Donovan at The Cutting Room!

How it’s New York: Donovan made a rare New York City appearance this past Tuesday, June 6th. It’s said that it’s Donovan who wrote the words on the cue cards that Dylan tosses accompanying the masterful “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in D.A. Pennebaker’s film “Don’t Look Back”. That scene was shot here in New York City.
How it’s Irish: Donovan now lives in County Cork, Ireland, with his family.

Donovan played all his big hits this past Tuesday at a sold out show at New York City’s The Cutting Room. The audience was full of fans who were excited to hear Donovan who rarely plays live.

It was just Donovan and his acoustic guitar for the evening. He opened with the beautiful “Catch The Wind” and ended the night with “Sunshine Superman”, “Season Of The Witch” and lastly “Atlantis”.


Leaving the Cake in the Rain: A Celebration of the Music of Jimmy Webb

How it’s New York: The concert took place at the legendary Carnegie Hall.
How it’s Irish: Jimmy’s ancestry is part Irish; one of his biggest hits, “MacArthur Park”, was recorded by his dear friend, legendary Irish actor Richard Harris, and every morning he has a double shot of Bewley’s Irish Breakfast Tea.

“When we need a song, we go to Jimmy”.

The Carnegie Hall stage came alive on a recent Wednesday evening with a lineup that featured several living legends armed with an impressive collection of pop culture prizes – everything from Grammys to Oscars to Tonys to Hall of Fame immortality – but the real stars of this particular show were the songs of Jimmy Webb.

“The Cake and the Rain,” a celebration of Webb’s musical career that also

served as a benefit concert for the Alzheimer’s Association and the I’ll Be Me Foundation (in honor of his longtime friend and fellow music icon Glen Campbell) featured many of the colleagues, collaborators, and disciples of the fabled songwriter, who paid tribute by singing his tunes and telling some stories. Hosted by Michael Douglas, the incredibly diverse program included Judy Collins, Johnny Rivers, BJ Thomas, Dwight Yoakum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Shelea, Liz Callaway, and Graham Nash, who acknowledged the famous venue with the rousing If These Walls Could Speak. (more…)

Tribeca Film Festival: ‘The Public Image is Rotten’

How it’s New York: Documentary aired at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Focuses on the work of John Lydon, the London-born son of Irish immigrants.

He’s lived the life, of that there can be little doubt,  and the man at the forefront of Britain, no, the world’s, punk explosion back in the mid 1970s is still living it. Perhaps it’s not the ostentatious existence of obnoxiousness which representatives from other musical genres are, for reasons unknown, proud to display, but John Lydon, a man who shocked, even disgusted, most of the population while enjoying his heyday as the UK’s supposed public enemy Number 1, is still here, and has no plans on going anywhere. His supposed alter-ego, Johnny Rotten, may have been somewhat forced into semi-retirement many years ago, and while the attitude has softened somewhat, and the ironic sneer has metomphorphozed into a cheeky grin, the charismatic personality that some of us loved, and more loved to hate, is here, at Tribeca, and on the big screen.


Lydon, who fronted The Sex Pistols, Britain’s most outrageous musical act, for three years before they imploded in 1978, is no stranger to controversy, or indeed, documentaries, having been the subject of a number over the years, most notably 2000’s ‘The Filth and the Fury’, the director of which, Julien Temple, is one of those interviewed for this one.


Sephira cuts a rug

Sephira will appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday. (Image courtesy of Sephira/Tad Management)

How it’s New York: Sephira will be performing at the Cutting Room on March 16.
How it’s Irish: Ruth and Joyce O’Leary are natives of County Monaghan, and their playing style fuses traditional Celtic music with classical, rock and folk. Before striking out on their own as Sephira, they performed with Celtic Thunder.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Sephira will be bringing their unique blend of violin and vocals to stages in New York.

The duo of vocalist-violinist sisters Ruth and Joyce O’Leary is currently touring the United States. They have three albums to their credit, the most recent being Eternity.

New York Irish Arts spoke to Ruth and Joyce on Wednesday, just before they were to appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday.


‘The Joshua Tree’ Is 30 years old today

How it’s New York: Well the music does look at the band’s love-hate relationship with America, and despite what some people say about us, NYC is part of America…
How it’s Irish: U2 are Irish, maybe the biggest Irish international act since Van Morrison.


‘The Joshua Tree’ Turns 30

U2’s 1987 masterpiece, The Joshua Tree, was released 30 years ago, on March 9, 1987. The album sold tens of millions of copies and made U2 into one of the world’s biggest bands, trading in the synthpop of the ’80s for earnest, anthemic rock. Here’s the feature that Newsweek published on U2 in the spring of… (more…)

Lúnasa and Karan Casey at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall – Friday March 3, 2017

How it’s New York: At Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City
How it’s Irish: Irish Trad Super Group Lúnasa and Irish Singer Karan Casey

At Carnegie Hall! left to right Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Colin Farrell, Ed Boyd, Trevor Hutchinson

On a windy New York Friday night there was nothing better than being enveloped in the fiery tunes pouring forth from Lúnasa on their 20th Anniversary tour at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.  Clearly chuffed to be playing this historic venue, they launched straight into a set of tunes driven by the “pied piper” Kevin Crawford on whistle.

The program was a delightful romp through their catalog including sets of tunes from Scotland, Galicia in Spain, Brittany and original compositions from piper Cillian Vallely written for his daughters.  The crowd was clapping along throughout and Crawford kept the pace of the show lively and peppered with his hilarious repartee. (more…)

55 years and feeling the buzz: the Chieftains!

How it’s New York: The Chieftains play New Jersey, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, on Sunday, March 5, with special guests Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. The night before, Saturday, March 4, they play Queen’s College, the Kupferberg Center, in Flushing, NY. Paddy’s daughter Aedin Moloney is a New York actress, who runs the company Fallen Angels.
How it’s Irish: Um… it’s The Chieftains…


I’ve talked to Paddy Moloney several times and it’s always a treat… he tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, and even sings!

In the brand spanking new paper The Montclair Local I wrote up an interview with him, in honor of his playing at NJPAC this Sunday. Here are a few grafs from that piece… catch the rest here!

We have more to share with you from Paddy and hope to get up another piece, or even a podcast, in the coming weeks!

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone – We have Declan O’Rourke

How it’s New York: The performance took place at The Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish: Declan O’Rourke is Irish

I saw the wonderful Declan O’Rourke at the Irish Arts Center on Sunday night at his final performance of a three night run as part of their Valentine’s weekend programming.

Declan O'Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

The show opened with a 12-piece orchestra playing a piece composed for the evening. This was followed by the arrival of the very large presence of O’Rourke on stage. With the stance and posture of an ancient Irish warrior he opened the set with the very somber and haunting, “Her Silken Brown Hair”, which sounds more like a traditional Irish ballad than something penned by a 39-year-old.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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.



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


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…)