New Book on Irish Music by L.E. McCullough

How it’s New York:  Latest book from L.E. McCullough focuses on Irish-American musical heritage
How it’s Irish:  2-volume set offers 4 decades of Irish music scholarship

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L.E. McCullough started writing about Irish Traditional Music in 1974.

He hasn’t stopped yet.

What Whistle-Flyer 150dpi-trimA new publication titled “What Whistle Would You Play at Your Mother’s Funeral? — L.E. McCullough’s Writings on Irish Traditional Music, 1974-2016″ gathers in two volumes the more than 300,000 words on Irish music and culture the prolific musician/scholar has published in 43 years of teaching and research.

Published by Silver Spear Publications in PDF and paperback formats, Volume I contains Dr. McCullough’s three major academic works — his landmark Ph.D. dissertation (Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study) and earlier M.A. and B.A. theses (The Rose in the Heather: Irish Music in Its American Cultural Milieu and Farewell to Erin: An Ethnomusicological Study of Irish Music in the U.S.).

Volume II, subtitled “Everything Else”, covers a wide range of Irish music performers, instrument-makers and music events — 122 essays and reviews, journal articles and concert reports, blog reflections, album notes, newspaper features, seminar presentations, whistle-playing tips … and a screenplay.

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Overcoming the Competition

How it’s New York: It is catching up Tom Dunne’s old buddies across the pond, and they are fixing to hop across it for a visit!
How it’s Irish: Diddley, innit?

Irish music competitions sound like a nightmare to me, what with all the stories of young wannabe champions passing out and vomiting with the stress, and the bitter disputes over the scoring.  Yet there are good things that come from it. One of these is the camaraderie and friendship between old sparring partners. Two of Tom Dunne’s fellow contestants and subsequent buddies from competitions back in the day, namely Seamus Walshe and Patsy Moloney, have recently made albums which are well worth your attention.

seamus-trad-coverSeamus Walshe plays the box in a very personal style. In the liner notes of one of Seamus’s previous CDs Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion  Joe Burke likened his approach to that of an architect (Seamus’ chosen profession).  At the time, I considered that notion fanciful, preferring to just savor the luxurious experience of having that CD on repeat for a leisurely drive across the Canadian Rockies. Now I get the architect thing. There is definite evidence of a stately, elegant and logical form, yet lyrical and emotional touches abound.

seamus-turas

There are many examples of this on the new CD Turas: on the “Long Drop” Seamus shapes the first tune with phrasing and dynamic subtleties; as Eimear Reilly’s fiddle comes in for “Fred Finn’s Reel”, the stricter tempo and the “sit up and beg” figures enhance both the swing and the sadness in the tune; “The Torn Jacket” works as the release with a more straight-ahead approach (albeit with outstanding unison triplets).

 

The strong windswept melody of “Margaret’s Waltz” is stated with bold accordion and fiddle lines, leading into “Louis’ Waltz”, a staple of New York sessions (also known as “Dermot Grogan’s Favourite”). Here it is given a totally different treatment with the harp, fiddle and accordion creating a dense texture with the fiddle adding harmonic variations. The Poppy Leaf is another commonly recorded tune (twice by Tony DeMarco , and a stunning interpretation by Brian Rooney) which still gets a fresh treatment by Seamus and Grainne Hambly on harp. They take a relaxed pace, resisting the temptation to stuff the high part with notes, and smoothly transition into Charlie Lennon’s Rossinver Braes with its exquisite interplay of box and harp.

Turas means trip or pilgrimage and this album echoes that reflective note.  While it doesn’t have some of the exuberance of Seamus’ previous recordings it is an album of great sensitivity and maturity. It is also noteworthy that he has brought along some famous musical friends for this particular journey, including Alec Finn, Charlie Lennon, Noel Hill and Steve Cooney.

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Childsplay, with Karan Casey, return to Symphony Space tonight, Nov. 18, 2016!

 Childsplay return to SymphonySpace tonight, Nov. 18, 2016, so we thought we’d republish this piece. Karan Casey sings!

How It’s New York:  Childsplay are playing Symphony Space tonight, Dec. 1.  Symphony Space is one of the great places to hear music or literature in New York (Edna O’Brien read there with Selected Shorts; Mick Moloney recently presented his Tribute to Harrigan and Hart there, the Irish American Writers and Artists hold monthly readings at the Thalia café there).

