Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know there is no shortage of great traditional music to be found in the New York metropolitan area every week, and the special events are usually highlighted in this space.
Ongoing nearly every night of the week, there are music sessions in a variety of places around town with most taking place in Manhattan and Queens and some scattered elsewhere. Unusually though for an urban area that contains as many traditional musicians as you might find in most localities in Ireland, New York City has been lacking a significant festival that allows a varied array of talent to be celebrated in their own municipal backyard.
Local fiddler Tony DeMarco from Brooklyn, who has traveled abroad to a number of trad fests and weekend celebrations where trad is held in high esteem, decided that New York and its many great musicians deserve to have some notoriety in their hometown as well. And so the New York Trad Fest was born.
Now in its third year, DeMarco tries to add a new dimension every year and for 2015 he has added a fourth night to the program (www.newyorktradfest.org) that takes place November 5-8 in a different venue every night.
On Thursday, November 5 the Irish Arts Center is once again involved hosting a concert at their headquarters, 553 West 51st Street at 8 p.m. reflecting DeMarco’s own interest in bluegrass and old-timey music along with Irish trad that will be represented by Andy Stein, a two-time Grammy winning multi-dimensional violinist and jazz guitarist Glenn Crytzer.
Representing the Irish trad world this night will be Dubliner Ivan Goff, a homeowner in New York since arriving with Riverdance on Broadway a long time ago who plays the uilleann pipes and flute. Rounding out the three-act evening will be the charming folk-singing duet of Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary. Visit www. Irishartscenter.org for tickets.
\Music sessions are also part of the New York Trad Fest program, and there are two of them integrated into it this year. For the first time the Friday night session will be in Sunnyside, Queens at the Aubergine Café at 49-22 Skillman Avenue. Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely of Lunasa fame are holding court that night on November 6.
And on Sunday night around 10 p.m. DeMarco’s regular Sunday night session at the 11th Street Bar (510 East 11th Street) where on any given Sunday, anyone is likely to turn up, will be extra special as it closes the New York Trad Festival weekend out albeit very late, most likely into Monday.
There will be another dose of bluegrass meeting green grass at this session as Kenny Kosek and Marty Cutler, two bluegrass players, are scheduled to hold down the bench with DeMarco and his Irish squad.
Saturday the 7th offers a day-night doubleheader beginning with a 1 p.m. panel discussion at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House (1 Washington Mews) led by Dr. Mick Moloney, a long-time member of the faculty, with an assist from masters of Irish Studies candidate and uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan. They have chosen a wonderful topic about a Cavan musician who immigrated to Philadelphia where he made his living and built an extraordinary music legacy mostly through a hundred or so of his own compositions that permeate today’s Irish music gatherings worldwide.
Moloney will give a the principal talk entitled “The Genius of Ed Reavy: His Contributions to Irish American Music,” based on his own extensive research and time spent with Reavy while they shared time in Philadelphia in the last century after Mick arrived in 1973 and before Reavy passed away in 1988.
The centerpiece of the week is the Saturday evening concert on the 7th starting at 7 p.m. at one of New York City’s most exciting new venues, Pier A Harbor House.
Opened earlier in the year, its location at 22 Battery Place with its walk-around deck and view of New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and Hudson River is a destination in itself, especially for the fine dining and beverage options that are offered inside the magnificently restored historic pier.
The music is pretty special also because it will feature so many great New York artists plus a few “blow-ins” who have quickly become part of the dynamic urban landscape that is New York City. Master of ceremonies will be Don Meade who knows a thing or two about music and musicians and even New York history. Scheduled to perform are the aforementioned Mick Moloney, Cillian Vallely and Gerry O’Sullivan plus Eileen Ivers and Brian Conway.
The wonderfully talented Kerry singer-songwriter and denizen of the East Village Brendan O’Shea is also on deck to entertain as is Meave Gilchrest, the harpist and vocalist who has also settled in New York from Edinburgh and Boston. New York native Bernadette Fee will be playing the fiddle along with her three nieces, the Fee sisters of Cold Spring, New York sharing some tunes and steps from one generation to the next.
And the Pier A third floor loft where all of this marvelous music will take place will also see a fabulous display of sean nos dancing from Kieran Jordan, Siobhan Butler and Alice Ryan on the night.
Since there are still a few weeks before the start of the New York Trad Fest you might keep your eye peeled on further updates at www.nytradfest.org or call 646-896-1510 for prices. The sessions and lectures are free.