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Jeff Meade

Arts, Music

Local Drummer on a Roll With a Pandemic-Inspired Musical Project

When the great covid-19 shutdown began, percussionist Sean J. Kennedy went back to school.

Way back.

A Lower Gwynedd resident and band director at Sandy Run Middle School in the Upper Dublin School District, Kennedy is also an award-winning author of percussion texts whose work has been performed at Carnegie Hall and a working musician who has performed with many orchestras over the years.

One of the first tunes he learned as a kid was “Downfall of Paris,” dating back to the 1700s, said to be one of Ben Franklin’s favorites. It’s taught to young drummers everywhere because it blends many, if not most, of the basic drum rudiments that form the building blocks of percussion. Rudimental drum exercises like the paradiddle—right left right right-left right left left—and rolls. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

As the Philly area goes green, beginning to emerge from statewide pandemic restrictions, the very good news is that your favorite watering hole or restaurant might have opened already, at least on a limited basis, and even begun to expand from the outdoors to the indoors. Same as the good old pre-Covid days? Nope, but we’ll bet it’s going to be plenty good enough for those of us who have missed our normal routines … and our favorite dish or brew.

All of them are taking the state-mandated precautions—for example, requiring masks of patrons while waiting and when not at the table; taking the temperatures of staffers before each shift; requiring staffers to wear masks at all times; and spacing tables six feet apart. Some require reservations; some don’t. A few place time limits on how long you can stay, or restrictions on how many people can be seated at a table. And you’ll find more variations on that theme, all designed to keep staff and patrons safe. Hours may be subject to change.

Some of these places have entertainment lined up. You might even find happy hour, karaoke, quizzo, or a guy with a guitar.

What follows is by no means an exhaustive list. We’d advise you to check with your local pub, bar or restaurant to find out their status. Those that haven’t opened up yet often have pickup and delivery available. For that matter, even if the following are now offering street or patio dining, they’re usually also offering pickup and delivery, as they have for weeks.

For now, here’s what we’ve got: Continue Reading

News, People

Remembering Muriel Prickitt

Irish dancers and musicians will have no trouble remembering Muriel Prickitt, who passed away at age 87 on June 7 at Samaritan Hospice in Voorhees, N.J ., following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. She was simply everywhere and had a hand in virtually everything relating to Irish music and dance.

An exquisite set dancer and legendarily fast accordion player, this force of nature was known by all. She is mourned—and celebrated—by friends and relations almost past counting.

One of those who honors her memory is Gerry Buckley, of Ardagh in County Limerick, Ireland. Buckley was a founding member of the Delaware Valley chapter of Irish music, dance and cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. In 1989, the newly wed Gerry and wife Fiona moved to Voorhees, N.J., where they met Muriel Prickitt through the set dance community.

“My wife was a set dancer before she moved over,” Buckley recalls. “She was looking for someplace where she could go set dancing, and she met Muriel and (Prickitt’s companion) Tom Quinn. I forget where they actually met, but they got to talking and Muriel mentioned that she was going for set dance lessons in Jenkintown. She said, ‘Why don’t you come along?’ and that was it.” Continue Reading

Music

Pandemic Inspires Jamison Fiddler Alice Marie to Push the Bounds of Creativity

If you see Jamison Celtic Rock fiddler Alice Marie busking outside a Target, don’t surprised.

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.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week (Quarantine Edition)

We’ve got a ways before we can return to the way things were, but for now, many of our favorite musicians are coming up with some socially distanced accommodations.

Up to this point, you’ve only been able to hear them through their Facebook concerts. And some, like Seamus Kelleher, have been doing concerts from their back porch or in parking lots.

But if you’re jonesing for the tunes of your favorite musicians in person, you’ll have to wait till the end of the week.

However, there is one Facebook concert (among the many lately) that you’ll definitely want to catch.

You can listen to Jamison Celtic Rock on Saturday—the full band, for the first time in weeks—streaming live on their Facebook page. They’ll be set up the requisite six feet apart, streaming live from a condo in North Wildwood, and they’ll play your favorite tunes and make you think about better times. The show starts at 5 p.m. Continue Reading

Music

Pausing to Refresh During the Pandemic, and Baking Up Some Creative Alternatives

Shannon Lambert-Ryan bustles about her home kitchen, her fixings for Finnish ribbon cookies—including a huge bag of Heckers flour—at the ready. The mixing bowl sits upon a table at just the right height for her tow-headed toddler son, Liam—which for some, might seem a recipe for disaster.

