Wednesday, 30 December 2009
On December 14th 1909, explorer Ernest Shackleton was in Dublin, lecturing at UCD about his ‘Nimrod’ Antarctic expedition. Next week, exactly 100 years on, composer Michael Holohan will commemorate the moment with a new piece of music theatre
LANDSCAPE HAS BEEN a major theme for Michael Holohan. It may seem an odd thing to say about a composer, but as a long-time resident of the Boyne Valley, he has written a good deal of music which evokes the rivers, forests and ancient burial sites of this part of Ireland. He has also woven the contrasting natural materials of classical and traditional music into a seamless whole in such works as The Road to Lough Swilly , for string orchestra and uilleann pipes. Over the years, too, he has worked with many poets, among them Paul Durcan and Seamus Heaney, to craft a distinctive blend of words and music. Even this experienced musical traveller was quite startled, however, when he was asked by the National Concert Hall to write a new piece evoking the enormous pristine spaces of the Antarctic.
On hundred years ago this week, the explorer Ernest Shackleton gave a lecture at University College Dublin. He had just returned from an epic journey to within 114 miles of the South Pole, the furthest south any human being had ever travelled. Holohan’s new composition would, it was hoped, recreate the excitement of both the Nimrod expedition itself and the atmosphere of Shackleton’s December 14th lecture, given in a room which was once part of the medical faculty at UCD and which is now part of the NCH complex.
“We’ve put something together that’s a little bit varied and a little bit interesting,” says Holohan. The evening will feature one of the explorer’s relatives, Jonathan Shackleton, who will give a slide-show based on his visits to the ice. Poets Peter Sirr and Joe Woods will read poems about the Antarctic, and there will also be readings from the 1909 Irish Times archives about Shackleton’s lecture, along with some rare archive recordings of the explorer’s own voice. But the centrepiece will be Holohan’s new composition, Where a Single Footprint Lasts a Thousand Years .
“I got the title from a poem by the New Zealand poet, Bill Manhire,” he says. “It’s an amazing image. Mind you, I’m not sure whether, with global warming, it still holds true. But one thing I read about the Nimrod expedition was that when they were coming back, they were sometimes able to retrace their trail because their footsteps were still there on the surface of the snow, even though they’d walked 700 miles.”
He describes the piece as a slice of music theatre. It will feature actor Donal O’Kelly as the voice of Shackleton and others. “I worked with Donal on a show about Hugh O’Neill, called Running Beast , in 2007,” Holohan says. “I’ve also worked a good deal with Simon O’Dwyer of Prehistoric Music Ireland, and for this piece he will again be playing a range of really interesting instruments. One is a whistle made from the ulna of a swan. Another is a flint rattle with sea urchins in it, which are, he tells me, five million years old. And he has some wonderful Bronze Age horns. I’ll also be playing gongs and all sorts of things.”
Prehistoric instruments, tied to the earth in an immediate kind of way, have an obvious role. But for a composer who has never been to the Antarctic, was it a formidable challenge to translate into sound the white landscape we associate with the South Pole?
“Well, I’ve never been there myself, but of course we all make journeys in life,” says Holohan. “Maybe that’s why stories of the Antarctic fascinate us so much. But according to what I’ve read and what Jonathan has told me, there seem to be two things that are constant about journeys in that region and that would strike you musically. One is absolute silence. Absolute. Silence that you could, nearly, be terrified by. And the other thing is that suddenly, out of nowhere, you can have a wind come up and howl and drive you insane. So you have this contrast between silence and the sudden eruption of meteorological conditions. I have a little surprising instrument to create that contrast. But I’m not going to reveal it until the night.”
HOLOHAN’S OWN JOURNEY as a composer started when, as a teenager studying the piano, he began to write his own pieces at the keyboard. Some of these have been collected on a CD, just released, called Fields of Blue and White . Holohan says he’s delighted with the CD, beautifully recorded at St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, and with its soloist Thérèse Fahy.
“I’ve written piano pieces throughout my life as a composer, and they’ve always had a relevance to my life,” he says. “I mean, some people have a diary; I wrote piano pieces. So you have The River , which is about the Boyne; there’s Carving the High Cross , about the person who might have carved the cross at Monasterboice; there’s Dawn Mantra , which is set in the village of Baltray and is a meditation on a dawn theme on the sea marshes.”
Much of Holohan’s musical inspiration, he says, has come from the archaeology, history and poetry of Co Louth. “I’ve set poetry by poets from the area, such as Susan Connolly. Another collaboration I really enjoyed was A Snail in My Prime with Paul Durcan, which integrates Newgrange with a love poem. We made it into a radio piece, which won the Celtic Music Prize at Quimper in Brittany. It also used a lot of ancient instruments. Exotic percussion has always fascinated me – I don’t know whether it’s because my father played the drums, so we always had drums in the house. He played in céilí bands, and I remember him practising at home.
“Also, for 30 years he worked as a flour miller – he was the foreman in a mill at Usher’s Island, on the Liffey – and he used to spend a lot of time at the docks inspecting the flour which was being imported. You’d never know what he’d come home with. One time he brought home a set of blocks that he bought off some sailor – four small wooden blocks in the shape of skulls. Another time he had an oriental carved cymbal. I think that’s where I started to hear that sort of percussion.”
During his formative years as a composer, Holohan studied with such contemporary masters as Berio, Boulez and Messiaen. He also studied archaeology alongside music at UCD. It all widened what was already, he says, an eclectic set of musical horizons.
“Back in the caves, 25,000 years ago, they used all kinds of things to make music,” he says. “And what I find fascinating in my work with Simon is that the low notes of the Bronze Age Irish horn can actually sound very like a didgeridoo. These wonderful drones that the Irish instruments can produce seem to me to represent a tone in a landscape. In a way, it’s similar to how the Australian aboriginal peoples used to recreate their landscape with the Dreamtime. I suppose that’s what I’ve been thinking about in composing the piece about the Antarctic – that the Antarctic is somewhere in us all. That’s what I find fascinating about it. At the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , he leaves ‘civilisation’ and goes out into this bleak landscape, which is just like the Antarctic. I wonder if that’s what was in her mind. And when you think about the Ice Age, which formed our own landscape, the closest we can get to imagining that is the way the Antarctic is now.”
MEANWHILE, FOR HIS next work he’s travelling in a different, and considerably warmer, direction. “I want to write an orchestral piece, which I haven’t done for a long time,” he says. “I was commissioned by the Office of Public Works to write a piece called Leaves of Glass when it restored the curvilinear glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens. Now the palm house has been restored. Growing up in Drumcondra, I’ve always loved the Botanic Gardens, and that house has a fantastic history – Wittgenstein even wrote some of his philosophy there – so it would be wonderful to write a companion piece to Leaves of Glass .”
Holohan even has a working title. “I was talking to the keeper of the herbarium, Dr Matthew Jebb, and he told me about a friend of his who went out to the rainforest to look at the palm trees. And in the night-time this explorer-botanist woke up completely terrified. There was this really strange music. He thought either he was dreaming, or somebody was going to kill him. When he woke up properly, he realised what it was. The leaves of these gigantic palm trees became like giant marimbas – their long, spiky fronds were touching each other in the wind and creating notes. So my title is The Palm Trees Are Singing . That’s the notion at the moment. Of course, it could all change . . .”
Saturday, 28 November 2009
LOWVILLE — Fans of Irish music dreaming of a green Christmas will want to be in this village Dec. 6 regardless of the snow situation.
The touring production "Irish Christmas in America," sponsored by the Lewis County Historical Society, stops that day at the Lowville Academy and Central School auditorium.
The show, in its fifth year, includes some of Ireland's top traditional artists, featuring music, dance and stories of seasonal Irish traditions.
The production was created five years ago by Oisin Mac Diarmada of the award-winning Irish group Téada. Mr. Mac Diarmada plays fiddle for Téada, which is Irish for "strings." The band focuses on the traditional music of Ireland and was named the Best Young Irish Traditional Act at the inaugural 2009 Ireland Music Awards.
Mr. Mac Diarmada, speaking from his home in County Sligo, Ireland, late last week a day before leaving for Mexico, said he saw Irish Christmas in America as a chance to show the diversity of Irish culture.
"Ever since 2001, I've been over and back to the U.S. four or five times a year," he said. "I wanted to bring over some of the other elements from Ireland. In this setting, you have more opportunity to tell people stories, do some dancing and we also have a slide show."
Mr. Mac Diarmada said the show is a way to share traditional and often unknown Irish customs with audiences.
"One of the most heartfelt themes of Irish Christmas is emigration," he said. "Music was a way that people stayed close to home."
Joining Mr. Mac Diarmada for "Irish Christmas in America" will be Seamus Begley on vocals and accordion, Grainne Hambly on Irish harp and concertina, Tommy Martin on uilleann pipes/whistles, Tristan Rosenstock on bodhran and as narrator, Sean Earnest on guitar and bouzouki and dancer Brian Cunningham.
