The Fifth Masters in Collaboration is Light on Its Feet, when Joanie Madden met Séamus Begley

How It’s New York:  The series was conceived here, and Joanie Madden’s a Bronx gal (and a Yonkers treasure).
How It’s Irish:  You have to listen hard to catch all of Kerryman Séamus Begley’s words, and his style of humor (deadpan and straight-faced) still defeats me.

We had a hunch the musical meeting between Joanie Madden, whistle/flute virtuoso and leader of Cherish the Ladies, with accordion player,  singer and Irish Music Award winner Séamus Begley would be great, which is why we previewed it here and also had both players, along with Irish Arts Center’s Aidan Connolly, on the  podcast for the week of April 15.  This series, curated and conceived by Mick Moloney, always offers a musical treat to the audience, as well as solid time to create together in the week-long residency the artists share together.  Midweek, Mick leads a conversation that lets the audience in on the background of the two  (you can hear a bit of it in this post, and see some pics taken that night!). 

More videos, pics and more  review after the jump!

This collaboration was a particular treat for traddies who know a bit about the music, as Joanie explained that polkas were “a four letter word in her house” but that Séamus was “the polka king.”  He in turn prodded her to sing, showered her with praise and teased her mercilessly.  Both musicians agreed that their music was born from dance music, and to that end not only was there a guest step dancer but also guest set dancers– including Joanie’s mother and Irish Voice columnist Paul Keating on Sunday night.  They were also joined onstage by pianist/guitar player Gabriel Donohue.
Séamus is a bit of a wild card, and the set list in my press packet diverged substantially with what the duo actually played.  But that is part of the joy of these concerts.  They are by nature always somewhat underrehearsed, and anything can happen.  One thing that happened Sunday night was that Séamus coaxed Joanie into singing, and she sang all of “Do You Love an Apple” (which most of us know from the lovely recording by the Bothy Band).  Galway man Gabriel Donohue joined the duo on stage to play guitar and keyboards.  There were a few nice singalongs with the audience, and polkas of course.  I especially enjoyed the song “After the Heron,” a song by Karine Polwart.  Set dancers sitting on the edge of the stage closed off the act.  They performed again in the second half, joined by Irish Voice’s Paul Keating, and Joanie’s mother, both accomplished dancers themselves!

People lingered for a long time in the lobby following the show, as they did after the conversation; one of the high points for me was a beautiful song Séamus led (Joanie on harmony!) to veteran dancer Jo McNamara. 

Afterwards many people went down to 11th Street Bar for the Session, where Ivan Goff and Cillian Vallely played, among others.  Séamus also went down, along with Irish Arts Center’s Pauline Turley.


Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.