Columns, How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish In Philly This Week

Double proof that you don’t have to be Irish to be an Irish musician: Isaac Alderson and Jonas Fromseier.

Isaac Alderson was 11 or 12 when he discovered Irish music. A friend of his mother’s gave him a set of practice pipes and he was hooked. By the time he was 17, he was being paid to anchor Irish sessions in his native Chicago. At the 2002 Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland—the Superbowl of traditional musicians—Alderson was named the All-Ireland Senior Champion in three instruments, uilleann pipes, flute and whistle, becoming the first American ever to perform that particular hat trick.

Alderson will be on stage at the Irish Center this Saturday, bringing with him Fromseier, the Danish-born bouzouki and banjo player who, with a grant from the Danish government, wound up in Galway studying Irish music after a stint with a Danish Irish trad group called “The Trad Lads.” (The Danes, while not Celtic, do have an Irish connection: They conquered the little island long ago when they were members of the well known group, the Vikings.)

Before the Vikings land here, check out “Cherish the Ladies,” Joanie Madden’s fabulous girl group, performing at the Sellersville Theatre on Friday night. Band members change, but the quality of these amazing musicians never dims. Plus, Madden is a hoot.

Another unusual sighting this week: Belfast-born indie musician Henry Cluney from the group Stiff Little Fingers will be performing at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Sunday is also the second in a series of fundraisers for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this one at AOH 39 on Tulip Street in Philly. On board for this one: Winners of the “best Irish band” in the US battle of the bands sponsored by Strangford Lough Brewing Company in Northern Ireland, Jamison Celtic Rock.

For Valentine’s Day, the Irish Immigration Center is hosting a luncheon and party at the Irish Center, 6815 Emlen Street, in Philadelphia on Monday at noonish. Great food, music, dancing—and love, they promise, will be in the air.

This week, two great Irish plays debut as part of the Philadelphia Irish Theater Festival. The Abbey Theatre of Dublin’s “Terminus,” a playing serial killers, avenging angels, and love-sick demons (of course, you’ll laugh), is at the Zellerbach Theatre. On February 16 and 17, Father David Cregan, OSA, PhD, associate professor of theatre and English, will host a post-show question and answer session with the cast. On February 17, catch the opening of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, one of the Martin McDonagh’s wildly dark and comic plays about a soldier who returns home to find that his only friend. Wee Thomas, the cat, has been assassinated. Bad things ensue. This one is at Plays and Players Theatre on Delancey Street in Philadelphia.

On Friday, Boston’s Matt and Shannon Heaton (with new baby, Nigel!) will be performing at Trinity Episcopal Church in Swarthmore. Shannon, whose newest CD is “The Blue Dress,” was named Live Ireland’s Female Musician of the year two years running (2010 and 2011).

Friday night is also the kick-off concert for the Mid-Winter Scottish-Irish Festival in Valley Forge, now in its 19th year of making winter bearable for fans of Celtic everything. There’s music, drink, food, dancing, and Irish tchotchkes for sale. Always fun.

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