How It’s Irish:  Many of the tunes they play are Irish, and some of their players come from that world, including flutist Shannon Heaton, and singer Aoife O’Donovan.  But it’s also pan-Celtic, with Scottish tunes, New England style music and even Swedish.  It’s Festive and Holiday and special.

Childplsay perform Thursday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., at the Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadwa 95th St., NYC.  Tickets at www.symphonyspace.org or 212-864-5400

I like this group so much I’ve written about them for WSJ Speakeasy, Irish Music Magazine, Time Out, and Irish Examiner USA.  Here’s my most recent piece.  This group has a real wall of sound that, combined with their heartfelt folk music, will really lift you up.  Catch some holiday spirit!

WE HAVE A PAIR OF TICKETS TO GIVE AWAY TO THE SHOW TONIGHT.  Email us at newyorkirisharts@gmail.com with the name of the fiddle maker to claim them!

Childsplay are less an orchestra than a “fiddle choir,” says Bob Childs.  He’s a luthier, and all twelve fiddlers in the group, performing at Symphony Space  on Dec. 1, play fiddles that he made—hence the name.  Fiddles have unique voices, and fiddles made by the same person blend together like voices in a family singing group.  The fiddlers also come from different traditions.  Bonnie Bewick plays with the Boston Symphony; Sheila Falls-Keohane is an Irish fiddler, and Lisse Schneckenburger both plays New England/Scottish style.  And Bob Childs himself.  But that’s part of the appeal of the group, Childs explains:  everybody’s a little outside of their comfort zone and has to learn and work together.
 “Everyone is an all-star in their band, so there’s a great potential for harmony and rhythmic syncopation.  Everyone’s so talented, picking up the bow patterns and ornaments is very simple, they’re very good at it.  But they’re out of their home base of music, and it opens everybody up and makes for a very creative rehearsal time.”
The sound is completely dreamy.  It’s not like symphonic arrangements of trad music, nor like a string section; it’s just its own thing.  In addition to the fiddlers, the group includes all-Ireland harpist Kathleen Guilday,  Ralph Gordon on bass, Touchstone’s Mark Roberts, and others for a total of 22 players.   Step-dancers Nic Gareiss and Shannon Dunne will also perform.
This year the group is doing some Christmas music.  The group has often toured right after Thanksgiving and there’s a festive feel to their traditional sound, but they haven’t really done holiday tunes before.  There will be a couple of Irish Christmas tunes.

It’s the last outing for Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still) with the group, before she launches her solo career.  She’s sung with the group for nine years.  “She’s a breathy singer, and there’s something about the way she breathes that is in harmony with the violins,” Childs says.  Recently the singer has been touring with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  And there are new pieces for this year’s tour, from guitarist Keith Murphy, flutist Shannon Heaton (who is also with the group Long Time Courting) and fiddler Hanneke Cassel.  Nic Gareiss is a new addition—his background is in Appalachian clogging, but has just finished a year of immersion in step-dancing in Ireland as well.  Folding Nic in has been a fascinating thing.  
 “He’s a musician’s dancer; he can really dance to the tune.  His eclectic background gives him the ability to lock in.  Shannon Dunne is more of a Sean Nos dancer, so it will b a lovely combination.”

Childs, who has been making fiddles for 35 years,  didn’t actually found Childsplay.  He got an invitation to play in a concert down  in Washington, D.C., and it was only when he got there that he saw everyone was playing one of his fiddles.  They invited him to be part of it.  “We haven’t stopped since,” he says.  That was 26 years ago.

The group has toured Sweden, because Childs has six violins in Sweden.  At this year’s concert, they will play a Swedish piece.  “That’s a good example of where we can go as a band,” he says.
 “Swedish fiddling is really rhythmic so the technique is a little different, there are different beats.  The emphasis is on the one and the three, which makes for a hypnotic and driving rhythm, when you have 12 fiddles blasting away on it.”
The group is scattered, so part of their rehearsal takes place through the “magic of the internet.”  Different people are in charge of different arrangements, which they put up on the back end of their website.
“It’s when we get together that the nitty gritty happens, refining, culling out what doesn’t work, putting things in.  It keeps the music alive.”  
Rehearsing “is like a family reunion, when everyone gets together.” Because everyone plays by ear, they can get by without a conductor.  Whoever has put out the arrangement becomes the leader for an individual tune.  “It makes for a real variety in the show.  There’s an organic quality of the music.”
The website also has free, downloadable fiddle lessons.  “We’re trying to expand our group, and our community.”  The orchestra is
“..a musical cauldron, where we’re forming the sound.  It’s not classical music, we’re playing from the inside out.  People learn the music by ear, and we rehearse and do everything on the spot.  We always end up with our own sound.”

