It would be hard to imagine a place greener than the University of Pennsylvania’s sweeping 92-acre expanse of trees and spectacular plantings, Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill. So it’s only fitting that the arboretum should host a special Irish Day—a day chock full of Irish culture including music, dance, history, and even a sampling of beer.
Irish Day takes place on Sunday, May 5. All of the festivities are included in the price of admission.
“We did an abbreviated version last year,” says special events coordinator Michelle Conners. “We did it on a Monday, when not as many people were able to take part.” It was largely a special outing for the Irish Immigration Center’s senior luncheon group.
The idea came out of a conversation former arboretum director Paul Meyer had with Conners’ co-worker Frank Hollingsworth, who is affiliated with the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—otherwise known as the Irish Center, among other organizations. “We were talking at our holiday dinner in 2017,” says Hollingsworth. “He found out I was involved in the Irish community and within two seconds he said, ‘We need to do an Irish day.’ I said I could help him, and there’s where it began.”
The arboretum is always open to new ideas, adds Conners, and trying to welcome different communities. “We’re always trying to connect people, plants and place. If you have someone like Frank, who has lots of connections, it makes the whole thing easier.”
The celebration begins at 11 a.m. with a performance by The Next Generation, an ensemble of young traditional Irish musicians led by Kathy DeAngelo, Dennis Gormley and Chris Brennan Hagy. The group will play tunes below the arboretum’s Rose Garden.
At 12 noon, the Rince Ri School of Irish Dance will perform at the Haha Wall. Following that, at 1 p.m., the Watson brothers—they’re both bagpipers and historians—will march down to Baxter Circle (next to the Garden Railway), where they will give a talk focusing on the findings detailed in their book about the mysterious deaths of 57 railroad workers in 1832 at Duffy’s Cut in Malvern.
Also starting at 1, and continuing until 3, representatives of Doylestown Brewery will be providing samples of an Irish red ale called Duffy’s Cut, with six-packs for sale. All proceeds benefit the Duffy’s Cut project.
Finally, at 2 p.m., traditional Irish fiddler Hollis Payer and accordionist Rob Curto will perform below the Rose Garden.
There might even be a surprise or two, says Conners.
One of the great things about Morris, she adds, is that there are so many places that naturally lend themselves to performance spaces.
“Like I said, we’re always trying to connect people with our place and our mission,” she says. “And so by offering different events, we hope to attract more people and that, once they get here and see how wonderful it is and how special it is, they’ll want to come back.”
Morris Arboretum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price of admission is $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $10 for children 3-17, and free for kids under 3. Members are admitted free. For more information about the arboretum and its programming, visit: http://www.morrisarboretum.org