The Donegal Ball has its Mary from Dungloe.
The Mayo Ball has its Miss Mayo.
Philadelphia’s Sons and Daughters of Derry just might have their Frankenstein. Or Dracula. Or any number of attendees in full Halloween regalia.
It’s no coincidence that the Derry Society has chosen to have a Halloween Ball and Costume Contest, scheduled for October 27 at 8 p.m. at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—aka the Irish Center.
Author, journalist and broadcaster Jude Collins visited the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Philadelphia Sunday to give a talk on his new book, Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew (Mercier Press).
The book is a collection of interviews with prominent figures in recent Northern Irish history, all reflecting on the late Martin McGuinness, prominent Irish republican Sinn Féin politician, a warrior turned peacemaker, who became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
McGuiness died in 2017.
Among those interviewed are prominent unionists, including Eileen Paisley (widow of Ian Paisley), Michael McGimpsey and John McAllister, peace talks chairman U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and friends and allies such as Gerry Adams and Martina Anderson.
Was McGuinness, as some thought, a terrorist who somehow became a different man? Or was he, as others believed, always the same man—a man who never wavered in his pursuit of the same goal but who, when the time came, simply embraced a new approach?
Collins digs deep to find the answers to this and many other questions. He sat with us for a brief interview preceding his talk.
Here’s what he had to say.
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.
The 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which ultimately led to the liberation of Ireland after centuries of British rule—in all but six counties, of course—has been celebrated proudly in Philadelphia with parades and speeches. That historic event is about to be observed again in another way, through the words of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey—and through the eyes of the Dublin underclass.
From May 26 through June 11 at Plays and Players Theatre, the Irish Heritage Theatre is presenting O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars,” the final episode in O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy. (Details and tickets here.)
IHT presented “The Shadow of a Gunman” two years ago, and “Juno and the Paycock” last year. It’s no accident that “The Plough and the Stars” is being presented in this, the centennial year. According to director Peggy Mecham, that was always part of the plan. The last two acts of the four-act play take place during the Rising, as experienced by Dublin tenement dwellers.
Mecham took a break during rehearsal to have a chat about O’Casey in general and “The Plough and Stars” in particular.
Celtic Woman’s Destiny World Tour is coming to Reading, Pa., June 18, 2016, at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading. If you’re willing to drive a little farther, you can also catch them at Eisenhower Auditorium in University Park the night before.
We interviewed singer Máiréad Carlin, one of the four current members of the troupe, which began in 2004 and took off from there.
Máiréad is classically trained, with a background in opera and folk music. She’s well known in her native Northern Ireland for many things, not the least of which is her duet with Glee’s Damian McGinty, singing Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” celebrating Derry’s designation as City of Culture in 2013.
She joined Celtic Woman in August of the same year.
We spoke to Máiréad about her career, about going Celtic Woman, and about music generally and what it means to her. We started by asking her: Why is the world still so enamored of Irish music and dance, more than 20 years after Riverdance.
Here’s what she had to say.
Longtime Philadelphia Ceili Group member Jim McGill shared an old program with Mick Moloney before his concert with Robbie O’Connell and Jimmy Keane Saturday night at the Philadelphia Irish Center/Commodore Barry Club.
I didn’t get a look at it, but it was from the first time Mick played at the center, many years ago. It was a photo, of course, of a much younger and bushier Mick Moloney. O’Connell had a look at it and he drew laughs from the audience when he described Moloney as looking like “Sasquatch with a banjo.”
That’s kind of how the evening went. A concert with these three masters of the trade is an informal affair. They all had stories to tell—moonshine and the Tennessee World’s Fair figured prominently in one particularly quirky tale—and even though the three of them were up on stage in the bright lights and the rest of us were sitting in the ballroom in the dark, it felt like a much smaller room, with friends sharing gossip, a few well-worn tunes and a drink or two.
Better to show you than to tell you. So what we have is three videos and a small collection of photos from the concert. Hope you like them.
In some ways, we’ve entered a post-St. Patrick’s Day lull. In other ways, with the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, we’re heading into another period of celebration, with multiple events. You can read more about them here.
As for the rest of this week, a reminder that we’re up to our keisters in traditional Irish music sessions. You can get details on many of them on our calendar. With the exception of the sessions conspicuously not on our calendar. (Hey, you guys: free advertising! Get off your keisters and post them!) BTW, “keister” is ancient Irish Gaelic. It means “buns.” (OK, now we’re totally making this up.)
Here’s what else to look for this week—and, by the way, the second one is a biggie for you Celtic Thunder fans. Of which there are literally herds.
Arriving to a water cannon salute from the Northern Ireland Fire Service, the Philadelphia Police & Fire Pipes & Drums band is on the ground in Ireland, and getting set for the thrill of a lifetime.
Philly Police and Fire is the only foreign band invited to take part in one of the official commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising, to be held Easter Monday in Ashbourne, County Meath.
Thirty members of the band, all cops and firefighters, are making the trip, said Philly paramedic Mark O’Donnell, the band master, music director and pipe major, in an interview Thursday, just a few hours before the band’s departure out of Newark.