Mr. Begley, hailing from the Irish-speaking region of West County Kerry, is known for his "old-style" singing. He has won numerous awards, including sharing Best Folk/Celtic Duo at the 2009 Ireland Music Awards.
"He's one of those people you love to be around," Mr. Mac Diarmada said. "He turned 60 this year and he has a zest for lively stories and staying up late. I think there will be more off-the-cuff banter at this year's show."
Although it's not holiday related, one of the stories to be told at "Irish Christmas in America" will be about Capt. Francis O'Neill, an emigrant from Cork who became Chicago's chief of police at the turn of the 20th century.
Mr. Mac Diarmada said Capt. O'Neill (1848-1936) had a major effect on Irish music in America by collecting it and organizing musicians to play it.
"He was so key in creating the music we perform," Mr. Mac Diarmada said. "We do a selection of songs he saved for our generation."
Capt. O'Neill, with other Irish musicians, created the Irish Music Club and was responsible for collecting and publishing thousands of pieces of Irish music.
Joining Mr. Mac Diarmada and Mr. Begley for Irish Christmas in America:
■ Dancer Brian Cunningham, 23, is an "old-style" dancer from Ireland, where he has won many of that country's major dance competitions. In 2005, he was invited by the president of Ireland to perform during a state visit to Japan and South Korea.
■ Grainne Hambly from County Mayo is an internationally recognized expert of the Irish harp. Over the past few years, she has toured extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. She also is a qualified teacher of traditional Irish music and is in demand at summer schools and festivals in Ireland and abroad.
■ Tommy Martin is originally from Dublin and now lives in St. Louis, Mo. His first of 13 CDs was released in 2000. His diverse uilleann pipes/whistles credits range from performing with "Riverdance" in New York City to the Chicago Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra.
■ Tristan Rosenstock, from Glenageary, County Dublin, is also a member of Téada. He's prominent in Dublin musical circles and recently completed a master's degree in film and television studies from Dublin City University.
■ Sean Earnest, on guitar and bouzouki, is a native of central Pennsylvania and has toured the East Coast playing gigs and doing session work for other artists.
WHAT: Irish Christmas in America
WHEN/WHERE: 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at Lowville Academy and Central School auditorium, 7668 State St. It’s a benefit and sponsored by the Lewis County Historical Society. Doors open at 2:30.
COST: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Society officials noted there is no guarantee seats will be available on the day of the concert for guests to be seated together.
Checks for tickets can be sent to the Lewis County Historical Society, P.O. Box 446, Lowville, NY 13367, along with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. Guests can also call the society at 376-8957 for more information or to arrange for ticket pick-ups. Requests received via the mail after Monday will be held for pick up at the door the afternoon of the concert.
Like jazz and rock, Celtic music has traditionally been a male-dominated scene. But in 1985, folklorist/musician Mick Moloney had the idea of sponsoring a concert series featuring the finest female Irish traditional musicians.
The result was Cherish the Ladies, a band that has become one of the most celebrated Celtic ensembles in the world. They will perform their Christmas program as part of the Kutztown University Performing Artists Series, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Auditorium.
Cherish the Ladies will perform a Christmas program Wednesday as part of the Kutztown University Performing Artists Series.
The leader, Joanie Madden, born in the Bronx, N.Y., to Irish parents, was the first American to win the senior all-Ireland championship on the tin whistle in 1984. She has played flute and tin whistle with the group since its inception.
The rest of the current lineup includes founding member and fellow New Yorker Mary Coogan on guitar; All-Ireland champion Mirella Murray from County Galway, Ireland, on accordion; Roisin Dillon from Belfast, Northern Ireland, on fiddle; Kathleen Boyle of Glasgow, Scotland, on piano; and Michelle Burke from County Cork, Ireland, on lead vocals.
Former members include fiddler Eileen Ivers and singer Cathie Ryan, along with many others who have gone on to solo careers.
For Wednesday's concert, the group is also bringing three step dancers, including Jonathan Srour, from York, Pa., which has a vibrant Irish music scene. The other two are Cara Butler (the sister of Jean Butler of "Riverdance") and Dan Stacey.
"Everyone is a phenomenal musician," Madden said of her bandmates in a recent telephone interview. "We do music, singing, dancing, sing-alongs - all aspects of the culture - and we have a lot of fun while we are doing it."
Madden said that as a young girl growing up in the Bronx, "I never thought I'd make a living as an Irish musician."
But she, like the other band members, was inspired by her father, an accordionist who had a successful Irish band in New York.
"All of us have musical backgrounds; all our dads played and danced," she said. "We're all from dads who were a driving force. Music was the greatest gift they could give us."
Of the seven Madden children, only Joanie and one brother, a drummer, took up music.
She started playing the tin whistle at age 13, studying with Jack Coen, a Galway-born Irish whistle player who lived nearby. She began performing with her father's band and jamming with Eileen Ivers, who went to school with her. In five years, she had honed her skills so well that she took second place in the All-Ireland competition; she won at age 25, the age her father was when he won for accordion.
In 1985, Cherish the Ladies released an album, "Fathers and Daughters," featuring each woman in a duet with her father.
The group has recorded many CDs, the most recent of which, a second Christmas album called "A Star in the East," was released Nov. 19.
"We started doing Christmas shows eight or nine years ago," Madden said. "They were extremely successful. It seems that once the Thanksgiving turkey is carved up, people are ready for Christmas. The concert is a big family day - we get parents and grandparents and grandchildren. It's our favorite time to tour."
The program will consist of songs everyone likes to sing, with a Celtic twist, as well as traditional Irish carols like "The Holly and the Berry" and "The Wexford Carol," and jigs and reels.
The band's future plans include a trip to China and a 25th-anniversary CD.
"It's great to be part of a culture that's very into its music and culture," Madden said. "It's important to pass down that culture."
Contact Susan Peé?a: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Arts Week with Judy Murphy
When Pádraig, Éamon and Seán Mulkerrin decided to enter RTÉ’s All-Ireland Talent Show late last year, they did so mostly because it would give them a chance to meet Jacksie, the barman from the comedy series Killanascully.
The Mulkerrin Brothers from Inis Mór, never imagined they would walk away with the top prize of €50,000, for their performance of traditional Irish music and dance. But last March that’s exactly what they did; having won the heart of the nation, with the sean-nós dancing of 10-year old Seán receiving a particularly strong response. And this is a band of brothers with more than one string to their bow, as people will find out when the three play the Town Hall Theatre on November 30. The show is part of a short Irish tour being presented by music promoter Vince Power, the man who set up the Mean Fiddler music group in England and a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment business.
“People have only seen them on the [RTÉ] talent show, but in addition to playing music and Seán’s sean-nós dancing, the three of them also sing,” says their father Martin of the boys, adding that old songs and ballads such as the Boys of Barr na Sraide, Galway Bay and Isle of Hope all form part of their repertoire.
Fifteen-year old Pádraig, Éamon (12) and Seán have been singing and playing since they were very young, starting with tin whistle in school and then advancing to other instruments.
Because there is nobody on the island teaching music outside of school hours, they travel into Galway twice a month to get lessons on accordion with Seán Gavin, who is very understanding about the logistical problems involved. “If we can’t get a lesson before 5pm it’s disastrous for us because we have to get the boat [home]. Otherwise they’d miss school. We’d love them to get more lessons but it’s not possible,” says Martin.
Despite the difficulties of getting lessons, the three are high musical achievers. Éamon plays fiddle as well as accordion; in fact, for the shows, he plays mostly fiddle to complement Pádraig, whose specialty is the accordion. Meanwhile, Seán plays banjo and fiddle as well as dancing. He got a couple of dancing lessons from Moycullen based dancer and teacher Sadbh Flaherty, says his father, but mostly he has developed his own style. If he sees somebody doing a move, he’ll pick it up. And he really struck a chord with RTÉ viewers, with people from all over the country contacting the Mulkerrins after the show to say that they remembered their parents or grandparents doing sean-nós dancing. Martin claims no credit for the boys’ musical talent – that mostly comes from their mother, Bridie.
Like Martin, she was born on the Aran Islands, but lived in Wales until she was 16. Her father was from Aran and her mother from Cork, and it was she who first taught Éamon fiddle, as she had learned classical music when living in Wales. While Martin might be modest about his musical role, claiming that “I’m just the taxi”, his oldest son Pádraig doesn’t entirely agree. “When it comes to deciding the running order of the show, we try things out at home and whatever sounds best is what goes. Our parents are our greatest advisers.”
The Town Hall show will last about an hour and a half, according to Éamon, and they aim for a good mix of material – jigs reels polkas, dancing and singing – to give their audience the best entertainment possible.
His younger brother Seán agrees. “The best thing about being on stage is everybody having fun.”
While Seán enjoys all aspects of the show, he is particularly enthusiastic about the sean-nós dancing.
“I love the free thing, where you don’t have to do certain things, you can experiment.”
