Everyone who is anyone in the Philadelphia area traditional Irish music scene knows of, has met, or been influenced or encouraged by the late accordion player Kevin McGillian.
McGillian, born in County Tyrone, passed away April 1 at the age of 90. To say he is deeply missed is a vast understatement.
However, his music lives on this Saturday night as Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann’s Delaware Valley Chapter hosts its Kevin McGillian Ceili at the MacSwiney Club, 510 Greenwood Avenue in Jenkintown, Pa.
Coincidentally, McGillian, who came to the United States in 1954, met Mary, his wife, at a wedding at the MacSwiney Club.
“Kevin McGillian was simply one of the most influential Irish traditional musicians in our area,” says Delaware Valley Comhaltas (pronounced COAL-tus) chair Katherine Ball-Weir. “He came over from Ireland as a young man already playing the music and quickly became involved in the Philadelphia area Irish music scene. He was a beautiful player, and he became known for playing every dance hall, ceili or Irish event where music was involved for many, many years. His wife Mary also plays accordion. He influenced countless musicians, young and old alike, and he was just a wonderful, lovely man. He drew people to him, and we were all blessed to have him as a mentor and friend.”
For his contribution to Irish music, he was inducted into the Comhaltas Mid-Atlantic Region’s Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2015, the local chapter of Comhaltas honored him with a lifetime achievement award.
“I’m really pleased that Kevin’s memory will be carried on through this ceili, but also, of course, by the hundreds of people who knew and loved him and his music. He just touched so many lives, so I’m pleased we can offer this.”
The Comhaltas Delaware Valley chapter is part of a worldwide network of provinces, regions and chapters, all dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Irish music, dance, language and culture. The global CCE hosts the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann—the world championships of traditional Irish music—every summer in Ireland.
The McGillian Ceili is an annual event, always held in October. If you’ve never been to a ceili before, you’re in for a treat. Consider it one of the best ways to begin to immerse yourself in the Irish culture.
McGillian’s sons, John (accordion) and Jimmy (tenor banjo) will preside over the music, with help from friends across the river, multi-instrumentalists Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, and other fine area Irish musicians. You can come to listen or, if you’re of a mind to, dance to the music. A ceili typically attracts dancers, and if you’re interested, someone is always willing to teach you the steps.
There will be snacks, coffee and tea, with a bar available. The ceili starts at 7:30 p.m. and ends at 11. The cost of admission is $10 for CCE members, and $13 for non-members.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley chapter website at http://cce-dv.com.
(Photo by Denise Foley)