So significant are the contributions of the Irish to America we have become accustomed to month-long celebrations in March to help chronicle them.
And fueling a lot of it in a kind of March Madness sort of way is the abundance of Irish music and dance which has returned with a post-pandemic vengeance of sorts thus far and is still in full swing.
One iconic figure who was a catalyst for half a century was Dr. Mick Moloney, who elevated our cultural heritage into an art form that was respected and performed, but sadly he left us on July 25 of last year. The loss of the Limerick legend is still mourned by his family, friends and followers, and many who collaborated with him.
At the recent 30th anniversary Glucksman Ireland House gala celebrated late last month, Moloney was duly and dually celebrated for his academic and cultural initiatives by New York University and its Glucksman Ireland House founders, Lew and Loretta Brennan Glucksman.
The banquet entertainment was provided for by Joanie Madden and Mary Coogan, founding members of Cherish the Ladies when it was created back in 1985, with the rest of the ensemble embarking on tour.
The night was a portent of a more historic historical tribute being organized by Glucksman Ireland House and the Irish Arts Center that will involve a more sophisticated collaboration and remembrance for the man who established the cultural beachhead for Irish music in America after landing on our shores in 1973 to Philadelphia.
Performance added! 30 artists come together Mar 30-Apr 1 to celebrate the life and legacy of Mick Moloney, a towering figure in Irish traditional music. Due to demand, a fourth show's been added—get tickets at https://t.co/OkGl9TlFB8.
Presented by IAC and @GIHNYU pic.twitter.com/Hvua62iQYt— Irish Arts Center (@IrishArtsCenter) March 22, 2023
Over three nights at the Irish Arts Center on March 30, 31, and April 1, as many as 30 artists who logged considerable time with Moloney over the years will present a musical tribute to him in three nightly concerts.
Led by Madden, Athena Tergis, and Seamus Egan, they will paint a picture of what an enduring force he not only mobilized but remains behind to continue to tell the story of America’s green fields that Moloney so artfully tilled while he was among us.
Scheduled to appear at press time are Nora Brown, Jean Butler, Donie Carroll, Liz Carroll, Brenda Castles, Stephanie Coleman, Brendan Dolan, Megan Downes, Donny Golden, Ivan Goff, Cheick Hamala Diabate, Jefferson Hamer, Liz Hanley, Kieran Jordan, Tamar Korn, Dan Levinson, Cherish the Ladies, Billy McComiskey, Don Meade, Dan Neely, Eamon O’Leary, Niall O’Leary, James Keane, John Roberts, and Leni Sloan.
The joint effort by NYU Glucksman Ireland House where Moloney served as an important academic liaison, as well as the global distinguished professor of music at NYU, and the Irish Arts Center reflected most of his work after taking up residence in New York City for most of the 21st century.
Moloney’s long-distinguished work in Philadelphia and around the US, of course, followed him also, as well as much of the foothold he established at the University of Limerick’s Irish World Music and Dance Academy founded by a similar visionary creative academic genius, Dr. Micheal O’Suilleabhain.
Bridge-building between institutions and organizations and people were constant by-products in the life-long career of the formidable Irish immigrant whose childhood was spent in Castletroy, Co Limerick on the outskirts of the university where Moloney remained a highly regarded academic advisor.
It seems entirely fitting that an extensive acknowledgment of Moloney’s handiwork is being presented at the new Irish Arts Center where his fruitful and varied associations over the past 15 years helped it reach the hoary Hell’s Kitchen heights it now enjoys.
From the earliest days working with executive director Aidan Connolly and later programming director Rachael Gilkey, Moloney enjoyed the center’s still very grassroots approach and gritty guerilla-like assault on New York’s cultural landscape as a progressive Irish arts presenter.
A riveting live concert video produced for PBS called "Absolutely Irish" to the very innovative and enjoyable "Masters In Collaboration" series and the annual productions of the "Winter Solstice" and "Celtic Appalachia" shows the extraordinary teamwork that established the Irish Arts Center as a small shop that could punch above its weight. And also, it proved the promotional vision and dexterity that allowed popular shows to expand and fill larger performing art spaces like Symphony Space combining Moloney’s artistic palette and artist network dovetailing with the center’s mastery of online promotion and audience development.
The extended cast will appear nightly and possibly a few guests in the three shows providing an up-and-close portrait of a man who, in my opinion, was the most important person to impact the art form and appreciation of the Irish traditional arts we will ever see.
And in doing so he also inspired generations to revel in their rich cultural heritage and celebration which will still be paying dividends after many of us are gone.
You can learn more about the New York Irish Center's Tribute to Mick Moloney, including how to get tickets, here.
*This column first appeared in the March 22 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.