In addition to dancing he loves sport, playing Gaelic football on the island, while he and Éamon travel to Carraroe for rugby training. It’s been one hell of a year for the three, but they are taking it in their stride now, although they were shocked initially to be voted Ireland’s top act.
“We never expected to win,” says Pádraig. “We just entered to see what the hype was and mostly just to meet Jacksie from Killanscully and Daithí Ó Sé [from TG4, their mentor during the show].Since then, they have got a lot of gigs including performing at the Ladies’ All-Star Awards and at other functions including the Volvo Ocean Race and the Galway Races. In addition Tyrone Productions (which produced The All-Ireland Talent Show for RTÉ) have shot a documentary which will be broadcast on Christmas Day, all about the show and the year since.
But the highlight of the last year had to be their homecoming to Inis Mór, Pádraig says. “Everybody from the island was on the pier to meet us and there was a big function in the local hall.” The lads had the option of having the night off, but they chose to play. For Pádraig, who is in Transition Year, music would be his ideal career when he finishes school, but at the minute “it’s one day at a time”.
The three have a younger brother, Máirtín (8) but, according to his father, he doesn’t have any interest in being involved in music, which is fine. Meanwhile, the other three are forging their own musical path and happy to be performing as a family.
“We only really only fight over sport – soccer mostly,” says Pádraig. “Éamon is a Chelsea fan, Seán supports Liverpool and I support Man Utd.”Given that the subject of soccer isn’t likely to be raised at the Town Hall gig, November 30, it promises to be a harmonious evening – in all senses of the word.Tickets are €20, at tht.ie or 091-569777.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Black 47 brings back 1989 prices for anniversary shows
By John Lee
Black 47’s NYC shows have been described as “a rite of passage for all New Yorkers.” For the last nine months they have been touring the country, along with recording 13 new songs for Bankers and Gangsters, which will be released in February 2010. But for three consecutive nights they will celebrate their New York City beginnings with 1989 prices of just $10. Along with the new material they will highlight songs from all stages of their sometimes controversial career.
“New York was always the center of music for me,” said Kirwan. “New York was Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, The Clancy Brothers, The Velvet Underground, Television, CBGB's, Max's Kansas City. And right from the start with Black 47 we concentrated on creating our own scene. We didn't give a damn about playing anyone else's. Because that's not New York to us.”
Black 47 formed in the Bronx in late 1989 and burst onto the American scene in 1993 with their hit single, Funky Céilí. With a controversial eclectic sound as well as provocative lyrics, Black 47 fuses reggae, rock, traditional Irish, hip-hop, folk, New Orleans & modern jazz into a New York City gumbo. Their lyrics reflect the drama and black humor of a changing world as they see it, from Belfast to Baghdad, The Bronx to Kabul.
They have appeared on a slew of major television shows including The Tonight Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and have been profiled by most national magazines and newspapers. They have released twelve CDs including last year’s IRAQ, hailed by Rolling Stone as “an important document, more a prayer than a protest.”
They have appeared in movies such as The Saint of Fort Washington with Matt Dillon and Danny Glover, and their music has been featured in Stephen Rea's The Break, Jim Sheridan's Into the West, and Timothy Dalton's Deterrence amongst others. They composed the music for and performed in the ITV film Victim 0001, a documentary about their friend, Fr. Mychal Judge.
Taking their name from the blackest year of the Irish potato famine, Black 47’s signature eclectic sound, socio-political lyrics and off-the-wall live shows paved the way for other Irish influenced bands such as Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys. Their songs have long been used in political science and history courses in many high schools and colleges throughout the US.
Black 47 is led by Larry Kirwan (guitar/vocals) who has written ten plays published under the title Mad Angels, along with a novel, Liverpool Fantasy, an alternate history of the Beatles, and a memoir Green Suede Shoes. He is host of “Celtic Crush” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo newspaper. His new novel, Rockin’ The Bronx, will be published in March 2010.
Geoffrey Blythe (saxophones) was a founder member of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Fred Parcells (trombone) has worked extensively in Latin/Jazz and big bands. Thomas Hamlin (drums) is a veteran of the Max’s/CBGB’s scene. Joseph Mulvanerty is recognized as one of the great innovators of the Irish uilleann pipes bringing a rare jazz and blues flare to this most traditional of instruments. The newest member, Joseph Bearclaw brings a wealth of funk/r&b experience as well as a dynamic stage presence.
For their 20th Anniversary shows, Black 47 plans to take the throng gathered at Connolly’s KLUB 45, 121 W. 45th St. on a thrilling journey through history and political struggle that will not only entertain but open up audiences to a new cultural experience.
“You come to Connolly's, you're in our hands,” said Kirwan. “We're New Yorkers. We're not trying to be anything else. We're in the center of Times Square. They may have changed the lights, the architecture, tourists gawl where pimps once prowled - all gone now but we're still right at the core of the beating heart of EmeraldCity.
"When you enter that door on the third floor of Connolly's and fork over your ten bucks, we'll turn your Saturday night head over heels," he added. "That's what we do. That's why we're Black 47. That's why we've played damned near every Saturday night over the last twenty years moments away from where the ball drops without ever repeating a set."
You can catch the band on Saturday, Nov. 28 and December 5 and 12. Doors open at 9 p.m. for just a $10 admission. The band will be onstage at 10:30 p.m. sharp. Advance tickets can be purchased online at www.black47.com.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Pat was first taught how to play the accordion by his mother, Julia, who came from Letterbrock, eight miles west of Westport. His was a musical family, and four of his five brothers also play the box. Pat played occasionally for house dances, especially after the Stations, when the priest said Mass in the house.
In the showband era of the 1960s, Pat played the bass guitar in a band called the Frielmen, which played pop and country and Western. Twenty years’ ago, he started the local Comhaltas group and was three times named Connacht Button-Accordion Champion. He went on to form one of the most successful céilí bands here in the west of Ireland – The Heather Breeze Ceili Band.
Pat’s musical talents have been inherited by his two daughters, who are both musicians and teachers. His daughter, Sandra, plays the piano, piano accordion and concertina, and sometimes playes with Heather Breeze. She also joins a her father on a number of tracks on ‘Lios-a-Phúca’.
LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Celtic band Solas will present "A Celtic Solstice Celebration" on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University. Tickets are $25.
Since 1996, Solas has been loudly proclaimed as one of the most popular, influential and exciting Celtic bands ever to emerge from the United States, said Bill Boswell, executive director of the Weis Center. "This performance will be a wonderful way to herald the winter season and the holidays."
The band has performed at all the major Celtic and folk festivals, including the legendary National Folk Festival and Milwaukee's Irish Fest as well as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Wolf Trap, and Queens Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland. The band's latest release is a live CD and DVD called "Reunion," which celebrates the band's 10th anniversary.
Solas comprises Seamus Egan, flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, low whistle, guitars and bodhran (Irish drum); Winifred Horan, violins and vocals; Mick McAuley, accordions, concertina, low whistle and vocals; Eamon McElholm, guitars, keyboards and vocals; and guest soloist Máiréad Phelan, vocals. For more information or to hear music samples, visit Solas.
Tickets for this Weis Center series performance are available in person from the Campus Box Office in the Weis Center weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at the Bucknell University Bookstore on the ground floor of the Elaine Langone Center weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advance tickets are available by calling 570-577-1000 or visiting Box Office. The box office in the Weis Center lobby opens one hour prior to performances.
This performance has been made possible in part by a generous contribution from Martha and Allan Barrick and a Weis Center Series corporate sponsor, Coldwell Banker Penn One Real Estate. The 2009-10 season of Weis Center Events is generously supported by grants from the Bucknell University Association for the Arts and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support for the series is provided by numerous and generous private donors including members of the Weis Center Green Room Circle and Green Room Board.
The next event in the Weis Center Series is the final event for the fall semester. The annual family matinee performance by The Paper Bag Players in "The Great Mummy Adventure" will be presented on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m. It is free to the community through the generosity of Janet Weis. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more event information, visit Weis Center.
Monday, 16 November 2009
By Sean P. Feeny
This month a trio of three young Donegal fiddle players who are continuing to push the boundaries of Irish traditional music are releasing their first album together.
Fidíl began as a duo with Aidan O'Donnell and Ciaran Ó Maonaigh taking the Irish music world by storm with their 2008 self-titled debut album.
Having used modern technology to create a unique, multi-layered fiddle sound on their album, the two musicians soon brought in fellow Donegal fiddle player, Damien McGeehan, to recreate that sound in a live environment.
Aidan, who is Limerick County Council's current Artist-In-Residence at lectures at the University of Limerick (UL), said it has been an eventful year since the Dunkineely native and Ciaran from Gaoth Dobhair launched their debut album last summer.
"The core idea behind our first album was to record the sound of two fiddles as a duet playing the traditional Donegal music, but with a difference.
"Rather than using conventional traditional music backing instruments, such as bouzouki or guitar, there was a lot of arrangement and layering of the fiddles in our recordings.
