Pearl River champions make sweet music at Parsippany Fleadh and now on to Ireland. (Photos by Sean McPhail)

As a youngster of `1 years old, my parents decided that a six-week sojourn in their native Co. Clare on the maternal homeplace was a better alternative than a hot sweltering summer in Washington Heights. This was a year after our Rockaway bungalow was torn down for urban renewal.

While I was looking forward to honing my stickball skills and dodging city traffic all summer long, Martin and Mary Keating’s instincts and desires were for me to meet the family in West Clare while one grandparent was still alive and allow the youngest of eight siblings to experience the home they left behind.

After a week of adjustment from the urban chaos to rural serenity, I discovered that the grass was way greener on the other side, not to mention a commodity as well to be cut, dried and stacked to feed the livestock over the cold wet winters. Looking back every so often, I realized that this was a wonderful experience of my youth that led to a lifelong connection with not only my Irish heritage, but a long-lasting cultural connection.

The bloom of youth and impressionable minds readily surface when June rolls around and the steady drumbeat of weekend fundraisers inundates us. The local music schools do their utmost to support their most committed students advancing on to the All-Ireland music championships in Ireland.

The days of affordable air charters are long gone, and now the prospective prize winners face four figure high season airfares if they want to garner the gold, silver or bronze medals at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann doled out in Cavan this August (

Many of the teachers in the New York area not only tutor and encourage their music students to work with them all year, but to mix and mingle with their peers from all around Ireland and the world at the Scoil Eigse (summer school) run by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in the fleadh town on the weekdays leading up to the weekend competitions.

First readying their pupils for the qualifying regional fleadhs earlier in the year, the teaching fraternity now organize themselves in a series of fundraising efforts that will help families offset the huge travel expenses they face going to Ireland in late summer.

The parents accept the fact that it is expense to fly over and back, especially when the family units grow larger. It is the sacrifice they willingly make to see their children grow in appreciation of Irish music and culture.

A big benefit also is to see them develop socially as they form bonds with new friends here and in Ireland, a real plus in the global community these days. The impressions made and experiences shared during travel to Ireland could pay dividends for many years not only in the Irish music scene, but also between the two countries in myriad ways as Ireland once again becomes dependent on its diaspora abroad.

These fundraising gatherings fan out across the month at the hospitable Rory Dolan’s linking the Bronx and Yonkers and the entire tri-state community of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where all roads lead to 890 McLean Avenue in Yonkers.

The community-spirited hostelry opens its doors to the Killashandra Room and the open air back lot that conveniently provides for a barbeque setup and open air bar to provide refreshments while the talented youngsters display their winning form in advance of the fleadh competitions. And their efforts are supported by many of the most successful and supportive performers who competed in earlier years, many with the medals to prove their prowess.

Kicking off the fundraisers is the Acosta School of Irish Music and Dance on this Saturday, June 11 from 3-10 p.m. in its 10th year hosting such an event. The hardworking Annemarie Acosta Williams, a Rockaway Beach resident, recently had a second child but still manages to look after a very large school. Once again she has arranged for some marvelous talent to support her efforts on the occasion.

Scheduled to appear are Cathie Ryan, Mattie and Pete Mancuso, Pat Mangan, Isaac Alderson, Grainne Murphy, Chris and Michelle McLoughlin, Marie Reilly and Seamus MacConaonaigh, Felix Dolan, Margie Mulvhill, Rose Flanagan, John Reynolds, Jameson’s Revenge, Denis Gallery and Celtic Justice, Oisin MacDiarmada and the St. Cecilia’s Bands of the Acosta School. Call 718-945-9364 for info on this benefit.
The following weekend is the Father’s Day fleadh fundraiser and barbeque for the Pearl River Irish music teachers starting at 2 p.m. until well after the sun sets over Woodlawn.

All the action this day takes place outside in Rory Dolan’s outdoor garden with a concert stage. Another talented lineup is on tap featuring Joanie Madden and friends, Jameson’s Revenge, Eileen Ivers, the Narrowbacks, Girsa, Gabe Donahue, John Redmond, Donie Ryan, Shane O’Sullivan, Marie Barret, Desi Groarke, Keith O’Neill, Erin Loughran, Sean Tierney, Sean Farrell, Ceol Millis, Off the Boat, Jerry O’Sullivan, Pot Wallopers Ceili Band, Margie Mulvhill, Rose Flanagan, John Reynolds, Patty Furlong, Brian Conway, Flynn School of Dance and the Martin Mulvihill CCE. For info call 845-735-1204 or 845-735-1743 or email [email protected].

On the final weekend in June, the Woodlawn School of Music takes the stage on Sunday, June 26 from 1-8 p.m. at Rory Dolan’s grooming their music students for a successful fleadh experience in Ireland in front of the home crowd.

Helping to continue the theme of the older, more experienced lending their talents for the younger set many of the names above return in solidarity with teachers Michelle Bergin, Mary Coogan, Deirdre Connolly and John Redmond.

Adding to the talent pool though on this evening are Dermot Henry, Kathy Vesey, Padraig Allen, Kathy Ludlow, Mattie Connolly, Mary Courtney and a rock and roll band called Big Girls Blouse. There is a special ceili interlude from 3-4 p.m. to please the dancers. Call 917-301-3001 or email [email protected].

All of these affairs will ask for a donation at the door (usually $20) and then entice you with a wide range of imaginative, useful and fun gift baskets raffled off along with the usual cash raffles. The talent is amazing and the supportive vibe among the teachers and students inspiring and indicative of what they do all year in the promotion of traditional Irish music.

And there is one-more fund raising activity to close out the effort on Sunday, July 9 over in Rockland County starting at 11 a.m. on Anderson Field in Orangeburg, NY as part of Veterans Memorial Park.

Once again this is to gather funds for the Pearl River School of Music in their backyard through an old fashioned family festival with relay races, sack races, water games and face painting.

There will be burgers and hot dogs, beer and soda and, of course, music starting at 2 p.m. with the Pearl River ceili bands, Tommy Goodwin and Sharon, the Narrowbacks, Girsa, Erin Loughran and Friends, Ceol Millish and Off the Boat.

Call Tom Vesey for details at 201-705-8948 or 845-735-1204.