On Friday night I was invited to come along to the home of Mike and Rose Flanagan in Pearl River for a music session among peers that was peerless. The lady of the house, Rose, convened a number of outstanding musicians just to get together to share some chunes and laughs in a relaxed informal fashion that had only themselves to please.
The accordion players dominated only in number as the quartet of John Whelan, John Nolan, Paddy Furlong and a younger up and coming player Dan Gurney, who just released his first solo CD, tastefully shared tunes with flute players John Craven and Margie Mulvihill, while Rose, John Reynolds and Dylan Foley played fiddle accompanied by the venerable Felix Dolan.
The music was sublime and indicative of why we are blessed with such wonderful music in the greater New York area thanks to their dedicated teaching and playing.
On Saturday night, I looked forward to making the annual January trek up to the East Haven Irish American Community Center where for the fifth year in a row they presented the Pride of New York quartet (Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Brendan Dolan and Billy McComiskey.
The veteran crew always bring the house down, swelled with a knowledgeable audience in the Irish center there who turn out for the trad concerts organized by John O’Donovan, Pat Stratton and Mary Chesley.
And the band had some great new tunes to share on the night, and even brought up the latest fiddle protégé of Brian Conway in nine-year old Haley Richardson, who astounded and delighted the crowd with her command, poise and playing. This is what they make Irish cultural centers for, and I wish they were utilized more for concerts like this.
Finally, the weekend’s rambles ended at the Sunday night 11th Street Bar Session which becomes a special treat on the Sunday of the APAP weekend in New York.
Serving as a musical crossroads, it allows musicians who visit town to solicit work around America among the arts presenters in town, with an assist from Culture Ireland, to let their hair down in typical fashion by enjoying some tunes with people they don’t get to play with very often.
Tony Demarco and Eamon O’Leary are the mainstays at the session, but they welcomed in visitors Conal O’Grada, Kevin Crawford, Alan Kelly, Sean Smith, Nuala Kennedy, Cillian Vallely (whose birthday was celebrated), Patrick Mangan and Mattie Mancuso, while many others milled about the East Village hangout. If this gang ever got on a tour bus round the country, there would be some mighty sessions.