"Of course, when it came to performing the music from our debut album live, it was a lot hard for us to recreate and so we asked Damien from Ardara to join us."
Aidan and Damien have known each other since they both started learning to play the fiddle with Seamus Sweeney in Bruckless. "I've known Damien since the age of 12 and he's one of the best musicians I know and we are both very light-minded when it comes to arrangement."
Damien first joined Ciaran and Aidan for their live performances last November and with Fidíl winning a very prestigious award, the road was paved for the duo to become a trio.
Aidan said: "At the time that Damien joined us for our live gigs we had just won The Music Network's 2008 Young Musicwide Award and the prize not only included support for touring but also part-funding for a new album and the obvious choice was to do it as a trio."
In March of this year, The Music Network sent the three Donegal men to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co Monaghan, to spend a week in the artists' retreat.
The Dunkineely man said that probably 90 per cent of the music for their new album, 3, was arranged there and within a week they were back recording with renowned bouzouki player and producer Manus Lunny at his Rosses based studio in Carrickfinn.
Aidan said that he and Damien, who recently graduated with a BA in Irish Music from The Irish World Academy of Music at UL, have very similar ideas when it comes to arrangement.
"Ciaran and I have very similar ideas in terms of arranging, but when Damien and I would get together in Limerick to show each other what we had been working on, it was freaky to see how we were both developing the same concepts individually at the same time.
"Damien is a multi-instrumenalist and a real virtuoso. He has a great mind for arrangements and has been a big addition to the group," he said.
Aidan described the final sound of the new album, 3, which is officially being launched in Temple Bar, Dublin, on Wednesday, as 'raw' traditional Donegal music.
Over the past year the trio have continuously toured abroad performing everywhere from England, Scotland, Latvia, Macedonia and more recently Canada and Iceland.
"It has been fantastic to receive such great receptions and our Donegal music going down a bomb, even with people who normally wouldn't be fans of traditional music."
Fidíl's music has been described as boundary-pushing, but although the musicians' agree that they are 'going forward', Aidan said that their style is still firmly rooted in tradition.
"When we are travelling to gigs around the country, you will hear music from the likes of Frank Cassidy or John Doherty playing in the car.
"Our music is really open for interpretation and people can then make up their own mind, but we have widened our perspective to create our own sound that is that little bit different."
Later this month the trio embark on their Music Network tour which will take them to Kerry, Cork, Kildare and Mayo and as well as the tour their are looking forward to performing at an event very close to their hearts in December.
Aidan said: "We have just been booked to perform at the Frankie Kennedy Winter School in Gaoth Dobhair on December 29 which we are really excited about.
"It's one of the greatest festivals in Ireland and we've all been going to it for years."
With more promotion and touring on the cards, 2010 certainly looks like it will be a busy and successful year for the Donegal trio.
"We are hoping to work and tour abroad more to promote our album and we'll be starting by performing at The Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow as well as going on two further tours with The Music Network, who are continuing to be very good to us," said Aidan.
Fidíl's new album 3 is available to purchase on www.fidilmusic.com
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Button Factory, Dublin
As an antidote to this winter of our discontent, the inaugural date of the Button Factory County Sessions, in front of a large and expectant crowd, hinted at great escapes to come. Taking its lead from the renowned Harcourt Hotel sessions of old, these County Sessions celebrate local musical accents, and judging by the volume of punters who turned up for this celebration of Co Tipperary, there’s a voracious public appetite for good traditional music played in a hospitable venue.
Flute-player, film-maker and entrepreneur Conor Byrne gently coaxed his brainchild, the County Sessions, into existence, playing a short solo set and then cracking the bottle off the stern by way of his uncle, Christy Moore. Negotiating an affectionate ramble through a short set that included The Galtee Mountain Boy , Christy was in fine form, relaxed enough to exploit the bantering potential of the odd lyrical slip, and in his element when embroiled in picaresque and adventuresome tales.
Gerry “Banjo” O’Connor brought a wealth of Garrykennedy music to the party, with his son Fiach on bodhrán and guitarist Tim Edey. O’Connor’s family members were the backbone of a sparkling night of music, with his father and uncle, Liam and Donal O’Connor, on fiddle, his brother Mike on accordion and his sister Ann Maria on a fierily flowing tin whistle. Singer Nora Butler and fiddle player Eileen O’Brien added further fuel to the fire, and 4 Men And A Dog’s Kevin Doherty brought along his sublime Mary J to join in the revelry.
Footballer Andy Reid, a former student of the banjo (under O’Connor’s tutelage), delighted in the opportunity to indulge his balladeering instincts. A rambling, commodious start to what just might be a magical season of music.
The Button Factory County Sessions continue fortnightly. The next session, on Nov 24, features Co Donegal music with Altan’s Dermot Byrne and friends
2008 All-Ireland under 18 fiddle champion Dylan Foley and accordionist Blaithín Loughran are joined by Céitlin Finlay on banjo for a set of reels, including "Dr. Gilbert's" and "The Ash Plant".
More info and videos at http://comhaltas.ie
iTunes podcast at http://tinyurl.com/comhaltas
THE construction of the old Irish scales has afforded a wide field for the most conflicting theories. Even Dr. Sullivan, in his critical introduction to O'Curry, says that the Irish scales were "manifold, and often apparently quite arbitrary, so that the principles upon which they proceed are sometimes incomprehensible to us." Dr. James C. Culwick would have us believe that the Irish scales numbered 15, and he compares our old "gapped" scales to those of the Chinese, Russians, and Zuni Indians. Father Bewerunge, the most recent authority on this subject, only admits four modes namely, Doh, Ray, Soh and Lah.
From a long and careful study of some thousands of our ancient melodies, I have arrived at the conclusion that the old Irish scale was pentatonic, proceeding as follows: C D EG AC. By making each note in this first mode a tonic, or keynote, we naturally form four other modes--and thus we get five modes. These five are:--
1st. C D EG AC
2nd. D EG AC D
3rd. EG AC D E
4th. G AC D EG
5th. AC D EG A
The notes F and B are studiously omitted, and the arrangement is made throughout these five modes so as not to include the fourth and seventh. This omission of F and B is largely the cause of the quaintness which characterises many of our oldest airs. Between the eighth and twelfth century, the missing, or absent notes of the above five scales were gradually supplied, and thus our ancient gapped scale became almost the self-same as five of the so-called Gregorian modes, namely:--
1. Intense Iastian.
3. Intense Hypolydian.
5. Relaxed Iastian.
7. Relaxed Hypolydian.
The third Irish mode (omitting F and B) is the same as the Phrygian mode in the E to E scale, with naturals only. However, I would especially call attention to the beauty of airs constructed in the fourth Irish mode, at least, the variant of it which obtained in the early Anglo-Irish period, when the really characteristic note of this lovely mode had become definitely fixed by the inclusion of the missing seventh, that is F natural. This mode being subsequently played and sung in the modern key of G major (which, of course, has F as an essential sharp), had to flatten the seventh in order to meet the tonality of the Irish modes, and thus the airs written in this fourth mode were said to have been the flat seventh. One of the very best examples of the airs written in this quaint mode is "An Maidrin Ruad" which Moore sadly mutilated in his "adaptation" of "Let Erin Remember"--a mutilation which extended not only to the character of the mode, or scale, but to the very rhythm, or time-period, of the tune. In the light of this explanation it is amusing to read of the flat seventh as "one of the most certain indications of an ancient Irish air"! Indeed, for well nigh two centuries, we have invariably one writer copying another as to the "ravishing effect of the flat seventh," ignoring the real truth that it is the modern scale which must needs flatten the seventh in order to equate itself with the old Irish scale of the fourth mode.
Another very popular delusion, which has been quoted ad nauseam by English and Irish writers, is the apparent use of the minor mode by the ancient Irish. One constantly meets with allusions to the "grand old air in a plaintive minor scale," or to "a captivating ballad in a minor key, so characteristic of old Irish melodies," etc. As a matter of fact, some of our liveliest and most inspiriting dance tunes are in what one would call the modern minor key, whilst many caoines and dirges are in the major scale. Strange as it may seem, there is a vein of melancholy or tenderness throughout all our old tunes, which character is derivable from the peculiarity of scale construction. This is equally true of our hymns, folk-songs, battle-marches, jigs, cradle-songs, elegies, drinking-songs, etc.; and Moore has hit it off very aptly in his exquisite lyric, "Dear Harp of my Country," when he sings:--
"But so oft hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness,
That ev'n in thy mirth it will steal from thee still."
