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…)

Queens Gets A Film Fest – The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

 
How it’s New York: The movie extravaganza took place in Queens
How it’s Irish: The fest featured films from the Celtic Nations including Canada and The UK

 

 

Earlier this month, Queens played host to the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The Fest, which ran from August 4th-13th, screened over 150 features and shorts at the Queens Museum and Kew Gardens Cinemas, which is the borough’s only operating art-house theatre. There were free panels as well on subjects such as Women in Independent Film and The Dos and Don’ts of Distribution. With the Unisphere close by, it was fitting that the selections came from a veritable United Nations of countries like Canada, Romania, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

Although Ireland didn’t have anything in the fest, the Celtic Nations were well represented. I saw the Canadian feature “Grand Unified Theory”, which won Best Screenplay. In keeping wit the themed programming the organizers created for the fest – science and outer space were the theme for what I saw- was accompanied by a music video from the British band Jenny Got Famous called “Loneliest Hour”. The charming video is about an astronaut in a spaceship made entirely out of cardboard, which director Karl Dixon explained in a Q&A after, took three months to build. (more…)

‘Woody Sez’ will break your heart and lift your spirits

How it’s New York: “Woody Sez” takes place at Irish Repertory Theatre, one of the city’s best residential theatres. Guthrie

David M. Lutken plays Woody Guthrie in “Woody Sez.” ©Carol Rosegg.

influenced the Clancy Brothers and Christy Moore. Andy Irvine, of Planxty, has a wonderful song tribute to Guthrie in his “Never Tire of the Road.”
How it’s (Irish) Scottish: Woody Guthrie was of Scots descent, and his mother sang old ballads to him. The show has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and in Belfast.

Listen to our podcast with David M. Lutken here!

Somewhere during the thrilling performance of “Woody Sez” at Irish Rep I began to feel depressed.

When did the working man stop believing in unions? When did labor throw in with management? How did this happen? Would Guthrie, whose guitar had “this machine fights fascists” on it, be dismissed as “Antifa” today?

There has hardly been a rally this year that didn’t close (or open) with Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Maybe, like me, you learned the song in kindergarden (along with “If I Had a Hammer,” written by Pete Seeger, a long-time collaborator of Guthrie’s). Maybe you forgot this song was composed by a 20th-Century American.

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), the subject of the devised musical byby David M. Lutken with Nick Corley and Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, is considered the father of American folk-music. Rightly so. His music, which chronicled the Dust Bowl years in particular and fought Fascism, had an impact on not only folk singers but also rock singers.

“Woody Sez” at Irish Rep is already on my Top 10 list. It is one of the best shows of the year.

I know, the year’s not over. This show will not be edged out of Top 10. It will probably stay in Top 3. Hell, it may stay at the top.

It was meant to end in June, but it kept extending. It now will end on Sept. 10. You can still see it: hurry up!

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Podcast #42: Gavinstock and Woody Sez

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How it’s New York: Gavinstock is the second annual Gavin’s Irish Music Festival, consisting of some of the best Irish bands in New York. “Woody Sez” is a show about Woody Guthrie, playing at New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.
How it’s Irish: Gavin’s Irish Country Inn— need we say more? but it’s in East Durham, New York, the Emerald Isle of New York, and the bands are all playing Irish music. Woody Guthrie was Scottish descent.

WOODY SEZ HAS BEEN EXTENDED THROUGH SEPT. 10!!!

We talk to Bernadette Gavin,  of Gavin’s Irish Country Inn, about Gavinstock, as well as to Kevin McCarthy  of Shilelagh Law, one of the bands playing there. We then talk to David Lutken, performer and co-deviser of the phenomenal “Woody Sez” at Irish Repertory Theatre.

 

Featured Tune: “Together in the End,” about 9/11, by Shilelagh Law

Last chance to see ‘Indecent’

How it’s New York: ‘Indecent’ describes an event that happened in New York City: Sholom Asch’s play ‘God of Vengeance’ was put on trial for indecency in 1923, due to a lesbian kiss.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill appears in one scene. Lisa Gutkin of The Klezmatics wrote the music; Gutkin also plays Irish trad.

One of the best plays on Broadway closes tomorrow, Aug. 6. If you haven’t seen “Indecent” by Paula Vogel yet, run and get a ticket.

