for young people with disabilities in Washington DC to try out this uniquely Irish instrument.
Artist-in-Residence, Fiona Shaw, directed the performance superbly and set the standard for what promises to be an extraordinary three weeks of Irish culture in the nation’s Capitol.
As part of the 1916 commemoration, special significance is being placed on the role of the Proclamation and events that occurred Easter week.
Also present were Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson and US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley who both spoke at the dinner event after the show.