According to Walker, the ancient Irish cultivated three species of musical composition, answering to the three modes (the Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian) which the Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians, namely, the Goltraighe, the Geantraighe, and the Suantraighe. Hardiman also writes:--"Among the ancient Irish the principal species of musical composition was termed Avantrireach. It consisted of three parts--Geantraighe, which excited to love; Goltraighe, which stimulated to valour and feats of arms; and Suantraighe, which disposed to rest and sleep." I may add that the Irish affix, draiocht, or traighe, means a mode or measure. The ancient Gol, which dates from the remotest period, was a distinctive lamentation air; and each province had its own Gol. Walker prints the four ancient Lamentation Cries for Connaught, Munster, Leinster, and Ulster. Petrie informs us that "the Gol answers exactly to the rhythm and cadence of those words, which are recorded, in the Book of Ballymote, to have been sung over the grave of a king of Ossory, in the tenth century." Numerous Suantraighes are still preserved, better known as "Irish Lullabys," but the Geantraighe has more or less disappeared.
Mr. Alfred Perceval Graves says:--"Ireland was the school of music for the Celts of Great Britain during the Middle Ages, and her minstrelsy remained unrivalled until the Irish Bard, famous for 'the three feats' of solemn [goltraighe], gay, [geantraighe], and sleep-compelling music [suantraighe], degenerated under the stress of the internecine conflict between Saxon and Gael in Ireland, into the strolling minstrel, and finally into the street ballad-singer."
Numerous dissertations have been written on the characteristics of Irish music, but as a nutshell summing up of the whole question, it may briefly be stated that nearly all our ancient tunes are of symmetrically short construction, having the emphatic major sixth, and the thrice-repeated final cadence (the thrice-struck tonic at the close)--and with an undercurrent of tenderness, even in the sprightliest tunes. Apart from an artistic construction peculiarly Celtic, there is an undefinable charm about our ancient melodies that cannot be mathematically expounded. Sir William Stokes, in his Life of Petrie, thus writes:--
"It was Petrie's opinion that the music of Ireland stands pre-eminent among that of the other Celtic nations in beauty and power of expression, especially in her caoines, her lamentations, and her love-songs; the latter, by their strange fitfulness, and sudden transitions from gladness to pathos and longing, are marked with a character peculiarly her own. It may well be supposed that some of these delightful tunes are accompanied by songs of corresponding simplicity and pathos."
Petrie himself thus writes regarding our ancient folksongs, and his description of their construction is applicable to numerous old melodies:--
"These melodies are all in triple or three-four time, and consist of two parts, or strains, of eight bars each, and the same number of phrases, divided into two sections. Of these sections, the second of the first part is, generally, a repetition--sometimes, however, slightly modified--of the section preceding; and the second section of the second part is usually a repetition of the second section of the first part--sometimes also modified in the first, or even the first and second phrases--but as usual in all Irish melodies, always agreeing with it in its closing cadence."
Taken in general, from a technical point of view, the ancient Irish can claim the credit of inventing musical "form"--in fact the germ which developed into the Sonata form. Dr. Pearce, no doubt, wishes us to believe that the latter development is due to the thirteenth century Wolfenbuttel melody of the Christmas hymn: Corde natus ex Parentis. However, there is not a shadow of doubt that we have Irish tunes long before this period--certainly before the Anglo-Norman invasion --which are characterised emphatically by an artistically constructed ternary or three-phrase arrangement, that is, a phrase of four bars, not unfrequentiy repeated, followed by an apparent modulation. Sometimes we meet with phrases of seven bars, namely, of four bars and three bars alternately; whilst a rather unusual rhythm is also to be met with, consisting of four sections of five bars each, each section being barred according to modern ideas into equal or unequal phrases of two bars and three bars. A not unfrequent form of rhythm is nine-eight; and we meet with numerous tunes constructed on the principle of four sections of two bars each in nine-eight time The jigs in nine-eight time are known as Hop Jigs, Slip Jigs, or Slip Time, and, at Hudson remarks, are "the most ancient, as well as in general the most effective."
But here it may be objected that probably our ancient Irish music was not of a high order, according to the canons of modern criticism. To this I shall briefly answer by quoting five unquestionable authorities.
(1.) Sir Frederick Gore Ouseley, Mus. Doc., acknowledges that "long before Norman influence was brought to bear on native art, there existed in Ireland traditional melodies, the origin of which is lost in antiquity." (2.) Sir Hubert Parry, after an exhaustive examination of about three thousand tunes in various collections, gives it as his opinion that "Irish folk music is probably the most human, most varied, most poetical in the world, and is particularly rich in tunes which imply considerable sympathetic sensitiveness." (3.) Sir Alexander MacKenzie writes in an equally eulogistic strain. (4.) Chappell, who was particularly biassed in favour of English music, avows the "exquisite beauty" of our old tunes; and (5.) the late Brinley Richards was enraptured with "their individuality and tenderness." It is unnecessary to quote the eulogies of Handel, Beethoven, Berlioz, Pleyel, Haydn, and other great masters.
Our own Moore rather ignorantly alludes to the comparatively modern date of many of our "ancient" melodies, the origin of which he is pleased to reckon as "dating no farther back than the last [eighteenth] disgraceful century." In his later years the "bard of Ireland" grudgingly admitted to Dr. Petrie that he was mistaken in his previous views, and he acknowledged that "the date of those airs is much more ancient" than he had stated. This admission, however, is not to be found in the various editions of the Melodies. However, as Renehan points out, Moore, in his History of Ireland (1840) admits "the superior excellence of the music of Ireland before the English invasion." Recent research has more than vindicated the undoubted claim of ancient Erin to the possession of the loveliest airs in the world.
“For our students to be able to interact directly with researchers in Georgia, remotely control technology such as telescopes and powerful microscopes will be hugely exciting and motivational for our students and teachers,” Joe Varley, a science teacher at Killina Secondary School, 10 miles from Tullamore, Ireland, told GlobalAtlanta in an e-mail interview.
Classes with Tech researchers via video will start in January, said Jeff Evans, deputy director and principal research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
Tech is offering the classes through a program called Direct to Discovery. Tech currently offers the program in about 90 Georgia school systems. Killina will be the first overseas school to participate. It was chosen in part because Georgia Tech has a research facility in nearby Athlone, Ireland.
In order to participate, schools must have upgraded, superfast Internet bandwith. It can cost a large school system as much as $30,000 to upgrade all its lines, said Mr. Evans.
The government of Ireland has paid to upgrade the Internet connection at Killina, said Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor Ireland, a government-funded agency that promotes economic development in the Midlands region of Ireland.
Science education is increasingly important to economic development as the region attracts medical and pharmaceutical companies such as Isotron Inc., Elan Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp. said Ms. Gorman.
Jobs in the peat extraction industry which once was dominant in central Ireland, are fading, she added. Peat is used in power production but the industry has been through consolidation and downsizing in recent years.
“The jobs people had 10-15 years ago aren’t really around any more,” she said.
The Georgia Tech program will help broaden the horizons of Killina students, said Mr. Varley, the science teacher. “As we are a rural school, it will help break down geographical boundaries and extend the school campus outside the walls of the school,” he said.
The video images will be so detailed that students will be able to use the electron microscope as if they were on the Tech campus, said Jessica Pater, research associate at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
“You can see the follicles of hair in between the lens of an eye of a gnat,” she said. “You can see what an atom of carbon looks like.”
Tech’s experience at schools in Georgia is that the video classes motivate students to learn more on their own about science. “They start investigating and wanting to do their own research,” said Ms. Pater. “You start cultivating that whole scientific method and discovery into kids at a very young age and make it just as cool as being a football player or a cheerleader.”
The program is all the more effective because it is timely, on the cutting edge of scientific research, said Mr. Evans.
“This is the perfect way to introduce the teachers and the students to information that’s not even in the textbooks yet,” he said.
Tech envisions the Irish students taking remote classes once or twice a week. “We don’t want to come in and tell the teacher how to teach,” he said. “We want to augment the textbook, give them a lot more options to learn in real time.”
Likewise, Georgia school children may benefit from the Irish connection, said Mr. Evans.
James Donohoe of Athlone has a Website, www.feadogonline.com, providing online classes in the Irish tin whistle, a flute-like instrument. Georgia Tech is considering piping his live video lessons into Georgia schools.
“It’s virtually unlimited, once you make the connection as to what types of science or even the arts you can teach with this,” said Mr. Evans.
Like many Irish traditional musicians, Shaskeen has been caught up in the whirlwind of the set-dancing era, and their last four albums were comprised of music for the sets. Now they are making a change to concert-style performances.
‘Walking Up Town’ – remarkably, the band’s 15th album – marks a return to their original musical formula. It’s an album ‘for listening to’, and it features a generous collection of jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas, barn dances and songs. The title tune is an American ‘breakdown’, a fun rag-style tune. It’s probably the best summing up the band could ask for.
