She’s half-serious about it, but for most Irish musicians who lost a lot of work in March and afterward, she’s doing whatever she can to keep body and soul together.
March is Christmas for Irish musicians in the area. It’s when they earn a significant amount of money. The coronavirus pandemic put an end to that.
It was no different for Alice Marie, who also makes a living as a jazz violinist and singer, and whatever else requires the talents of a gifted string player.
“I was on tour with Jamison in Florida, she recalls. “Then our tour was cut short and we had to come back due to Covid-19. So we came back and we were able to get a gig together at Currans Tacony, and that was our last show. It was a big night, and after that, we were pretty much quarantined. Our last major activity was in March. I had at least 20 shows canceled in March, so that was crazy.”
Technically, it wasn’t her last live gig. She played for the Easter Triduum at St. Anastasia’s in Newtown Square. “We were all spread out, and we did a virtual Mass,” she says. “So I guess that was kind of my last hurrah.”
Since then, every performance has been virtual. Over the Memorial Day weekend, she got together with the other members of Jamison for a socially distanced Facebook concert from North Wildwood.
On May 17, the band also took part in a virtual concert called Romanza Festivale, out of Florida. It was a merger of the St. Augustine Festival, which the band had been scheduled to play, and another festival. They were on the bill with the likes of Albannach, the Dublin City Ramblers and Seven Nations. “That was fantastic,” she recalls. “That was a lot of fun. There were a lot of people watching.”
Recently, she performed a virtual show for Ridley Library.
If you’re on Facebook, you know she’s been presenting frequent live concerts at least once a week. One was with Jamison front man Frank Daly, another with local Irish singer Raymond McGroary, and a collection of tunes for local graduates together with Bill Monahan. She’s also done a collaboration with her sister Sandy Quirk. She collects tips, many of them quite generous, on PayPal and Venmo. She’s had fans mail her cash and checks. And she’s received many notes of appreciation. “It’s been very uplifting,” she says. “I’ll never take live music for granted again.”
Her repertoire extends well beyond Irish music. In fact, she performs jazz and folk, classical and rock. She loves it all. She’s been doing a lot more besides, for example, selling her album, a collection of original tunes, called Lady Torch.
“Like I said, I lost a lot of money in March, so I’ve just done a lot of live streaming,” she says. “I’ve sold a lot of CDs. I actually even sold instruments on eBay. I have a ton of instruments. I have a lot of other violins that I can sell, including an electric violin. I have done some virtual lessons on Zoom, because I am a certified teacher—everything from fiddle to voice to viola. I will just message people with different pieces of music to work on and they can print it out, so we’re both looking at the same sheet music. We’ll go piece by piece and scale by scale and learn the violin together or voice or whatever we’re working on. So, yeah, I’m trying to do everything I can. You just have to think outside the box and get creative.”
But of all her enterprises, it’s the live streaming that gets Alice Marie most excited and engaged.
“I think people are really enjoying the audience interaction,” she says. “I can take requests from people. I can do toasts. I can do birthday shout-outs to people and even bring guests on now, which is awesome. Facebook is fantastic for that.”
Facebook has also enabled her to make connections with fans that she might not have before while performing live shows. “I’m getting to know the names of lots of the fans who came out,” she says. “I always knew their faces, but I didn’t know their names—so that is good in a lot of ways.”
As with many other musicians who stream live to Facebook, she’s also seeing her audience base expand. “Because I played in Barleyjuice, and Barleyjuice traveled all over the country, I have fans from North Carolina, California—all over,” she says. “So now I’ve got different fans crossing over and following me. So I’ve got people watching me from all over the country, which is cool.”
So obviously, no one has seen the last of Alice Marie—far from it. Stay tuned. And maybe you’ll see her at Target.