New York Tradfest, for the fourth time!

How it’s New York: See the title! This festival of trad music and dance is put together by New York’s
Tony Demarco, center, plays fiddle at New York Tradfest. ©Newyorktradfest

Tony Demarco, center, plays fiddle at New York Tradfest. ©Newyorktradfest

own Tony Demarco, who runs the session at the 11th Street Bar and Swifts Hibernian Lounge. It will be full of players from the tri-state area.
How it’s Irish: It’s a celebration of Irish traditional music.

Fiddler Tony Demarco started the New York Tradfest in 2013, to give New York its own night of Irish music. Sure, we have Irish music throughout the year, and various “mini” festivals, but this one brings a big group of musicians to one place, on one night.

Tony, originally from East Flatbush, Brooklyn, runs the Swift session on Tuesday nights as well as the 11th Street session, known as the ones where the pros go. He know everybody: people beginning, people visiting with instrument in hand. Once, Tony said, there was a music festival at Irish Arts Center, but IAC hasn’t had one in about 20 years. That’s not to say IAC hasn’t been hugely supportive: in fact, Tony appeared with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill on Sunday, Oct. 23. IAC is one of the collaborators, along with many local pubs, 11th Street and Swifts of course, but also Paddy Reillys pub, Pier A Harbor House and many more.

For the past few years, the Tradfest has taken place at Connollys in Times Square. While the venue is easy to get to, it also gets crowded quickly– and its backstage is, well, a curtain and about a foot and a half of space, if you can call it that.

This year the festival will take place downtown at Pier A Harbor House, 22 Battery Place, beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased  at eventbrite at the door.

The venue is right on the Lower Manhattan waterfront, with a gorgeous view of the river and the Financial District skyline. What better place to hear the Auld sound than at Pier A, which opened in 1886 as the headquarters for the New York Harbor Police and Department of Docks? (and of course, there’s a long tradition of Irishmen in the police of all kinds!)

If you’re just in town for the weekend, this event will blend New York tourism with the trad music you love.

 

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Ann Kirrane’s ‘Behind Yon Mountain’ brings in a rainbow

How it’s New York: Singer Ann Kirrane has performed in New York.album_cover_behind_yon_mountain
How it’s Irish: Kirrane is from Clare, and the CD includes songs from all over the island.

Singer Ann Kirrane has a clear soprano voice that is full of warmth and expression. In her second album, “Behind Yon Mountain,” the Tuam singer uses it jauntily, sorrowfully, joyfully, and always beautifully. It’s trad, yes, but gentle, chamber trad, Sunday morning with coffee and a croissant, sunlight filtering in.

The title is fitting: it’s a CD that promises a flash of light, a rainbow, around the next hill.

In fact, there’s a beautiful picture of a rainbow in the CD sleeve in this cleverly designed jacket. Each song has nice notes (and thanks to whomever decided not to go with reverse type, so that they’re readable).

The 15-song CD includes songs in Irish, traditional songs, and songs by contemporary songwriters Mick Curry, John Doyle, Brendan Graham, among others- including Leonard Cohen. 

Originally from Bellharbour, Co. Clare, Kirrane has music in her blood: her father Chris Droney and grandfather Jim both played concertina, and so did she, winning the  Growing up, she played with her father, with Tommy Peoples, Kitty Linnane and Paddy Mullins of the Kilfenora Céili Band.

The album journeys around Ireland, including songs from different regions, and also around many different Irish moods. If you like the singing of Heidi Talbot, Mary Black, Dolores Keane,  Ann Kirrane’s CD will fit nicely in your collection. (more…)

Glen Hansard at Carnegie Hall – September 14, 2016

How it’s New York: at New York’s Iconic Carnegie Hall
How it’s Irish: Dublin Singer/Songwriter Glen Hansard

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This was one show very close to my heart!

I first met Glen Hansard in Sin-é, an East Village café that was once at the epicenter of hot young Irish rock and Trad culture.  He was all curls and wide-eyed wonder, and the enthusiasm and passion he had for music is still going strong nearly 25 years later. 