It is hard to beat well-seasoned musicians, and the members of Shaskeen are as experienced as they are skilful. The band has maintained the same ethos over its many years of making music – and the many variations in its line-up. At the core of the band are Tom Cussen on banjo, Eamon Cotter on flute, Patsy McDonagh on accordion, Johnny Donnellan on bodhrán, Pat Broderick on pipes and whistle, Tony Howley from the Mayo/Sligo border on flute and saxophone, Geraldine Cotter on piano and Pat Costello on banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Shaskeen are currently on tour and will be in Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar, Westport, on Sunday evening, November 29, from 8pm to 10.30pm. Doors open 7.30pm.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
A set of reels from the Old Bay Céilí Band, CCÉ Michael Rafferty Branch in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, USA and O'Neill-Malcolm Branch. The selection was recorded at the Senior Céilí Band competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, held August 2008 in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
Band members are: Jim Eagan, Katie Linnane, and Danny Noveck, fiddles; Brendan Bell and Laura Byrne Egan, flutes; Peter Brice and Seán McComiskey, accordion; Bob Smith, banjo; Matt Mulqueen, piano and Joshua Dukes on drums.
More info and videos at http://comhaltaslive.ie
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
A selection of jigs featuring all the Fitzgerald family of Celbridge, Co. Kildare: Áine (concertina), Seán (fiddle), Ciarán (fiddle) and their parents John (button accordion) and their mother Mary (piano).
The first jig was composed by Ciarán at 11 years of age and is called "The Ballyferriter Jig". They learned the second tune from fiddle player Liz Keane, and the third tune is "Princess Nancy".
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
13-track album with corresponding sheet music, recorded by Tradschool.
This is an amateur recording, made on a portable recorder during our evening sessions. Both teachers and students are featured. The 13 tracks are in .mp3format, zipped into one file.
Also available: the sheet music of all the CD tracks, in a .pdf booklet.
01. The Kerry Jig / The Mug of Brown Ale
02. The Bucks of Oranmore / Rakish Paddy
03. Spootiskerry04. Gareck's Wedding
05. O'Neill's March / Tommy Peoples' Reel
06. Mulhares Jig / Out on the Ocean
07. Saint Ruth's Bush / The Stolen Reel / Dan Breen's
08. The Blackhaired Lass / Cregg's Pipes
09. The Blarney Pilgrim / The Pipe on the Hob / Merrily Kiss the Quaker
10. Celtic Heart
11. Sergeant Early's Dream
12. The Man of the House / The Silver Spear
13. The Foggy Dew
Monday, 19 October 2009
The devotion of a person of the cloth is a selfless vow to both parishioners and community. Preparing to lead a flock, bringing spirituality, faith and religious beliefs to individuals of a congregation is a huge pledge made when entering a seminary.
Throughout four decades until his retirement, Monsignor Charles Coen led churches in both the New York Archdiocese’s southernmost parish to the second most-northern parish. However, Father Charlie (as he is most commonly called) added much more to his ministry and to the surrounding communities.
Although Coen retired last year, one facet of his numerous talents is on display at The Rhinecliff, where he demonstrates the musical skills that conjure up images of his homeland.
Coen came to the United States in 1955 from his birthplace of Woodford, County Galway in Ireland to be in a climate more conducive to his asthmatic condition. He was in his 20s at the time.
“My first employment was at a hospital in Monticello as dishwasher, and, after a year, I got a job as (a) bellhop in Grossingers Hotel in the Catskills,” said Coen.
With a New York state of mind being a bit more hectic than Coen was used to, his inborn musical prowess took hold. As the sixth child from a musically inclined family of nine, Coen soothed the frantic days at the hotel with private nighttime performances in his room that echoed the hauntingly, traditional music that Coen says is “a way of life” in Ireland. The style of music Coen played and still plays is called “Sean-Nos” — Gaelic for “old ways” — melodically performed on his flute, tin whistle and concertina he transported when immigrating to the states.
His nighttime of romantic resonance emanating from his instruments was once overheard by a band leader at Grossingers resort, and Coen was asked to join the orchestra. However, Coen recalls feeling another calling.
His American cousin, a priest, was much admired by the young Coen and made him realize he had more of a desire to help people than music alone could provide. This intense admiration of his cousin led the young Irishman to attend the Holy Apostle Seminary in Connecticut.
After years of study, he became a graduate of Dunwoodie Seminary in New York. His dream was realized, and Coen was ordained a priest in 1968.
However, this calling didn’t curtail his love of music. Coen actually incorporated music into his priesthood for many years to come. In an earlier Freeman article, Coen said that traditional music was an antidote to the frenetic pace of modern living. But, more about that later.
Assigned to the Staten Island area, Coen served as associate pastor at two separate churches, St. Joseph’s and St. Thomas. He coached children to learn music of many cultures, including American folk songs. He received headline accolades for phonetically teaching Gaelic airs to groups of youngsters whose heritage was diverse and who went on to win esteemed prizes in leading Irish music competitions.
Old Gaelic “airs” are best described as hauntingly lonesome, with most songs being set to the movement of waves, a pony’s trot, the melody of birds or, as he has stated in an article by a friend and writer, Patricia Preston, “Just the stillness of the long twilight, ornamented by a mother’s lullaby.” The music carries a sensation of peace and relaxation, which Coen tried to instill in both his priesthood work and his musical endeavors.
Coen has said he chose to be a priest to make the world a better place. “Music helps me strive for that goal.” He added he believes that music is an uplifting experience and a reflection on what life has best to offer — “the values of truth, love, and joy.”
Not leaving competition entry to just members of his parishes, Coen has also entered and won many. One was a worldwide event in which the finals were in Ireland. This event was the All-Ireland “Fleadh” (festival), that since has come to mean the “Annual music competitions held by the Irish Music Association.” In 1976, he won on flute, concertina and whistle at the “Fleadh.”
“In 1978, I won the ‘sean nos’ singing competition”, he said, explaining this involved singing, old style — unaccompanied and without much ornamentation.
After 18 years in Staten Island, Coen began seeking a parish in the country. In 1986, an opening at St. Christopher’s Church in Red Hook became available. He applied for it and was chosen to fill the vacancy left by the Rev. Lewis J. Mazza, who was transferred to a parish in North Tarrytown.
At St. Christopher’s, Coen became the motivating energy setting parish and community activities injected with musical enhancement into motion. He began musical performances to enrich New York City schools. He organized concerts at his Red Hook parish. He played on network television, on the National Mall in Washington and at Carnegie Hall. At times, he was on the same musical agenda as the Chieftans, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy. And, having made two records of his own, he was nominated for a 1991 National Heritage Award sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Coen used the common ground of music to reach all ages, nationalities and faiths while at St. Christopher’s for the 22 years he led the parish until his retirement in 2008. The spirit of Irish festivities is so much a part of his upbringing that it was only natural to integrate faith and fun to reach a greater audience and enrich them with both passions.
“Above and beyond that there is a great connection between music and religion,” he said. “They both give a lift to the soul and can lift one out and away from the problems of the day.”
Why does he feel Irish culture sparks a festive spirit and togetherness?
“I don’t know,” he replied. Perhaps the fact that (the Irish) suffered so much depression and suppression, that joyful music and humor was a necessity for survival. Humor, music and dance were certainly cultivated. Children could sing songs from the age of 3. Gathering in houses in the long winter nights, they would sing and dance and tell yarns.”
Coen said he thinks they danced to keep themselves warm as the houses were cold and damp with poor heating. “Humor was always a great part of the gathering. These gatherings were known as ‘ceilis,’ pronounced Kay lee, adding an ‘ës’ for plural.”
Coen previously performed at what was once known as the Rhinecliff Hotel. He recently was invited back to the newly renovated venue, now called The Rhinecliff, by its current proprietor, James Chapman, to “resurrect” his popular music sessions.
“We (used to) play at the old Rhinecliff hotel for about 19 years on the first and third Sundays until it closed, and then The American Legion let us use their hall in Rhinebeck for a small rent,” Coen said. “I think we played there for three years.”
In addition, at St. Christopher’s School Hall, Coen said, “We ran about four concerts each year. These concerts were with cabaret and music hall shows direct from Ireland. Comedians such as Hal Roach and Noel V. Ginnity, singers Frank Patterson, Tony Kenny, as well as groups such as The Dubliners, De Danaan and many others. One could say 80 per cent of the top entertainers in Ireland appeared in St Christopher’s.”
When asked what inspired a priest to put on concerts and sessions, he replied, “I don’t know. Like so many other things in life one kind of backs into it.
“I had a great interest in music, and, once one presents a few successful concerts, word spreads among the artists, and they would call me.”
Many of the artists were on tour in the United State looking for places to perform, Coen added.
“The fact that we continually got audiences of 500 and 600 showed that I wasn’t the only one with such an interest,” he said. “Besides, a priest has a great advantage — the hall is free, the parishioners were most generous in volunteering (there is a lot of work in preparation) and, not least, it did prove a source of income for the parish. If one is to be a good pastor, community building is most important, and what better way to bring people together than with a top-class show.
Coen has been back at The Rhinecliff since the summer.
Said Chapman, “We have been very, very fortunate to reconnect with Father Coen and have scheduled a ‘Father Coen Celtic Session’ once a month since June.”
Chapman also said he hopes to continue offering these popular sessions. “They are a very integral part of the ongoing special events at The Rhinecliff.” According to Chapman, Coen’s sessions, “attract a large, appreciative audience and excellent musicians, including all Ireland Fiddle Champion Dylan Foley along with between five and 15 other musicians.”
