Daniel Figgis launches two new albums

How it’s New York: The launch takes place at New York’s Irish Arts Center
How it’s Irish: Daniel Figgis is Irish

  

Glen Hansard Launches Between Two Shores in NYC

How it’s New York: Concerts in New York to launch the new album Between Two Shores 
How it’s Irish: Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard

Starting on January 19th, 2018, Glen Hansard arrived on our shores to launch his new CD and gave two wonderfully different gigs at Town Hall and Brooklyn Steel.

Friday night Glen started off a with a very intimate feeling show at Town Hall peppered with guest appearances, loads of songs from the new CD and plenty of old favorites.

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Remembering The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan: Portrait of a Lady

DOLORES O’RIORDAN

How it’s New York: The Cranberries defined a certain kind of Indie sound beloved by alternative-music-loving New Yorkers.  The Cranberries are still a staple on New York radio with such hits as “Linger,” “When You’re Gone,” and “Zombie.”
How it’s Irish: Dolores O’Riordan, of the Cranberries, was Irish, as were the rest of the band, formed in Limerick in 1989. Members were Niall Quinn, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler. O’Riordan replaced Quinn in 1990.

Dolores O’Riordan died suddenly at age 46 on Jan. 15, 2018.

Johnny Cash’s passing  in 2003 saddened us, of course it did.

He had, however, walked his line and worn his black. He’d burned, burned, burned, and traveled a long road. He’d faced his enemies, and climbed aboard that train he heard a-comin’, alongside other legends that went before him, Ray, Bing, Duke, Ella, Frank, icons all, who’d served their time, earned their praise and deserved their plaudits.

David Bowie’s shocked us, though 69, and having been ill for some time, he’d outlasted so many of his contemporaries, Jim, Jimi, Janis, Freddie, Marc, John, Brian, George, and younger artists, whom he may well have influenced, Kurt, Amy and George. There were those who lived publicly, and often dangerously, Sid, Phil, Keith, Judy, Frankie and the Tims, whose passings saddened, but didn’t truly shock us. Illnesses, gunshots, overdoses, murders, accidents, they’ve all combined to rob us, whether prematurely or not, of the voices we grew up with, listened, tapped feet, banged heads and shaken hips to.

Those whom we raised glasses to, eyebrows at and children with.

Then there’s Dolores. Poor Dolores.

At a mere 46 years of age, Dolores O’Riordan, vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with The Cranberries, one of the biggest selling acts in the world, during their heyday, left us on Jan.15. Although the cause of death had not been confirmed at the time of writing, it matters little.

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Ballyturk is darkly funny

How it’s New York: St Ann’s Warehouse, in Dumbo (a section of Brooklyn) consistently is one of the edgiest NY Theatres.
Ballyturk

Tadhg Murphy and Mikel Murfi in “Ballyturk.” ©Teddy Wolff

How it’s Irish: Enda Walsh and most of the cast and design crew are Irish.

“Ballyturk” plays at St. Ann’s Warehouse through Jan. 28

It’s always a magical experience to head under the Brooklyn Bridge and tread those cobblestone streets to get to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo. But add Enda Walsh’s work to the stage and it truly becomes a night to remember.

The brilliance of some art is that it leaves a myriad of imprints on its audience. I overheard a variety of interpretations of the play as we left the theater on Saturday night, none of which bore any resemblance to my own and all of which were different. Listening to an interview with Walsh and Susan Feldman the artistic director of St. Ann’s Warehouse subsequently, Walsh confirmed that it was in fact his intention for the audience to make it their own.

For me “Ballyturk” is part farce, part human tragedy and part  psychological exploration. A pretty good trifecta for your buck.

I first saw Walsh’s work in Galway in 2006. “The Walworth Farce” – not too dissimilar to “Ballyturk” in many facets – opened there at the Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF). Walsh considers Galway people his core audience he relayed in the interview, which was moderated by with GIAF Artistic Director, Paul Fahy. Walsh feels they are more comfortable with the surreal than other audiences. I agree – a bit of magic and mystery is never too far away from Galwegian psyche.

