How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

By this point, you’re probably missing live concerts, ceili dances and most of all, at this time of year the Wildwood Irish Fall Festival.

Cheer up. We have plenty to keep you content—even though most of it is virtual—and we wouldn’t completely give up on Wildwood, as you’ll see.

Friday, September 18

The fabulous Mary Courtney streams live on Facebook, starting at 6 p.m. You can tune in here: https://www.facebook.com/MorningStarBand She’s one of our very favorite Irish singers. If you haven’t heard her, give her a listen. Tips will be accepted.

Saturday, September 19

Singer-guitarist Seamus Kelleher appears at Blueprint Brewing at 1571 Gehman Road in Harleysville. The show starts at 6 p.m.

Sunday, September 20

Shilelagh Law, billed as NYC’s Thirstiest Band, hosts its virtual Halfway to St. Patrick’s Sunday Funday Virtual Busking Extravaganza. It’s live on Facebook, and you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/SLNYC. The tunes start at 4 p.m. Sure, they’re New Yorkers, but given that it’s virtual, they could be pretty much anywhere.

Also Sunday, it’s time for cocktail hour with Philly-area native fiddler Caitlin Finley and flutist/uilleann piper Will Woodson, starting at 5 p.m. They’ll be streaming live on https://www.facebook.com/woodsonandfinley/live or on YouTube at youtube.com/c/willwoodson/live. We wrote a story about them recently if you want to learn more about this talented duo. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Big week ahead of us, starting tonight with the (virtual) Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival.

Let’s jump right into it:

Friday, September 11-Saturday, September 12

We mentioned this last week (see our story), but because of the pandemic, the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival—normally held at the Irish Center in Mount Airy—just wasn’t in the cards. In person, that is. But the Ceili Group has come up with a thoroughly creative way to celebrate the festival on the web. It’s well worth checking out. They’ve put a ton of work into their plans, and it shows.

First of all, tonight … celebrate a Rambling House with host Hollis Payer. There’s also a dance workshop. The dance workshop is led by the great Kieran Jordan at 6 p.m. The Rambling House kicks in at 7. Learn more here, and they’ll send you the link.

Here’s who’s going to be at the Rambling House: The wonderful Mary Courtney (video below), Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, piper Tim Hill and Autumn Rhodes, Rob Curto, Patch and Bob Glennan, Gabriel Donohue and Marian Makins, Donie Carroll, and many more. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Fabulous Figs … From Teatime to Cheeseboards

Fresh or dried, figs are it!

While not native to Ireland, they’re no longer considered “exotic” and are widely available to use in dishes ranging from teatime sandwiches to appetizers and desserts.

Christmas bakers have probably already started to stockpile dried ones for holidays sweets, but in between try some fresh ones in these yummy recipes.

Some varieties to look for are the dark purple Black Mission, most heavily cultivated today; the green-but-ripe Kadato; the Brown Turkey, similar to Mission but lighter in color; and Calimyrna, often found as dried figs.

You’ll find similar recipes in my cookbook Teatime in Ireland (Buy One, Get One Free) with signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.

FIG AND GOAT CHEESE TOASTS

MAKES 24 TOASTS

Fruit and cheese are a stunning combination in these little toasts made with raisin bread. Serve them at teatime or on a cheeseboard with drinks. Continue Reading

Music, People

Musical Duo Mines Century-Old Irish Traditional Recordings for Modern-Day Gold

You might call Philly-native fiddler Caitlin Finley and uilleann piper/flutist Will Woodson a little old-fashioned.

Well, maybe a lot old-fashioned.

Now residing in Portland, Maine, the traditional Irish music duo has a deep affection for the tunes of Irish traditional music pioneers—from a century ago—and they want to share their fondness with other Irish musicians.

It’s called the Phonograph Project, an effort to dissect the playing of musicians such as famed fiddlers Michael Coleman, John McKenna and James Morrison. Much of their music was released on 78 RPM albums for the first time in the 1920s—and it is highly distinctive, dating back to when they themselves learned the tunes decades before in Ireland.