Now retired, Coen is a resident of Greenville in Greene County. He still enjoys being a spectator for the sport of hurling and tries to be back for the finals in Ireland each year.
He’s also involved with The Irish Cultural Center in East Durham, which he describes as “a work in progress.”
“The hope is to build a cultural village with replicas of houses in Ireland at different stages in history. Only one thatched cottage has been erected so far,” Coen said..
He cited there’s a map of Ireland about one-eighth of an acre in size that is constructed in bricks with each Irish county represented with a high flagpole.
“Bricks may be purchased with names inscribed and placed in the donor’s particular county.” he said. “The Cultural Center sponsors a school of Irish music for one week each July. Some 600 students attend.”
He teaches concertina and flute at the center with approximately 60 other teachers, many of whom are from Ireland.
“Dancing and singing and storytelling are also taught. There is a concert each night and music sessions in all of the pubs. It’s a fun week. Students come from Japan, Germany, England, California, Texas and all over.”
A statement, Coen made in the past still sums up his present-day sentiments: “Music is a way to reach out to people of all faiths— a reflection of God’s goodness in the world. If we could get more people singing, there would probably be more harmony around the globe.”
The next “Father Coen Celtic Music Session” at The Rhinecliff will be on Oct. 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. For a schedule of future Celtic sessions, go online to www.therhinecliff.com.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
Tommy Sands, singer, songwriter and social activist has achieved something akin to legendary status in his own lifetime. From the pioneering days with the highly influential Sands Family, bringing Irish Music from New York's Carnegie Hall to Moscow's Olympic Stadium, he has developed into one of the most powerful songwriters and enchanting solo performers in Ireland today. His songwriting, which draws the admiration of Nobel Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney and father of folk music Pete Seeger. His songs, like There were Roses, and Daughters and Sons, which have been recorded by Joan Baez, Kathy Matthea, Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Frank Patterson, Dick Gaughan, The Dubliners and many others have been translated into many languages and are currently included in the English language syllabus in German secondary schools.
Irish folk artist Tommy Sands is known around the world as "The Bard of Peace." His songs and stories help create bridges. Through a worldview forged in the midst of the troubles in Northern Ireland, Tommy inspires students to understand the universality of the human condition and the importance of living in harmony. From the pioneering days with the highly influential Sands Family, sharing Irish Music from New York's Carnegie Hall to Moscow's Olympic Stadium, he has developed into one of the most powerful songwriters and enchanting solo performers in Ireland today. His songwriting, which draws the admiration of Nobel Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney and father of folk music Pete Seeger, prompts Sing Out! Magazine to regard him as "the most powerful songwriter in Ireland, if not the rest of the world."
This residency is supported in part by a grant from the Riverboat Development Authority.
Quad City Arts is a nonprofit local arts agency dedicated to the growth and vitality of the Quad City region through the presentation, development and celebration of the arts and humanities. All Quad City Arts programs are partially supported by Festival of Trees, Quad City Arts Partners Annual Giving Program and operating grants from the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency) and the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Quad City Arts also receives significant support for the Visiting Artist Series from the following: National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Midwest's Performing Arts Fund, Iowa Arts Council, Rock Island Community Foundation, Rauch Family Foundation I, Riverboat Development Authority, Target, Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine and the Davenport Noon Optimists Club.
Local car dealerships donate rental vehicles and hotels provide rooms. Performance space is provided by St. Ambrose University, First Presbyterian Church, Davenport, John Deere and Redeemer Lutheran Church. Additional support comes from service fees paid by school districts, Parent Teacher Associations, service clubs and businesses as well as paid subscriptions to VAnguard. GENESIS sponsors tickets for the public concerts.
Friday, 2 October 2009
A SCOTTISH band which fuses the music of the past and the present with effortless ease to create music of a unique sound, is coming to Worcester.
Under their banner ‘Forward with Scotland’s Past’ Battlefield Band are inspired by their rich heritage of Celtic music and fired by the strength of their country’s cultural scene.
MIxing old songs and new self-penned material the four-piece band play on a fusion of ancient and modern instruments such as bagpipes, fiddle, synthesisers, guitar, cittern, flute, bodhran and accordion.
After 40 years in the industry the band is still going strong and leading the way for Scottish music introducing new musicians and music and always involving their growing worldwide fan base.
Visitors to Worcester’s Huntingdon Hall will be able to judge the band for themselves when they appear on Tuesday, October 13. The performance begins at 8pm.
Battlefield Band is made up of Alan Reid, Mike Katz, Alasdair White and Sean O’Donnell and the group say they play contemporary Scottish music - 200 years in the making.
They are also playing a major part in the ongoing celebrations north of the border in Homecoming Scotland 2009, performing in a number of major festivals over the summer months.
The band’s new album Zama Zama Try Your Luck, released in September, will be available at the gig in Worcester for those who like what they hear.
Tickets are priced at £16, with concessions at £15. To purchase call the box office on 01905 611427.
For more information visit worcesterlive.co.uk or to learn more about the band visit battlefieldband.co.uk
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
GRAIGNAMANAGH showed off what it has to offer this past weekend as its two annual festivals – the Town of Books Festival and Féile Freaney – brought a selection of books, music and other entertainment from Friday to Sunday.
The Féile Freaney trad music festival kicked things off with a gala concert in Duiske Abbey on Friday night. Drawing a near-capacity crowd including some well known local musicians, headlining band Líadan gave a beautiful and energetic performance which could easily inspired a listener or two to partake of the variety of workshops on offer in the town as part of the festival.
The six-piece band including fiddles, harp, piano accordion, flutes and tin whistle delighted the crowd with their lively jigs and reels, but the highlight for this listener was their enchanting songs, in particular those sung by Valerie Casey, with a voice reminiscent of Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.
Their powerful harmonies filled the abbey with beautiful precision, each voice blending with the others and none overpowering. It was also a treat to hear Mary Bergin on tin whistle and Michael Rooney on harp at the interval, in particular a piece that the harpist composed in honour of his sister.
Followed by trad sessions in at least five of the town’s pubs, it set the mood for the rest of the weekend, the bookshops all set to open for the early-morning browsers who came from near and far in search of favourite and new titles. The storytelling for children was also a hit, as was the craft fair on Sunday afternoon.
Blessed with clear sunshine and blue skies once again, there was plenty to enjoy in Graig’ for the three days. It just goes to show what the town is capable of, and one hopes it could bring them one step closer to realising the dream of a year-roud Town of Books.
Source: Kilkenny People
Location: Kilkenny City
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Legendary Irish band Bagatelle, who have been playing together since the late 1970’s, will be honored at an event in New York City on Thursday, October 1 for their contribution to Irish music. The event celebrates their 30 year anniversary, with proceeds going to benefit the Widows and Children Fund of fallen members of the NYPD.
Created by New York singer-songwriter, Enda Keegan, The Streets Of New York Benefit, named after the song by Bagatelle frontman Liam Reilly, will honor the Irish rockers for all they have given to the world through their music and for opening doors for others who have followed.
“We are so excited to have the opportunity to honor Liam & Bagatelle” said Timothy Bergin, President of the Emerald Society.
Performers for the event, which will begin at 6 p.m. at P.D. O’Hurley’s Bar Pier 84, 44th and 12thAve in New York City, include Bagatelle, Joe Hurley and the Gents, and Enda Keegan. Advance ticket sales are available for $30 and at the door for $35. Tickets can be purchased at P.D. O’Hurley’s or online through Enda Keegan Music at email@example.com
Formed in Dundalk, Co. Louth, Bagatelle produced a number of hit records over the years including Summer in Dublin, Second Violin, Love is the Reason and Leeson Street Lady. They have shared the stage with some of the top names in the music industry including Bob Marley, Don McClean, The Boomtown Rats, Jose Feliciano and many, many more.
Friday, 18 September 2009
By Paul Keating
Tulla, Co. Clare -- It would seem to be one of those scenarios where it would be bringing “coals to Newcastle” to call over the Atlantic and to New Jersey, in particular, for a couple of musicians to deliver jigs and reels in an area that had no shortage of them in the tradition.
The East Clare area around Tulla and neighboring East Galway and Tipperary across the Shannon share a bountiful traditional music legacy that has played a large part in making the scene as robust as it is.
By inviting Mike Rafferty from Hasbrouck Heights and Willie Kelly from Boonton to headline the Tulla Trad Music Festival over the weekend of September 11-13 in Tulla, the organizing committee recognized the continuum aspect of reeling in the music wherever it may have traveled from the banks of the Shannon.
The lovely music contained in their new CD The New Broom merited a launch here on the opening Friday night and a special place on the Sunday concert slot, and once again added to a wonderful celebration of the music in a county known for waving the “Banner” high for it.