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“The Dead, 1904” is agonizingly beautiful

How it’s New York: This immersive theater adaptation of James Joyce’s novella, “The Dead” takes place at The American Irish

Photos by Carol Melissa.

Historical Society at 991 5th Ave, New York, New York.
How it’s Irish: Another stunning production from The Irish Repertory Theater.

This Christmas production began last year and continued through this one. It sells out fast, so we hope this will give you some ideas for next year: this review came in at the very end of the run.

 

“The Dead, 1904,” based on James Joyce’s novella, portrays an Ireland haunted and paralyzed by its past. Adapted by Paul Muldoon and Jean Hanff Korelitz, the play is in its second seasonal year at the Irish American Historical Society. Director Ciaran O’Reilly’s original and innovative staging brings to vivid life an evening of musical entertainment hosted by the elderly Morkan sisters (Patricia Kilgarriff and Patti Perkins) in their Dublin home for their annual epiphany festivities. As their guests, the audience joins in the merriment, and is lead through toasting, singing, dancing, and poetry and finally to a feast. Dinner, inspired by the holiday fare described by Joyce, includes marinated beef tenderloin, ‘floury’ potatoes and cranberry and pineapple relish, served on fine china and accompanied by wine in crystal glasses.

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Mesmerizing Camille O’Sullivan performance

How it’s New York: Camille O’Sullivan performed at the Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen 
How it’s Irish:  O’Sullivan is half Irish and half French and was raised in Cork  

The mesmerizing cabaret performer Camille O’Sullivan delighted audiences in October with an intimate, five-night tribute, Camille O’Sullivan Sings Jacques Brel. She grew up listening to the Belgian Brel who had a new style of storytelling. “He blew people away,” she said admiringly. In the program notes for the show she explained that Brel is the reason I’m a singer today—I essentially ended my career as an architect to become a performer after falling in love with singing his music.”

Photos courtesy of the artist

On the penultimate night of the run, O’Sullivan was dressed all in black, including a black lace veil, but her sparkly silver boots added a pop of colour.

As she walked up to the stage she stroked a number of audience members’ heads, including mine.

Awaiting her were trusty white, plastic rabbit, familiar to anyone who has seen her before, and her band, also dressed all in black.

She was backed by her longtime collaborator pianist Feargal Murray, drummer Paul Byrne, guitarist Andrew Zinsmeister and

Charlotte Glasson on flute, violin, saxophone and musical saw.

She kicked things off with an a capella version of Marieke, followed by a rousing Vezoul that brought the band boisterously to life. Her voice was a half rasp, half shout.

She came back out to the audience and caressed my face and others.

Brel is the reason I’m a singer today”

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Home is where the soul is: Brian Friel’s ‘The Home Place’

How it’s New York: Irish Rep is one of New York’s most acclaimed theatres.

Maggie (Rachel Pickup) is a luminous presence at The Lodge.©Carol Rosegg

How it’s Irish: Brian Friel is Irish, the play is set in Ireland, and it depicts a turning point in Irish history.

Editor’s note: this review, also an analysis, contains spoilers.

Brian Friel has been called the Irish Chekhov. it’s easy to see why: like the Russian master, he tells his stories gently, with people who are often aristocrats (in fact, he has a play called “Aristocrats”) sitting around talking, the action all in subtext.

But not always.

“Translations” tells a story of betrayal and love and abandonment in its story. And so does “The Home Place,” finishing a many times extended run at Irish Rep on Sunday, Dec. 17. It’s only the second time Friel’s last play, written in 2005, set in 1878, has been produced in America. The Guthrie presented it in 2007.

Friel would be proud. The beautiful production is haunting; a dream that’s about to be a nightmare. Literally. I lost sleep.

Reviewers can be forgiven for missing this point. Even those who loved it missed it. There’s a secret and a sucker

Yes, Charlotte Moore helms a talented cast with nuance and grace. Yes, there’s a Downton Abbey-like charm to James Noone’s set of a dining room and an outdoor patio,  and to David Toser’s elegant period costumes.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the action is on the surface. There’s a lot churning underneath, and not just feelings.

The play is a masterpiece, and Moore does it proud.

I was so unnerved by the play’s final line that I emailed the director with my theory. (Spoiler: she said I was on to something.)