 

I’ve hungrily devoured all the delicious musical morsels that have poured out of his voice and guitar over the years and the cherry on top was getting to see him reach the pinnacle of a solo show at Carnegie Hall.

The warmth of that hallowed hall made the tone of his songs even sweeter as he launched the show with You Will Become

He was jovial and totally at ease, peppering  his set with anecdotes and reminiscences 

from his debut album, “Rhythm and Repose.” With a stripped-down band consisting of a string quartet (with longtime Frames stalwart Joe Doyle on both upright and electric bass) and additional guitar and drums, the acoustics of the room made it an intimate experience, even from the farthest balcony.

Glen drew on many of the songs from his two solo releases – the 2015 “Didn’t He Ramble” and the 2012 “Rhythm and Repose.”  He was jovial and totally at ease, peppering  his set with anecdotes and reminiscences about the road to this momentous show.  Joining him for Lowly Deserter and Wedding Ring (from “Didn’t He Ramble”) was brilliant Brooklyn trombone player Curtis Fowlkes of The Jazz Passengers and John Laurie’s The Lounge Lizards.  There were even a few moments where Glen went totally acoustic, just his voice and guitar filled that historic space with the whole audience hanging on every note. (more…)

Glen Hansard at Carnegie Hall

How it’s New York: At New York’s iconic Carnegie Hall

How it’s Irish: Glen Hansard gives an intimate concert with a few special friends

glen-hansard-at-carnegie-hall

Wednesday, September 14th at 8pm, Oscar, Tony and Grammy winning singer/songwriter Glen Hansard will take the stage at Carnegie Hall to bring an intimate evening of story and song, featuring songs from his most recent releases Didn’t He Ramble and Rhythm and Repose.  It’s a good guess that there will be some selections from the Oscar and Tony winning “Once”, and there should be a few treats in store for the stalwart Frames fans as well!

(Note: Glen was on our Podcast a few years ago, listen to it here!)

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Andrew Finn Magill’s ‘Roots’ go deep

How it’s New York: According to LinkedIn, Andrew Finn Magill has lived in New York13244016_731296016974100_3566772383683040555_o
How it’s Irish: He’s a virtuoso Irish fiddler

 This review first appeared in Irish Music Magazine.

10 tracks.

37.16 minutes
www.andrewfinnmagill.com

“Roots” by Andrew Finn Magill is only the first of two albums the virtuoso fiddler plans to release in 2016; the second, “Branches,” is slated to come out in the autumn and will feature more of his jazz and Brazilian influence.

From the first confident notes of the first track, a set of reels including “Miss MacDonald” and “The Siesta,” the album has you tapping your feet and smiling. Magill, a North Carolina boy, was an All-Ireland fiddle finalist twice by age 14, His LinkedIn page somehow has him living in both Brazil and New York, and he leads his own Brazilian choro quartet, O Finno.

His first album, 2005’s “Drive & Lift,” received praise from all sides:. He’s been busy since then: he received a Fulbright-MtvU Fellowship to co-write and co-produce an album musically capturing HIV/AIDS experiences through song in Malawi. “Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS” came out in 2011. Not just a great musician, but a great person, clearly.

On “Roots,” he’s supported by the incomparably rhythmic John Doyle on guitar, as well as rising star Sean Earnest on guitar; master uillean piper Cillian Vallely; Vincent Fogarty on 10-string bouzouki and terrific fiddler Duncan Wickel.

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The great Joe Derrane (1930-2016), ‘genius of a musician,’ preferred to play

How it’s (Massachusetts) New York: Joe Derrane grew up in Boston, and influenced many, many musicians up and
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Joe Derrane in 2006 (© Spinaci, at WikiMedia Commons)

down the East Coast.
How it’s Irish: Irish-American heritage Derrane was a master of Irish Trad accordion.

Word from accordion player and National Heritage Award-winner Billy McComiskey that Joe Derrane has died. Here is an article written for Irish Examiner USA in 2010, on the occasion of  concert honoring him presented in Connecticut.

Would you rather play, or talk? That was the question the Wolf Trap Festival in Vienna, Virginia, organizers put to Joe Derrane when he made his comeback there in 1994.

