Audio, Audios, Music

“Scatter the Light”—An Interview with Fiddler Eileen Ivers


Premier Irish fiddler Eileen Ivers has released a stunning new album, “Scatter the Light.” We recently spoke with her about the album, the uplifting messages behind each of the tracks, and the uncanny timing of the album’s hopeful, empowering outlook.

Irish Philly: So what inspired you to compose this new album, Scattered the Light?

Eileen: Sort of various things. It came slowly, as an extension I think of even the last record I did, which was called “Beyond the Bog Road,” which really looked at Irish music and its journey, interacting with other roots elements and really forming the roots of Americana music and bluegrass and French Canadian. So it was a very in-depth record. And then after the record came out and all the research and just the touring with that, I started writing more in a certain vein and realized it was all sort of connected with this very upbeat, positive attitude. And I think also coming out of our joyful Christmas shows, I noticed that there was a wonderful sentiment that was happening when those shows would occur, which I loved. And I remember thinking to myself, why can’t this be carried through the year? This feeling of optimism and joy and really looking for those moments? And that’s when the penny dropped, so to speak.

And I felt, you know what, this is a way to connect the dots. And anytime I do a CD, I think I maybe sometimes overthink it because it does take me a little while between projects, but I think it’s such a major statement when you do release a brand-new piece of work like this because it doesn’t come lightly. And I really try to be very thoughtful about it. In short, it really was all of these tracks linking together in a very thematic way, which made sense, which made a statement. And therefore I did call it “Scatter the Light.”

Irish Philly: Well it’s funny that you should mention overthinking it. Because it didn’t come across that way. It really came across as more from the heart than from the head is if there was no conscious decision-making behind it at all, except that you’re going from your soul and your heart.

Eileen: Thank you. No, it’s funny, it really was happening in that way. But when you start to look at a collection of tunes in the body of work, then you, it’s funny, I realized, wow, there is this theme that ran through it, which is the thoughtful part I think of it. But the knee jerk reaction was interesting where I was just writing these tunes. It started with “Shine,” which is the lead track. And also feeling like I wanted those two gospely, faith-filled songs as part of this. And then these tunes just kept coming. “Road Trip.” very quickly. “Hold My Hand” came in a shot. It was literally looking at this picture—and again, heart took over and those words just came right out. And so it is interesting how music does come at different times in people’s lives and thankfully, this did all come and it’s a record I’m super proud of. Continue Reading

News, People

Irish Restaurant Owner Crafts Masks to Help Protect Health Care Workers

Health care providers everywhere face a shortage of personal protective equipment—including masks.

A lot of people are stepping in to fill the breach with homemade masks, including Laurie McGarrity of Havertown, owner of The Hearth, a popular Irish eatery opened only six months ago.

She became aware of the dire need through contacts on social media, including a lot of nurses. McGarrity is a longtime crafter, so responding to the need was right up her alley.

“A lot of my nurse friends said on social media that they are reusing their masks, or they were running low,” McGarrity says. “So for me it was one of those things where, if you’re able to do it and you’re home anyway, you might as well help. I had all the supplies here, so I just figured I’d chip in and do whatever I could.”

Using patterns she found on the internet, McGarrity began sewing the masks early this week in a variety of brightly colored cotton re-washable fabric. The patterns were published by a health organization. Some masks are big enough to cover the preferred N95 masks, and others are smaller to fit the faces of nurses and other providers who have no masks at all. Continue Reading

Music

Online Concerts Bring Comfort, Even if Only Virtually

Usually, the days and weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day are cause for great celebration and jubilation, all in the spirit of being Irish—even if you aren’t a drop of Irish. This time of year is also like Christmas for many local Irish pubs and musicians alike. Now, of course, it’s different. Countless watering holes are feeling the effects of closings and cancellations, as are many local musicians and bands who are losing income hand over fist due to canceled gigs.

Some acts, like John Byrne, Jamison, The Shantys and Oakwyn, offered live streaming concerts during St. Patrick’s Week, perhaps to maintain their own sanity and to help bolster the spirits of their fellow humans. Other Philly Irish musicians and bands followed suit, such as Ray Coleman, Neil Mac Thiarnan, Shelly Beard Santore, Brian Patrick McGuire, Shaun Durnin of Galway Guild, Bob Hurst of the Bogside Rogues, Joshua Mateleski of The Natterjacks, Mike LeCompt, Mike and Callie, Megan Glanz of The Natterjacks, Bill Donohue, Jr., Kevin Sullivan, Joe Mullin, and many others, who offered concerts on their various social media pages, with more shows scheduled as the week and quarantine continues.

The Dropkick Murphys, who we have covered extensively over the years, put on a free live streaming concert straight from their hometown of Boston. The two-hour event, filmed from what seemed to be a small club and offered via their website and social media accounts, boasted a steady rate of 130,000 viewers during the entire show. The rockers, some now in their 50s—as front man Ken Casey pointed out—were not short of energy or excitement, even in the absence of a live crowd. Continue Reading

Audio, Music, People

Still Much to Celebrate: Celtic Woman’s Máiréad Carlin Reflects on New Album

Celtic Woman was scheduled to perform in Philadelphia toward the end of this month, but then—well, you know what happened. With the onset of the novel coronavirus, the tour was canceled, and so went our latest chance to take in one of the biggest and longest-lasting groups in world Irish entertainment.