The very last moment of the play gives us a clue, and, like the moment at the end of “The Sixth Sense,” makes you rethink everything.

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Mercy Centre Benefit Concert with Donie Carroll and Friends

How it’s New York: at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City
How it’s Irish: Irish singer Donie Carroll and friends raise funds for the Mercy Centre orphanage in Thailand

Last week at the New York Irish Center local Cork transplant Donie Carroll brought together  a host of Irish and area talent to raise money in his annual concert for the Mercy Centre Orphanage in Bangkok Thailand.  I’ve been to this concert over the past few years and it is always a treat.

Featured in the show were Donie’s longtime cohort in supporting the Mercy Centre , multi-instrumentalist and singer Mick Moloney, joined by a trio of lovely fiddlers, Liz Hanley, Heather Bixler and Haley Richardson.

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New York Tradfest going on now!

How it’s New York: It’s the New York Trad Fest!

Dan Gurney, Dylan Foley, Brendan Dolan

How it’s Irish: Trad. We said Trad. Best Irish and Celtic music players in the tristate!

 

 

An earlier version of this story was published in Irish Music Magazine.

Tony Demarco  was in the car when he spoke to us about Tradfest, because he splits his time between

“It’s a labor of love,”

Pennsylvania and NYC. In fact, he was off to split firewood for the winter. Even driving didn’t make him uptight when he spoke.

An accomplished fiddler, Demarco runs the 11th Street Session on Sunday nights, the one where professionals are comfortable, was not concerned. The festival is going on today and tomorrow.

But Demarco, Italian and Irish-American, was taking it all in stride. This is the fifth annual New York Trad Fest.

“It’s a labor of love,” he says.

“As far as I know it’s the only traditional music festival in New York, expecially around the city. The beauty of it is there’s so much talent, especially around the New York area, I don’t have to go far to get amazing musicians.”

Years ago, he says, Irish Arts Center ran such a festival in Snug Harbor, Staten Island, but got hammered a few times by weather and it ended.

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There’s a RIOT on the way!

How it’s New York:  Happened this week in New York City
How it’s Irish: Talk with Irish Theatre company ThisPopBaby and Panti Bliss about upcoming tour of their show RIOT

RIOT. photo by Conor Horgan for THISISPOPBABY

This past Tuesday the Irish Arts Center hosted a talk with the creators and star of the upcoming show RIOT from the Dublin Theatre company THISPOPBABY.  The brainchild of Jennifer Jennings and Phillip McMahon, who are collectively THISPOPBABY, and starring the one and only Panti Bliss (aka Rory O’Neill), they came to share the origins of the show and a bit about their collective theatrical paths.  The show will be playing 3 nights in February 2018 at the NYU Skirball Center, and tickets are going fast!

Founded in 2007 during their days of club-hopping, Jennings and McMahon began

Dublin, and Ireland itself, is changing and they want to present something that shows the tides of the times. 

THISPOPBABY to present theatrical pieces in club settings.  Eventually they went on to present more elaborate pieces in tents at popular music festivals, widening their audiences and allowing them the draw to be able to present in theatres.  RIOT is the ultimate culmination of these efforts and played sold out runs at the Spiegeltent and Vicar Street in Dublin last year to great critical acclaim.

I’ve met Philly McMahon a number of times with Panti over the past few years, and he has been the co-writer and director of her show “High Heels in Low Places“, hence Panti’s involvement as the Ring Leader in this new show.

They talked a bit about the formation of that show and how a lot of it was shaped by the after-math of Panti-gate and the Marriage Referndum campaign. (more…)

‘Lady Bird’ Marks The Return Of Luminous Talent Saoirse Ronan To The Big Screen

How it’s New York: Writer/Director Greta Gerwig is based in New York and actress Saoirse Ronan was born in the Bronx

Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein in “Lady Bird”. Courtesy Merie Wallace.

How it’s Irish: Saoirse Ronan is Irish-American, raised in Ireland

Greta Gerwig, who came up through Mumblecore movies, has established herself in recent years as a writer, bringing her distinctive voice to Frances Ha and Mistress America. For her first turn behind the camera she turns her attention to her own Sacramento adolescence that serves as the inspiration for the film.

