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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:

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


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