Calling on the Local Talent

For regular attendees of trad sessions around Philly, the playing of Paddy O’Neill, John Brennan and John McGillian is a highly regarded and well-anticipated event… to have the three of them, along with Caitlin Finley and Paraic Keane, come together to support The Philadelphia Ceili Group’s 2010 festival, is a guarantee of an evening of music worth listening to.

“People who pay attention to the local music have heard all these people playing before, but you don’t get a chance to hear everyone individually in a session,” Tom O’ Malley, PCG board member and organizer of the event, explained. “And all these guys are as good as anyone out there playing today.”

The Festival Benefit Concert is this Saturday, May 22, beginning at 8 p.m. at The Irish Center. Workshops are being offered for Northern Tunes on Flute, Guitar Accompaniment, Button Accordion from 4 to 6PM. There are no tickets to purchase, but there is a requested donation of $15 for the concert, or a combined donation of $25 for entry to both the workshop and the concert.

All the musicians are offering their talents free for the benefit. The PCG festival has been going strong since Tipperary singer Robbie O’Connell and Limerick’s Mick Moloney began the tradition in 1975. This year, Liz Carroll and Daithi Sproule are set to play the 2010 festival, September 11-13th. The PCG is hoping to be able to bring Dezi Donnelly and Dermot Byrne to the festival as well, and the upcoming benefit concert could help achieve that goal.

The players are looking forward to the concert themselves… Paddy O’Neill, flute player from Derry City, is known for his jigs and reels, but this Saturday he will be performing tunes which are more especially associated with the music and musicians of the North of Ireland.

“I think that sessions in the North tended to have a more varied repertoire than sessions I encountered in the rest of Ireland. You would get not only the usual jigs, reels and hornpipes, but also barndances, polkas, Germans, waltzes, marches and highlands. Expect to hear more of the latter than jigs and reels. Singers were a prominent feature of the northern sessions I attended, so I might even chance a song. There is, of course, the Orange fifing and drumming tradition in the North, and a fifing march or two might be appropriate,” O’Neill said.

John Brennan, on the fiddle and guitar, will be featuring his own original music, including several tunes that have been recorded by Liz Knowles and Bob McQuillen.

“John has some tunes, like ‘Owen G,’ that he dedicated to his nephew, that are just gorgeous,” O’Malley said. “Another great one is ‘The Couple That Married Themselves.’”

“John McGillian’s going to be playing some of his favorite stuff. His hornpipes, they’re gorgeous, he plays them so well. ‘The Sweeps’ and ‘Lad O’Byrne’s are two that he plays.”

In addition, Caitlin Finley will be playing fiddle tunes from Andy McGann. “Caitlin’s been under the tutelage of Brian Conway, the Sligo-style fiddler up in New York, and he learned directly from Andy McGann… she does them really beautifully.”

Fiddler Paraic Keane, son of The Chieftains Sean Keane, is going to include some of his father’s songs in the evening. “There’s a set of his dad’s reels, that Sean and Matt Molloy recorded, ‘Sword in Hand,’ ‘The Providence’ and ‘The Old Bush,’ and Paraic really kills that set… he really sounds like his old man.”

An open session will follow the concert.

More information on The PCG Festival Benefit Concert can be found on the group Web site:

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