Fortunately, we now have a new CW album: “Celebration: 15 Years of Music & Magic,” featuring the 15 performers who have comprised Celtic Woman over the years.

We recently interviewed Máiréad Carlin, a seven-year member of Celtic Woman from Northern Ireland, about the abrupt end to the tour, but—more to the point—the new album’s capacity for comfort in trying times.

Irish Philly: We were looking forward to seeing you in Philadelphia. Quite a disappointment, but understandable circumstances, I’m sure.

Máiréad: Absolutely. I mean, my goodness, I think it was a shock for everybody. The news trickled through the world. I think over the few weeks that we were out there and we genuinely didn’t realize the magnitude of what was about to come. And we really only find out ourselves the day before we announced that we were going to go home and have to postpone the tour. It was such a disappointment because for us, this is a celebration. Continue Reading

People

Behind the Bar: The Black Taxi’s Neil Mac Thiarnáin

There’s a lot to know.

First off, his last name is pronounced “McKernan,” and he’s from Ardboe, County Tyrone.

Second, he’s been working in the bar business for a long while.

“When I was 13, 14 years old, my dad had a bar, Duff’s Corner,” he says. “That was in Ardboe. I’m 30 now.”

He actually started tending bar when he was 15 or 16 years old. “Straight into the fire, man,” he says. “I was helping out at first, but I started pulling shifts on my own when I was maybe 16.”

Third, he’s an accomplished musician.

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14,” Mac Thiarnáin says. “I used to play drums with Ray Coleman. He was the singer. He and I used to play in bands with my two cousins, and we played in the student bar in Belfast, The Hatfield. We used to play there on a Wednesday night. Then he moved here (Philadelphia). I was at university in Belfast at the time, and I learned guitar. Then I formed a band with a friend of mine and three young girls. We had fiddle, tin whistle, guitar and bodhrán. We used to back some of the bigger bands at home. We played the student bars.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

We’ll start with a past Philly St. Patrick’s Day parade picture to remind us that happy days will be here again.

But for now, coronavirus has changed many St. Patrick’s plans significantly, so we’re going to have to break with our longstanding upbeat tradition and start by telling you what isn’t happening.

Probably the most visible celebration of St. Patrick in the Philly area is the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade, which this year would have celebrated its 250th anniversary on Sunday. “Would have,” as in “not happening.”

Many of you probably have already heard the unhappy news by now, but for those of you who haven’t, parade organizers characterized their decision as difficult but necessary in the interest of public safety. Continue Reading

News

Michael Bradley: Moving to the Front of the Parade

The saying goes, if you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know.

Within the Irish community, one of the busiest people—if not the busiest—is longtime Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade director Michael J. Bradley, Jr. Bradley has directed the parade since 2002, a time of incredible growth and no small amount of tightly scripted organization, largely dictated by the needs of the television stations that have broadcast the parade.

His son, Colin, is directing the parade this year, but Bradley remains a diligent behind-the-scenes player.

As if coordinating the parade was not enough, Bradley oversees M.J. Bradley Company, Inc., a firm founded by his father Mickey and mother Bernadette, that installs epoxy flooring in venues from research and educational institutions all the way up to stadiums. For most people, that would be plenty. A first-generation student of Penn State—class of 1978—he remains deeply involved in his alma mater, having served on Penn State Brandywine’s advisory board for well about 30 years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more devoted Nittany Lion than Michael Bradley. (Almost 20 family members, from his sons to nephews and nieces, are or have been Penn State students.)

He also has assumed a leadership position in efforts to keep open and improve the quality of Delaware County’s Catholic schools at a time when an archdiocesan blue ribbon panel was recommending the closure of over 40 parish schools, including five from Delco. He has also served on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Executive Board of Elementary Education, along with the Cardinal O’Hara High School board. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

St. Patrick’s month roars in like a lion. The first full week is jam-packed with Irish things to do.

Without further ado:

Friday, March 6

A lot of you have been waiting for this one: It’s the fabulous John Byrne Band, appearing at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut Street near Center City. John and the gang promise a night of tunes off their new album, together with music of the Pogues and a ton of surprises. Also on the bill: No Irish Need Apply. The show starts at 8 p.m. Doors at 7. A cool night of Irish music at one of the best venues in the city. Details and tickets here.

On the same night, and speaking of the Pogues, you can check out “Poguetry: Songs of the Pogues” at City Winery Philadelphia, 990 Filbert Street in Center City. Doors open at 6 p.n.; show at 8.

The concert features Spider Stacy & Cait O’Riordan with the Lost Bayou Ramblers. You can get tickets here.

A little farther afield, check out Scythian at Musikfest Cafe Steelstacks with Poor Man’s Gambit. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Doors and dinner at 6. There’s a $10 minimum food and beverage for all reserved seating. Details here.

Finally, Rob Groden and Dave Pedrick serenade the folks at Con Murphy’s 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The show starts at 8 p.m. Continue Reading