Director Rebecca Taichman unexpectedly won the Tony Award for best director, as well as the same from Outer Critics Circle. The play should have been secure for years, but at least it extended from a June closing to tomorrow’s. She and Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive,” “The Baltimore Waltz”) created the play together.

Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva created the music, which is played live onstage, sometimes by performers. Sometimes it’s Yiddish-flavored, sometimes it’s cabaret, always it’s tuneful and gorgeous.  In a scene with playwright Eugene O’Neill  (who loved “God of Vengenace”) it’s Irish. The choreography by David Dorfman is witty and inventive.

“Indecent” had its New York opening at The Vineyard theatre last spring and transferred to Broadway. That’s remarkable when you consider its serious subject: the history of “God of Vengeance,” a play that features a lesbian kiss at its heart.

“Indecent” demonstrates the amazing power of theatre in front of your eyes. (more…)

Canada’s Genie Bouchard Comes To New York To Make Her World Team Tennis Debut

How it’s New York: World Team Tennis, which has a local team, The New York Empire, plays here
How it’s Irish: All the teams have players and coaches from a wide array of countries including Canada, Great Britain and the US.

For tennis enthusiasts looking for a fix between Wimbledon and the US Open, there is courtside action to be found locally thanks to Mylan World Team Tennis, co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1973. World Team Tennis is like the tennis equivalent of minor league baseball, and offers fans a relaxed evening of on-court action, contest giveaways, amusing mascots, trivia and a lot of music. Literally after every point the announcer played a few seconds from a vast array of songs.  Last week the big news was the arrival of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who joined the home team, the New York Empire, coached by two-time Olympic gold medal winner Gigi Fernandez.

Genie Bouchard

New York Empire Team Members Neil Skupski, Kirsten Flipkens and Coach Gigi Fernandez

I attended last Friday night’s match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. There was a considerable amount of construction going on in preparation for the US Open at the end of August and the audience had intimate seats inside Court 17. The New York Empire faced off against the San Diego Aviators, the reigning champs. Along with Bouchard, the Empire, which is like a mini United Nations, included Americans Mardy Fish and Maria Sanchez, Brit Neal Skupski and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

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Reporting on ‘Immigrant Arts in America’

How it’s New York: The Museum of Jewish Heritage is located in Battery Park.

Panelist Daniel Kahn and Moderator Ann Curry – Photo by Julia Osen Averill

How it’s Irish: The panels included representatives from the Irish Repertory Theatre, the Irish Arts Center and Irish artists Carrie Beehan and Larry Kirwan.

On July 17th, an all-day summit entitled Immigrant Arts In America was held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The morning panels (which I unfortunately missed) featured a wide array of representatives from the New York arts and culture communities, including the Kairos Italy Theater, the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, the Turkish American Repertory Theater, the Irish Arts Center and Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance.

In the afternoon I attended two panels moderated by journalist and former “Today” co-anchor Ann Curry. The first was entitled Curating The Immigrant Experience and included Rocio Aranda-Alvarado  from El Museo Del Barrio, Elissa Cohen from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Hanna Griff-Sleven from the Museum at Eldridge Street and Andrew Rebattta from the Museum of Chinese in America.

Griff-Sleven spoke about the unique position that the Eldridge Street Museum, which is housed inside the 19th century Eldridge Street Synagogue, has held for the last century on the Lower East Side and well beyond the little stretch of street.

“We’re an anchor in the neighbourhood. The faces have changed but they’re still immigrants with the same problems. We’re a country of cast outs. We’ve reached out to the community when we’ve had to and it reinforces the notion that we come together.” (more…)

Podcast #41: ‘Find Your Way Home’ and ‘The Journey’

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How it’s New York: ‘Find Your Way Home’ plays Symphony Space on Tuesday, July 25. ‘The Journey’ had a New York premiere.
How it’s Irish: The musical ‘Find Your Way Home’ is about an Irish family in 1910. ‘The Journey’ fictionalizes in film an encounter between Ian Paisley and IRA leader Martin McGuinness in 2006, as they attempt to end the conflict in Northern Ireland.

We spoke to “Find Your Way Home” co-author Jimmy Kelly, and to “The Journey” director Nick Hamm.

Featured song: “Heaven Hear Me Now,” from “Find Your Way Home.”