He was out of practice. For 35 years, he’d been playing other kinds of music-the Irish ballrooms had closed and so

“One night I had to give up my chair; they set me on the kitchen counter. Twice I almost got knocked over. I took off my shoes and socks and stood in the sink!”

he switched to piano accordion, then to keyboard, playing jazz, pop, Jewish music, Italian music – while working his day job at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

Then in 1993 his early 78 recordings were reissued on Rego on CD, and discovered by Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo. Earle was bowled over. He called Joe up, wrote about him, and got Joe invited to Wolf Trap. The organizers said if he didn’t feel up to playing, he could just have a tent, talk about his life in music. People were eager to hear from him.

“I’d rather play!” Joe said.

There were 1200 people in the tent, and hardly a dry eye in the house by the end, Derrane recalls, talking to me from his home in Randall, Massachusetts, “They wouldn’t let me leave the stage. I had to pledge not to quit again.”

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Kids of All Ages Welcome

How it’s New York: It features an interview with Kevin Crawford, leading light of the Irish Trad scene in New musictonyYork, where he talks about his rambunctious musical beginnings in Birmingham, England.
How it’s Irish: It is the latest in a series on the Anne and Pat Molloy Summer School in Digbeth, Birmingham 

Pat Molloy understood kids. He knew how to get them engaged but also ,when they were under too much pressure, to just let them be kids. Some knew the tunes they wanted straight off the bat; others needed a little prompting so he used “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as an introduction. Of course the idea grew into a jig version, a reel version and a hornpipe version (I’m sure he had barn dance and mazurka versions up his sleeve as well). For those who needed a bit of theatre he also had a party piece of a 4-part manoeuvre before putting the fiddle to the neck (think of a fun version of the military “present arms”). At the other end of the scale he used to also relish the senior student – if I recall correctly his oldest first-time student was 80 years old and full of self-doubt, but still walked out of Hendon Road with a tune.

This spirit is at the core of the Anne and Pat Molloy Summer School, about to run for its 5th year on the weekend of 23rd and 24th, 2016,  a welcoming place for all interested in traditional Irish music, whatever your current level or age.

We have noticed at previous summer schools that those attending or teaching could be split up into different categories: the Little Kids, the Big Kids and the Adults.

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Do you know this tune? Fairy tale in the Catskills, or McGrath’s Waltz

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Eileen O’Brien plays piano at a Seisún at McGrath’s.

How it’s New York: Catskills Irish Arts Week takes place in East Durham, New York. Everybody comes!
How it’s Irish: Historically an Irish town,  the Emerald Isle of the Catskills, the week is a teaching week for music, with a “camp” for kids (some of whom are fierce, fierce players!) and classes in Irish dance and culture too.

I believe that the Good Folk travel.

Like the Fiddler on the Roof (there’s your Jirish reference!) some of them hopped on board the backs of carts, then went on  ships with their people, off to Amerikay.

Off to New York. Saratoga. East Durham.

One of them (at least) taught me a tune in the Catskills last summer, at McGrath’s Motel. (more…)

Who put the T in Texas?

How it’s New York:

I spent magical time with the indomitable guitarist Gene Gimble from the legendary Texas musical family. He is full of music, fun and jokes, including “A Texan goes to New York.”

How it’s Irish:

In the words of the legendary fiddler Benny Thomasson (think of the Texas equivalent of Michael Coleman) “My granddad played a lot of Irish music. It hadn’t been too many generations, his (folks) came from back in Scotland, Ireland or England or somewhere’s back in there”.

Fabulously friendly people, great fiddle music, respect for tradition, sessions into the night, deep community spirit, slower life style, scorching heat. West of Ireland, right? No (maybe the weather comment was a giveaway). It was  Llano, Texas, population 3,232. Yay! Musical road trip to deep in the heart of Texas!

I’ve always had a bit of a furtive Texas fiddle fetish, starting with the Bob Wills references of the hippest band of my Birmingham youth, Ricky Cool and the Icebergs, and a couple of decades later a fun time at Johnny Gimble’s Texas fiddle camp, but recently the gentle musical explorations of the Jersey fiddle group  Four Fiddles Count ‘Em and the burgeoning Americana scene in Jersey City led me to a Benny Thomasson record. The first lesson was such an epiphany moment that in a film would deserve a close up of a needle dropping onto a spinning disk (I made do with a click on a plastic mouse).

