How to Be Irish in Philly This Week
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When singer Jim McGill momentarily forgot the next stanza of the traditional Irish song he was singing, half a dozen people in the audience for “Singer’s Night” on Thursday, the launch of the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s annual music festival, called out the first few lines. It was that kind of crowd. All night, feet tapped and people sang along, even before Lancaster singer Matt Ward handed out song sheets.
Gabriel Donohue, a multi-intrumentalist and singer who toured with the Chieftains and has recorded with everyone from the Boston Pops to Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers, hosted the night and sang, sometimes solo, and also with his frequent partner, Marian Makins. Other performers included local talents Rosaleen McGill, Steve Stanislau, Teresa Kane and Ellen Tepper, and Courtney Malley. Singers Night was established several years ago to honor Malley’s father, the late Frank Malley, long time director of the annual festival, whose portrait in brights splashes of purple and orange held court at the side of the stage at the Irish Center in Mt. Airy.
More than many other events throughout the year, attending the Ceili Group Festival is authentically how to be Irish in Philadelphia. It’s a celebration of Irish traditional music and dance, a place to see local performers and internationally acclaimed musicians, like De Danann—called “the Rolling Stones of Irish traditional music”–who will be in concert on Saturday night, and Paddy Keenan, one of the founding members of the Bothy Band who is considered one of the best uilleann (Irish) pipes players in the world.
On Friday night, Irish folk singer Sean Tyrell will be bringing his one man musical, “Who Killed James Joyce?” to the Fireside Room, where singers’ night is held, while in the ballroom you can try out your dance moves in the very traditional set dancing event featuring the region’s best ceili band, The McGillians and Friends, featuring local legend, octagenarian Kevin McGillian and his sons, John and Jimmy, with others.
On Saturday at 11 AM, Kitty Kelly-Albrecht leads the John Kelly Memorial Session in the Fireside Room, to honor the late fiddle and conertina player from Sligo, who played a major role in the resurgence of interest in Irish music in Philadelphia in the 1970s. If you play an instrument or just love the ambience of an Irish jam session, you can join in.
There will be vendors, food, and free workshops throughout the day, including one on Irish genealogy with Lori Lander Murphy. There’s also free parking at the SEPTA lot directly across the street from the Irish Center, at Carpenter and Emlen Streets.
If you’re in New Jersey, check out the Mercer Irish Fest at Mercer County Park on Saturday, featuring live Celtic music, vendors, kids’ activities, food and a beer garden. I’m an avid gardener, but I’ve never tried to grow beer. Hmmmm.
On Sunday, the Cavan Society is holding its annual golf tournament at the Cobbs Creek Golf Course. Tee off with this always fun—and funny—group. You don’t need to trace your roots to Cavan to play.
If you’re a member of the Sellersville Theatre, you have a party to go to on Sunday. You’re going to be partying with The Young Dubliners, who are making their second appearance in the area (they were at World Café Live on Wednesday, with the John Byrne Band).
Next Friday, catch the Shanty’s at The Glenside Pub in Glenside.
Next weekend, Blackthorn will be headlining the second annual Haverford Music Festival. Get there early—we’ve heard that this festival is expected to draw thousands.
It’s also Commodore Barry Day at the Commodore Barry Bridge on the New Jersey side with a ceremony and wreath-laying by the Gloucester County Ancient Order of Hibernians. A Mass will be celebrated at the Richard Rossiter Memorial Hall in nearby National Park, NJ, with a free lunch and music.
And next Saturday is also the day of the Gloucester City Shamrock Fest. This little town just over the bridge from Philadelphia is very proud of its Irish roots and occupies a picturesque spot on the Delaware River.
Also coming up: On September 17, the annual Ciara Kelly Higgins Benefit for Cerebral Palsy golf tournament and dinner at the Plymouth Country Club in Plymouth Meeting. Dinner is at 6 PM and features music by the Paul Moore and Friends band with comic Joe Conklin. The event raises money to offset medical and therapy expenses for 9-year-old Ciara Higgins, a fourth grader at St. Philip Neri School in Lafayette Hill, who was born with a form of cerebral palsy.
The same day, the Claddagh Fund, a nonprofit founded by Ken Casey of the Boston Celtic punk band, The Dropkick Murphys, is holding its first annual Celebrity Golf Tournament. The foundation raises money for underfunded charities in Boston and now in Philadelphia.
There’s plenty more coming up this month, including the Irish Fall Festival in Cape May, Blackthorn in Sea Isle, and a variety of Irish events at Villanova. Check your local listings—and by that I mean our calendar.
Check out our photos from Singers’ Night at the Irish Center.