In fact, it wasn’t really a stretch to have Rafferty and Kelly here as part the Tulla Traditional Music Festival because it wasn’t just their music that had ties to this locality. Rafferty, soon to be 83 at the end of the month, grew up a short distance away in Larraga, near Ballinakill over the Galway border up north.
Since landing in New York over 60 years ago he has been one of the primary tradition-bearers and keepers of the flame of Irish music from this part of the world, influencing several generations of musicians with his down-home approach to the music.
Kelly was taught by the Glin-County Limerick legend, Martin Mulvihill (from further down the Shannon) in New Jersey, and though his father Joe was from Mayo, records from the Tulla Ceili Band were worn out on the record player at home.
Later on he developed a strong affinity for the music of East Galway and Clare through Rafferty, which was further reinforced through his courtship and marriage to Siobhan Moloney of O’Callaghan Mills not far from Tulla, a very fine flute player herself.
Until this CD came out, his status as one of the finest fiddle players in this style was kept a secret for too long. So this wasn’t any ordinary CD launch, but more of a homecoming for two of the finest gentlemen in Irish America who are well respected across the generations and the Atlantic Ocean.
Paula Carroll of Clare FM provided the opening remarks about their significance -- and that of Irish music in America -- appropriately enough because she captured it on one of her Kitchen Session programs broadcast from America back in February of this year from Willie and Siobhan Kelly’s house.
The back room of Minogues’ Bar in the center of town was where the CD received its Clare launch some months after it came out in April and was launched in New York City and the Catskills. The lovely pacing and simpatico of the music between the venerable native of Ballinakill in East Galway (Rafferty) and his long-time compadre (Kelly) raised in Dumont, New Jersey was a natural for this festival and further enhanced by the accompaniment of Donal Clancy, Mike’s son-in-law who recently returned to Waterford to live in June with his wife Mary Rafferty and family.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Probably only the Irish would celebrate the first Irish Music night six months to the day before St. Paddy’s Day!
It’s short notice but on Thursday 17th September, the Virgen del Carmen Cultural Centre will play host to two of the area’s most talented folk musicians – Phil Trainor and Bill O’Brien
Bill O’Brian has been gigging around the Costa Blanca for many years now and he has long pedigree in the music business having has toured Europe with Rory Gallagher, played in the Paris Olympia as part of Chuck Berry’s touring band, gigged in the Wembley Arena in a Country Music Festival, formed one of Ireland’s first Punk band in Cork in 1977 and played at more Irish weddings than he can recall!
His first band, however, was an Irish Folk group and it is to this music, the foundation of much of what is good in the best of world music today, that he returns in the company of Phil Trainor. Bill plays guitar, harmonica, bouzouki and (when he can get his hands on one) banjo. He sings a few songs too.
He’s partnered on the night by Belfast lad Phil Trainor, who is a relative newcomer to the music scene. Phil is a multi instrumentalist and Folk music is Phil’s forte; and Irish music in particular. He normally performs as a solo artist and delivers his material with an unplugged feel and a wicked sense of humour.
All proceeds of the gig are to be donated to the charity Esperanza y Vida (Hope and Life), a charity which helps individuals and families recover from addiction – whether that addiction is drug or alcohol related. This is the first time such a concert has been held at the Virgen del Carmen in Torrevieja. A similar St David’s Day celtic themed show was held a few years ago, but this is the first time an Irish Folk music concert has been staged.
Tickets are priced at €5 each and are on sale at the official box office (Taquilla), which is located at the front of the Municipal Theatre, Plaza Miguel Hernández, Torrevieja with the show taking place in the Virgen del Carmen Cultural Centre at 2000 hrs..
For more information about the gig or tickets, please call Phil Trainor on 678 980 237.
The Holland Sentinel
Posted Sep 15, 2009 @ 05:11 PM
Muskegon, MI —
The annual Michigan Irish Music Festival returns to Heritage Landing in downtown Muskegon Friday through Sunday, with a complete weekend of live Irish entertainment, activities and culture. Presented by Mercy General Health Partners, the festival features live Irish and Celtic music on three covered stages.
Festival favorites returning this year include Seamus Kennedy, Kennedy’s Kitchen, Switchback, Craic Wisely, Old Blind Dogs, Fonn Mor, and Blackthorn. In addition, several new bands will make an appearance at this year’s festival including Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, Solas, Slide, and The Makem & Spain Brothers.
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, masters of fiddle, are two of the world’s most celebrated fiddlers. They also happen to be married. Together, Natalie and Donnell are a whirlwind of fiddle-driven music, dance and song. Festival guests will have the chance to hear the fruits of this renowned musical matrimony during an evening of Celtic music.
Solas stepped out onto the world stage in 1996, when Irish music was poised at the brink of a new era of innovation and popularity. The five young musicians who made up the band at the time had no idea that they were to be a galvanizing element in the Irish music scene.
The Makem & Spain Brothers promise to be a crowd favorite this year. A host of various instruments and five male vocals, using three-part harmonies blend for what many have described as a wall of sound.
The origins of Slide trace back to 1999, to southwest Ireland, to a town called Brandon. It was here that the organizers of a local festival invited three Dublin based musicians to play sessions in various pubs over the weekend. Such was the inherent connection of musical approach, style and mindset that the idea of forming some kind of group was born.
Bob and Bernie’s Pub will offer live music, a limerick contest, and irish food.
Other festival activities include the Irish Marketplace, children’s activities, a cultural center, and an acoustic tent.
A highlight on Saturday is the Feis, an Irish dance competition taking place at Muskegon Catholic Central High School. Admission is $8. The school is located at 1145 W. Laketon Ave., Muskegon.
Sunday morning, a Catholic Mass will be held at 9 a.m. followed by a traditional Irish breakfast.
The festival offers an Early-In Free promotion on Friday only from 5 to 6 p.m. sponsored by Family Financial Credit Union. General admission tickets for the festival are $6 on Friday (5 to 11 p.m.), $12 on Saturday (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and $10 on Sunday (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.). For additional information, tickets, and a complete entertainment schedule, call (231) 739-2028 or visit www.michiganirish.org.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
50th anniversary CD release of first Gael Linn LP
Gael Linn is Ireland’s oldest recording company. Its first LP was issued in 1958 and to commemorate it we are now re-issuing the album on CD for the first time. Prior to issuing an LP, Gael Linn had been issuing gramophone records (78s) since 1957 where songs and music were featured on alternate sides. The same order was followed for the first LP.
On the CD, Cork baritone Tomás Ó Súilleabháin sings eight well-known songs in Irish. Interestingly, the arrangement and piano accompaniment were by Seán Ó Riada, making this Ó Riada’s first commercial recording.
Ó Súilleabháin, who is now retired and living in Dublin, was a regular guest on radio programmes in the 1950s and 60s. During this time, he also toured the States with singers and musiciians who included the late Dermot Troy and Veronica Dunne. Tomás’s personal favourite on the album is Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna.
The album contains Irish airs arranged by contemporary composers and played by the Raidió Éireann Light Orchestra, under the direction of Éimear Ó Broin. The featured composers are: Ó Gallchobhair, Duff, Ó Frighil, Bodley, Ó Riada, Larchet, Fachtna Ó hAnnracháin and TC Kelly.
Many will recognise the theme tune for The Riordans (track 12) and the signature tune of the Chivers sponsored radio programme (track 9).
Gael Linn CEO, Antoine Ó Coileáin, says of the album: ‘Ceolta Éireann is a nostalgic tribute to a bygone era. The album’s music was known and loved by Radio Éireann listeners some fifty years ago.’
CEOLTA ÉIREANN is now available in music stores or on-line from www.gael-linn.ie and costs €19.99
It was the worst kept secret in this region for months, but Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has finally confirmed that Cavan town will host Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2010.
Cavan is celebrating the announcement following a meeting at Comhaltas headquarters in Monkstown, Dublin on September 12, at which the Ardchomhairle voted to stage Ireland's premier traditional culture event in the Lake County.
The Director General of Comhaltas, Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, said that Tullamore, who has hosted the event for the past three years, has set the bar very high for future venues. "Their innovation, dedication, professionalism, hospitality and attention to detail were inspiring. They have placed our cultural traditions on a pedestal and have raised the morale of the hundreds of thousands of people who attended the Fleadhanna for the last three years".
Speaking after the announcement, the County Arts Officer, Catriona O'Reilly said the Fleadh will greatly enrich the cultural life of the entire region.
County Manager Jack Keyes added that the event will be a unique opportunity for Cavan to showcase its talents as well as bringing a welcome boost to the local economy during these difficult times. According to one of the Fleadh organisers, renowned Cavan musician Martin Donohoe, the All-Ireland Fleadh is Ireland's largest festival of music, song and dance and 2010 in Cavan promises to attract over 200,000 visitors and 11,000 musicians from all over the world. The fleadh competitions alone attracting over 4,000 competitors annually from all over Ireland, Britain, Europe, USA and as far away as the Tokyo branch.
The All Ireland Fleadh which plays host to hundreds of sessions will confirm Cavan's place at the heart of Ireland's living tradition.