Benny Thomasson

Benny Thomasson

First up, “Dry and Dusty” and a twist at every turn: “hey, this is relaxed and swinging … hmm, sounds like he added some kind of low-tuned drone (how does a drone sound so emotional and yearning?) … now we are bouncing along a comfortable groove … top of the tune again … holy cow, he has taken me to a happy sunny place populated with high double stops … a lonesome vibrato across two strings (how the hell is he even doing that?) … too gorgeous to try and analyze any more … let’s  just float on this stream.”

And every track was like that, a new experience. The greatest thing though is that for all the technique and nuance of expression, you got the sense that this was man having fun with his music; you could have just wandered into his back room listening him play for himself.

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Riverdance at 20 is as good as you remember – only better

The "Riverdance" ensemble. (Photo courtesy of Amanda-Rachel Garcia/Prana Marketing)

The “Riverdance” ensemble. (Photo courtesy of Amanda-Rachel Garcia/Prana Marketing)

How it’s New York: The show had its U.S. debut at Radio City Music Hall in 1996. Current musical director and fiddler Pat Mangan is a Brooklyn boy. Tapper Christopher Broughton has some Broadway credits to his name.
How it’s Irish: Riverdance. You can’t get more Irish than that, can you?

The pre-recorded show greeting came first in Irish, then in English: You are welcomed to this 20th anniversary production of “Riverdance.”

Two questions were running through my head as I was setting into my seat, way up in the third tier at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark:

“Is it going to be as good as I remember?”

and

“How on earth has it been 20 years already?”

I’m afraid I really can’t answer the second question. But to the first question, I say: Yes. This incarnation of “Riverdance” was every bit as good as the original – and then some.

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Ireland Rising – Words and Music for a New Century: A Special Benefit Performance for Irish Arts Center

Irish Arts Center_ Almost Home_Page_1

How it’s New York: Took place in New York at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.
How it’s Irish: Benefit performance for the building fund for the new Irish Arts Center.

This past Friday I was honored to be among those treated to the best the Irish Arts Center has to offer.  The overriding sentiment of the night was that when the Irish Arts Center calls, you stop everything and rush right over to support them.  And that is just what the phenomenal performers featured in this varied night of song and story brought to the party.

 

A testament to the true diversity that has become the norm at the Irish Arts Center, this show offered something for everyone. The show opened with the ethereal voice of Christine Tobin moving through the audience, followed by the gorgeous “Beautiful World” from Declan O’Rourke.  A luscious orchestra, under the direction of Henry Hey, laid the groundwork for the performances to follow which ranged from a country tinged “Raglan Road” from Cork singer Nicole Maguire, a bluesy tune from JD & The Straight Shot, a number of greatest hits tunes from Paul Brady, as well as a couple that he wrote with lyrics from poet Paul Muldoon.

One of the highlights of the evening was the vocal quartet Women of the World, a delightful group singing backup for a number of the other artists, most impressively with the powerful singer from Sierra Leone, Loah.  

Liam O’Maonlai teamed up with jazz singer Cassandra Wilson for a powerful rendition of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” and O’Maonlai sang a few of his own songs and trad standards.

IAC staples Joanie Madden, Athena Tergis, Mick Moloney and Billy McComiskey contributed a lively set of barn dances and a few songs as the Irish Traditional section of the evening.

Curtain Call for "Ireland Rising, Words and Music for a New Century. Symphony Space, NYC. The Irish Arts Center. Friday, April 22, 2016. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Curtain Call for “Ireland Rising, Words and Music for a New Century.” Symphony Space, NYC. The Irish Arts Center. Friday, April 22, 2016. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Comic relief and pathos were provided by readings from Peter Quinn, Zadie Smith, Mick Laird and Cólm Toibín. The major plea for pledges was delivered by none other than the Queen of Ireland herself, Panti Bliss in all her glittery glory!

A true treat was 17 year old jazz guitarist Andreas Varady from Limerick who has already been signed to a major label, and with good reason.  His dexterity and musicality is up there with any of the jazz greats and this young man is an excellent example of the innovative programming that is keeping the Irish Arts Center at the top of its game.

The finale of the evening brought out Riverdance alum Jean Butler to do a duet of pieces with the band, with her precision percussion as sharp as ever.

Overall the evening was lively, diverse and delightful, as are so many of the programs that will be even more impactful once the amazing new home for the IAC is finally funded and built.  There is still a long way to go, and if you have a bit of loose change knocking about and looking for a good home, you can contribute to the building fund here:

http://www.almosthome2016.org

Here’s to many more years of incredible music, art, theatre, dance and education in their fine new home.

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