The recent Easter celebrations in Ireland marking the 1916 centenary in Dublin and throughout the country generated a great deal of pride within that small island and among its larger diaspora abroad.
So many wonderful events were performed in ceremonial fashion and also in myriad cultural ways over the weeks surrounding it around this year’s Easter holiday. Many places in the U.S. have taken up the challenge of celebrating those momentous days a century ago, and as to be expected the Irish in New York have risen to the occasion as well with the major event on the actual 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising on Sunday, April 24 at the tip of Manhattan.
As a prelude to the happenings that will take place on April 24 around Battery Park there are some other events, mostly in Manhattan, that will stir the patriotic souls of local Irish men and women.
Glucksman Ireland House which has programming scheduled all year on 1916, will screen a docudrama called A Terrible Beauty with commentary from Keith and Dave Farrell on both Tuesday, April 19 (Cantor Film Center) and Wednesday the 20th (Casa Italia) at 7 p.m. with tickets purchased in advance through Smarttix.com. This precedes a two-day long symposium at Glucksman Ireland House itself covering the role of America and New York in the uprising on April 21-22 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit irelandhouse.fas.nyu.edu.
On Friday, April 22 at 8:15 p.m. at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, the much acclaimed Notre Dame University documentary 1916: The Irish Rebellion, narrated by Liam Neeson, will be shown. Visit www.newyorkirishcenter.org for reservations.
On Saturday, April 23, the New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians has organized a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 1 p.m., which will be followed by a procession to the plaza at 345 Park Avenue at 51st Street where the Proclamation of 1916 will be read in front of the building that houses the Irish Consulate at approximately 3 p.m. The general public is encouraged to come along that day.
On Sunday, April 24, at Wagner Park at the tip of Battery Park City in full view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor where so many Irish men and women were welcomed over the years, the official ceremonies will commence at 11 a.m., including the reading of the Proclamation.
Representatives of the Irish government hosted by the New York Consul General Barbara Jones will address the crowd as well as New York and U.S. political leaders before the Proclamation is read by a member of the Irish Defense Forces. A wreath will be laid in honor of all those who died in the Rising, and a moment of silence observed before the Tricolor and the Star Spangled Banner are raised and the dual anthems sung.
When these formal and solemn rituals are observed somewhere before 1 p.m. there will be two separate streams of cultural offerings open to the general public.
Most immediate to the Proclamation site will be a stage offering free entertainment starting at 1 p.m. up to 5:30 p.m. in the open air and without any ticketing involved. Scheduled to perform are a range of acts from both sides of the Atlantic that include the veteran Irish American act the Green Fields of America led by Mick Moloney, Cherish the Ladies, the Yanks, the innovative urban dance troupe Hammerstep and Ashley Davis representing these shores.
Coming over the waves are the Brock Maguire Band, We Banjo 3, the Irish language singing sensations Seo Linn and Maxine Linehan. The Brock Maguire Band and We Banjo 3 are on a brief American tour and, like the other Irish acts, receiving the support of Culture Ireland in this festival feast.
The other focal point to the 24th will take place at Pier A Harbor House, the historic and magnificently restored landmark that sits between Battery Park City and Battery Park itself. Originally built by W.R. Grace, an Irish immigrant and one-time mayor of New York and shipping magnate, the building played an important role in the life of the city long ago and even as a portal to immigrants, including many Irish.
Re-opened just under two years ago by Co. Laois native Danny McDonald and his inspirational and creative partners as a waterfront bar, restaurant and catering facility, the unique property was painstakingly and attractively brought back to life after a long dormancy under New York City control.
On the plaza surrounding Pier A and its outdoor public spaces will be a tented staging area allowing access into the long but narrow edifice that will require ticketing capped at 2,000 for the varying events that will transpire inside from 1 p.m. to 6:30 pm.
There will be multiple presentations of Irish film, theater, spoken word and lectures in the series of rooms with their own historical significance mostly on the second floor. (I will be presenting on behalf of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann a documentary called The Sligo Masters covering the century when Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman landed in New York and his lasting impact to the present day at 2 p.m. in the Patrol Room).
The third floor loft area will be given over to theater groups from the Irish Arts Center, the Irish Repertory Theatre and George Heslin with a special opening with dancer Jean Butler and poet Paul Muldoon focusing on art and space.
The ground floor space known as the Long Hall will feature displays on Irish food and drink, and at the very far end will be ongoing Irish traditional music sessions hosted by the session groups at Niall’s at 52nd Street, Lilly’s Victorian Pub, the Dead Rabbit, 11th Street Bar, the Landmark Tavern and even a bluegrass session led by Stephanie Coleman.
Because of space access to Pier A will be by ticket only freely available to those who register online at Welcoming Ireland website which is www.Ireland2016ny.com which also has much more information about the day’s events.