Although she’s in her 20s, Ronan nails what it’s like to be a romantic, struggling narcissistic teenager.

It’s circa 2002 and Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson, who yearns for something bigger than her staid Catholic school youth on the wrong side of the tracks. To her, Sacramento is the “Midwest of California.”  To usher in a new era, she gives herself the name “Lady Bird”. She’s a smart but underachieving senior, a sort of outsider with one best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), both surrounded by their far wealthier classmates and their stately homes. She gets along with her understanding father Larry (Tracy Letts), but is an angry jerk toward her brother, Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), a recent college graduate.

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Billy Bragg at City Winery

How it’s New York: City Winery is a winery and music venue located in lower Manhattan.

How it’s Irish: Billy’s been known to play the old Irish folk song,“The Croppy Boy,” in which the narrator is a young Irish revolutionary in the 1798 rebellion. 

Singer songwriter legend Billy Bragg played two sold out shows at City Winery on Monday, October 16th.

In the early show, Billy played new songs from a just released six-track EP, “Bridges Not Walls”, slated for release November 3rd. Included on the new EP is his Dylan re-write, “The Times They Are A Changing Back”, and a new single entitled “Saffiyah Smiles,” both commentaries on our current political landscape. Billy also played “Levi Stubbs Tears,” “A New England,” and “The Milkman of Human Kindness” along with three tunes from his 1988 album, Workers Playtime.” 

Characteristic of his work, these songs emphasize the importance of bringing a new humanitarian spirit to our present times.

Billy brought the audience together with stories drawn from the road and his life and gave his considered take on our current political situation.  For him, his new songs are “my way of trying to make some sense of what’s going on. And there’s been a lot going on.” He stressed how we must all fight not to become cynical – that optimism, dogged and determined, needed to be the order of the day.

I was lucky enough to have traveled with Billy and Joe Henry as they recorded their album of folk songs, “Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad”, an album that went to number #1 on the UK’s Americana Albums chart after its release September 2016.

It was wonderful to see Billy again. We had coffee the following day and I had a chance to tell him what a galvanizing show it was and how much the crowd really needed to hear that reminder to keep fighting and to not give up.

Joe Henry, who recorded “Shine a Light” with Billy, has a brand new album, just released this week entitled Thrum.” On it, Joe sings: “Oh come let us be hungry in the world.” Billy Bragg and Joe Henry are artists who hunger for a better world. Both seek to remind us through their music that we are all united in song and in life.

Here’s that special film project I directed for Billy & Joe:

 

Here are some photos from the City Winery show:

 


Karl Geary – Montpelier Parade Launch at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York: In New York at the Irish Arts Center
How it’s Irish: Irish writer Karl Geary launches his first Novel Montpelier Parade.

Karl Geary reading from Montpelier Parade at the Irish Arts Center – photo by Andy Ryan

He has crafted a compelling story of longing, love, loss and isolation with vivid characters and a driving narrative that made me not want to put the book down, and sad when I was finished reading.

What a delight it was to get the chance to hear my old East Village pal Karl Geary read this past Tuesday night at the Irish Arts Center!  It was yet another wonderful evening of collaboration put together by the innovative folks at the IAC, with Jenna Nicholls and Gerry Leonard providing musical counterpoint and an insightful conversation with Poet, Playwright and Actor Dael Orlandersmith.  I got a chance to sit down with Karl before the show and it was fantastic to get a further look inside the characters and inspirations behind this fantastic first book.

 

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War Movies and Film Festivals

How It’s New York: Irish Screen America and New York Film Festival happen in New York City. Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly is in one of the shorts, and several of the directors live here.
Float

Float

How It’s Irish: “No Stone Unturned” is a film about the Troubles and New York Irish Shorts are made by Irish filmmakers

Last weekend was quite the film buff’s dream. Not only was Irish Film America hosting their annual film festival, but Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival also opened. I was lucky enough to attend both in one day. Focused on Irish cinema, I began by seeing Alex Gibney’s “No Stone Unturned” at the Elinor Bunin Monroe film center. Described as a murder mystery in its title, going in I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a drama or a documentary, but it’s a murder mystery doc. (more…)