Not so. Welcome to Lambert-Ryan’s periodic Facebook show, one of a series called “Baking with Babies.”

Video camera duly focused in on the action, Liam helps out enthusiastically. Guided by Lambert-Ryan’s hand, he scoops a cup of flour into the bowl. “1-2-3,” he says.

He seems inordinately interested in adding vanilla, which the recipe calls for, but not yet. With a wee one’s level of patience, he holds and shakes a bottle kept in his little kitchen, waiting for the opportunity to add it.

At one point, he “cracks” some toy eggs from his kitchen into the mixture. A little later on, he scoops up some dough with his little fingers and helps Lambert-Ryan squish it unceremoniously onto the baking sheet. Continue Reading

Music, People

Seamus Kelleher: Singing a New Song, and the Message is Hope

Hope, optimism and resilience can be rare commodities in the age of coronavirus.

You might not expect any of the above from an Irish musician whose last booking came just three days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Like so many Irish musicians, Seamus Kelleher—a Galway-born virtuoso guitarist-singer-songwriter and alum of the celebrated band Blackthorn—lost work when the pandemic triggered state-mandated shutdowns at all the pubs, taverns and clubs where musicians typically find work during St. Patrick’s month.

“I did the Green Parrot in Newtown, Bucks County, on the 14th of March,” Kelleher recalls. “That was the last. It was an afternoon show. And it was surreal because at that stage there wasn’t a definite decision made to close everything down. It was just drip, drip, drip. But the owner and staff could tell. There was a real sense of impending doom. It was a very strange gig, and we just barely made the best of it, as we always do, but there was the sense that things could be changing, and that was very sobering for me.”

Right up until that day, Kelleher had been extremely busy. In fact, he explains, he was on target to have the best year of his solo career. In January, he embarked on a cross-country tour that included Colorado, Indiana and Kansas City. After that, he finished a 23-day tour of Florida before returning to Philadelphia for March madness. “I had 200 shows on the books, all across the country,” he says. To then only get halfway through March before everything closed down, he says, “was like having the rug pulled out from under me … but I wasn’t alone.”

Other local Irish musicians have regular jobs—assuming they still have them—and music is a sideline. For about 15 years, that was the case with Kelleher, who was employed as a speech writer in the corporate world, penning addresses for the presidents of Lincoln Financial and Drexel University, among others. But for the past five years, Kelleher has been committed to music full-time. But now, as a musician with no conventional day job, losing work had an impact. He continues to perform “porch concerts” live to Facebook, and they’ve been helpful, but Kelleher has been unexpectedly fortunate in another way.

During the past five years, Kelleher has devoted roughly two-thirds of his time purely to the performance of music, a lifelong passion dating back to the days when he was opening for the likes of Thin Lizzy. The remaining third of his career he devotes to motivational speaking. And he has quite the inspirational story to tell.

“I suffer from depression and anxiety and I’m a recovering alcoholic,” Kelleher explains, matter-of-factly. “So my motivational speech really talks about my journey. I incorporate some music into it, but the idea is to give hope for those who struggle with mental health and addiction. I also talk about suicide prevention. That’s a big, big part of what I talk about. I’ve been doing that the past three years, doing more and more of it.”

On March 22, Kelleher received a call out of the blue from Texas A&M College of Medicine. “I had spoken there a few times,” he says. “The last time was two years ago. And they asked me if I would talk to faculty and staff because a lot of their people were just starting to really stress out—as you can imagine. So I did a Zoom meeting for several hundred of their faculty and staff, and some of the students. Then, I did a few more meetings for them. After that, they asked me whether I would consider teaching a two-week class for the med students on mental wellness because the topic that I talked about was mental health in times of crisis.” Continue Reading

Music

Irish Singer Raymond Coleman: Taking the Good with the Bad

The St. Patrick’s month schedule was busy for singer Raymond Coleman right up until March 16—and then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the bottom fell out for Irish musicians everywhere.

Coleman had gigs scheduled as the clock wound down, with pubs, clubs and bars closing everywhere in the Delaware Valley and nearby.

On that last day, he recalls, the Jersey pubs were closing at 8 p.m., and he had a job scheduled at a bar in West Chester, but that was canceled.

At the last possible moment, someone called with a booking.

“The last gig was at the Holy City Publick House in Gloucester, N.J.,” he recalls. “They called me and said, ‘Do you want to play?’ I said, why not. I may as well get that last gig in before God knows when we’re going to be play again. Continue Reading