Finley, a medical physics assistant in radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, is—like so many of us—now working remotely.

She and Woodson first got to know each other when both were living in New York City and playing in local pubs. “We really enjoyed playing music together and then lost touch for a couple of years,” says Finley. “Will, in the meantime, had moved up to Portland and I had moved up to Boston, and then we just wound up reconnecting through the music scene and started playing a bunch of music together again.”

Finley, for one, first became interested in the old recordings when she took lessons from the famed Brian Conway in New York. She was about 15 at the time. Conway and his sister Rose introduced her to a lot of the old tunes. “At that point,” she says, “I was pretty much hooked.” Continue Reading

Dance, Music, People

Keeping the Tradition Alive: The (Virtual) Ceili Group Festival

Devotees of traditional Irish music and culture look forward to the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival every year. It’s an exhaustive three-day affair, with concerts by world-class musicians, workshops, dance, crafts, and much more.

The festival always falls in early September, filling the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center (the Irish Center) in Mount Airy with eager and enthusiastic fans.

The coronavirus pandemic renders it impossible to converge on the Irish Center this year, of course. The center has been closed since March. All of which left the Ceili Group Festival in a state of flux. How could the festival possibly go on?

Easy—or perhaps not so easily—the festival will happen as planned, but virtually. And in some ways, this might be the biggest and most vibrant festival ever. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

We have a packed week for you, featuring live concerts—isn’t it wonderful to have them—culminating in the virtual Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival. (That’s right—they’re continuing the tradition, and no pandemic will stop them.)

Here’s the scoop:

Friday, September 4

Join fiddler Philly-area native Caitlin Finley and flutist/uilleann piper Will Goodson for a cocktail hour and a half, live on Facebook. (As always, tips are appreciated.) Catch them here:

https://www.facebook.com/woodsonandfinley/live

It all takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Pour yourself a pint, sit back and enjoy some of the tunes. Continue Reading

History, People

New Author Probes the Hidden Stories Behind “The Troubles”

Ryan Conner

Twentieth century Irish history is marked by political turmoil, starting with the birth of the Republic right on through to the long, violent period known simply as “The Troubles.”

Throughout his years at Council Rock High School, Ryan Conner, a recent graduate of William & Mary, absorbed a good deal of United States and world history—but the island’s turbulent recent history never showed up in the high school curriculum. So now, he is writing the book he wishes he had been given to study.

The book has a tentative title, subject to change to something more user-friendly before publication—“One Man, One Vote: Northern Ireland’s Civil Rights Movement 1963 to 1972”—and it is currently undergoing additional research and revisions.

Conner’s book traces its origins to an initiative called the Book Creators Program, run through the Creator Institute, and overseen by a professor at Georgetown University. He learned about it from a friend.

“It’s a very, very popular program,” Conner says. “I started the program and the first five or six months were dedicated to doing the research and creating a roughly 25,000-word draft. In my case, that required getting the first draft done by mid-June, which I did successfully. One of the benefits of the program is that the professor has a relationship with a publishing house called New Degree Press. Assuming the authors meet their checkpoints and deadlines, produce enough words of quality material, and take the standard amount of time for revision and editing, then there’s a path to publishing (through New Degree).” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

If you’re looking for music, this is the week for it … plus one very special event coming up soon.

Let’s get right down to it:

Friday, August 28

Watch the talented and hilarious Seamus Kennedy live on Facebook, starting at 7 p.m. It’s all part of the Celtic Festival Online. You can catch his act here: https://www.facebook.com/celticfestivalonline. Seamus never fails to entertain. He’s a font of tunes, stories and outright groaners.

If you’re hankering for live music, head on down to the shore—specifically, Seaport Pier, for Philly’s rockin’ band, Jamison Celtic Rock. Seaport Pier is at 2201 Boardwalk North in Wildwood. The show starts at 8 p.m. Continue Reading