Books: Irish American Writers & Artists Christmas Salon

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How It’s New York: The view from the penthouse of the residence of the Irish Consul General is New York at its best: twinkly, exciting, vibrant.
How It’s Irish: The party as for the Irish American Writers & Artists Salon, hosted by Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny.

Charles R. Hale reports back on an enchanted holiday event. Says Honor Molloy: “Glittering.”

HKHPSR6GzbN2xRgQOKiVkVUvELRJ53ImlMMiyFyzam8The heavy clouds, which blanketed New York City Friday afternoon, lifted in the early evening, revealing a city teeming with glistening buildings, golden domes standing out against a blackened sky, and necklaces of light, which illuminate New York’s bridges. These breathtaking sights and a warm and lovely hostess, Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny, (Hanora’s husband, Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny, was out of state, attending a funeral) welcomed the guests attending the Irish American Writers & Artists’ Christmas Salon.
Honor Molloy
Honor Molloy
As I gazed out the window from the fifty-second floor residence toward lower Manhattan I was reminded that my ancestors and the ancestors of many in attendance were the famine immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century. Like many immigrant families, my family moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn not long after their arrival, thus, it felt appropriate that the evening’s first presenter, Honor Molloy, would read a story about Brooklyn,  Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Honor, one of the finest readers on the New York literary scene, was brilliant. She perfectly captured the spirit of Smith’s scene, casting her voice in pitch-perfect Brooklynese, tossing our imaginations from one vivid scene to the next.
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Award winning singer, songwriter and musician Michael Sheahan followed Honor. Michael, whose book/CD The Rooftop Hop was released last year, has won numerous awards for best “Holiday Book” and “Children’s Book with Music/Theatrical.” Michael’s first song, however, was the title tune off his soon to be released Celtic inspired CD Pages of Time. Michael was in great voice, following “Pages” with the festive “Rooftop Hop” and closing with “The White Strand,” a beautiful song of a young girl from Connemara’s shores.
                                                                                              Connie Roberts
Connie Roberts, winner of the 2010 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, which honors Ireland’s top poets, stepped up next. Connie’s poems are drawn from her experience growing up in an orphanage in Ireland during the 1960s and 1970s.  Her poems included “On Looking into The Sunday Press Photo of Mount Carmel Children Looking into a Stable, Bethlehem, Ireland, Christmas, 1970,” which poignantly captures life in an Irish industrial school during the holiday season.  Connie is nearing completion of her poetry collection, Not the Delft School, a memoir in verse of her experiences growing up in an orphanage.
                                                                                          Niamh Hyland
Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny, who first heard singer/songwriter Niamh Hyland this past summer at Lincoln Center’s OurLand Fest, requested that Niamh reprise Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.”  As Niamh stepped up to the front of the room she turned to me and said, “I’m not sure I need the mic.” If you’ve heard Niamh you know she doesn’t and she responded with another bravura performance of “Hard Times,” which was followed by a festive “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” After Niamh’s performance, playwright Jane Noble asked, “Tell me again, who was the young woman whose voice raised the roof?”
The best way to describe the evening? Honor Molloy described it as only she can. She said, “It was a stellar evening. Glittering. It will remain in my memory until I don’t have one.”
Photos by Cat Dwyer


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