It has become a welcome addition to the St. Patrick’s Season cultural celebration when Dr. Mick Moloney unfolds his latest extravaganza in collaboration with the Irish Arts Center dealing with the roots and branches of Irish music. The annual affair now in its fourth edition is called “Celtic Appalachia” and it features solid Irish traditional music with an infusion of Old Time and Bluegrass music and West African music and it will take place on Saturday, March 14 with two shows with a 2:30 pm matinee and an 8 pm evening show up at Symphony Space, one of the regular outreach venues when the Irish Arts Center (IAC) requires more seating.
The foundation of the show is laid with the presence of Mick’s performance ensemble the Green Fields of America, first organized in 1977 and which down through the years has featured many of the finest traditional music and dancers to be found in the USA. The current troupe has Athena Tergis on fiddle, Billy McComiskey on button accordion, Jerry O’Sullivan on the uilleann pipes, Liz Hanley on fiddle and vocals, Brendan Dolan on piano and step dancer Niall O’Leary all veterans of this collaborative effort at mixing genres of music with those originating in the British Isles spawning an Appalachia down home brand of music.
Representing the deeply rooted American music found up and down the hills and hollers of West Virginia are the Bing Brothers (Mike and Tim) with award winning fiddler Jake Krack, Tim Corbett on bass, Bob Lieving on guitar. The Bing Brothers formed their band 30 years ago and are award winning exponents along with Krack of the versatile and thriving Appalachia music tradition and its varying strands in Old Timey and Bluegrass Circles. Like Moloney and his Green Fields crew, performance is not their only virtue but they are also deeply involved in camps like the Allegheny Echoes Summer workshops that teach and preserve those styles of music for future generations.
Moloney’s unstated mission with these shows is also an edifying one as he usually includes a tradition-bearer from another cultural discipline who wouldn’t ordinarily be known to this audience. This year’s icon is Cheick Hamala Diabaté, a native of Mali living in the Washington D. C. area who is a Griot storyteller in the West African tradition who also plays indigenous African instruments like the N’goni and the plantation gourd banjo which was brought over to America during the days of slavery in the United States in the 18 th Century and is said to be a precursor of the banjo in America. In fact in 2007 his collaboration with banjo player Bob Carlin “From Mali to America” garnered a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Traditional World Music Album. Diabaté has appeared at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institute and is also recognized as one of the foremost teacher of the N’goni and gould instruments as well as West African dance forms.
Rounding out the special guests on hand this year, Mick reached out to the Kyle Alden, a West-Coast based American folk singer and writer with a deep interest in Irish music and poetry. In fact his interest in creating musical setting for the poetry of William Butler (whose 150 th Birthday is being celebrated this year) produced a recording in 2011 and in 2013 an invitation to perform at the Hawkswell Theatre in Sligo.
It will be a sensational stringed instruments confab organized by the Irish music historian and maestro who will put it all in context and once again add to the body of knowledge shared with the audiences who turn out to the amenable Upper West Side performance space in Manhattan.