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Jeff Meade

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Welcome back!

We’ve got a couple of festivals for you—one relatively small, another one about as big as it gets—and a few other events you might want to take in.

By the way, do whatever you can to support live music—even if “live” means live streamed.

Here’s what’s up:

Friday, August 14

Songstress Mary Courtney is back for her weekly Friday concert, live streamed to Facebook at 6 p.m. Catch it here: https://www.facebook.com/MorningStarBand

Also at 6, you can join Caitlin Finley and Will Woodson for a cocktail hour (and a half). Catch the live stream at www.facebook.com/woodsonandfinley/live.

Raymond Coleman, one of the hardest-working peeps in local Irish music, shows up at The Wharf, 708 West Burk Avenue in Wildwood, starting at 6:30. Always a good show.

Friday, August 14 – Sunday, August 16

It’s time for the Philadelphia Folk Festival! Unlike previous Philly Folk Festivals, this one will be streamed live for all the obvious reasons. Curse you, pandemic.

However, the lineup is still just as appealing as it always is, featuring more than a few Irish and Celtic acts, including the always exciting Téada, Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers, The Henry Girls (fabulous), Kris Drever, Breabach, and Philly’s own John Byrne. Continue Reading

Music

Review: Órla Fallon’s “Lore”

Around the time the coronavirus pandemic hit, Órla Fallon—a founding member of Celtic Woman—sneaked a new CD in just under the wire.

In some ways, the timing could not have been worse. Artists typically tour after an album release to promote their new recordings. Obviously, that wasn’t in the cards. But from another viewpoint, the timing was fortuitous—for all of us who could use a little cheering up.

Fallon released “Lore,” a collection of 12 tunes, in late July. Many should be recognizable to her fans and to Irish music aficionados generally. She says she chose them because each one meant something to her, and that fondness shines through each and every one.

You’ll hear old standards like “Galway Bay,” “She Moved Through the Fair,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Siúil a Rún” and “Two Sisters”—all of which should take your mind off the time of covid and redirect your thoughts to the timeless hills, valleys, beaches, islands and cliffs of Ireland. Continue Reading

Genealogy, History, People

In Memoriam: William Brennan

Above: William Brennan, left, and Sean McMenamin, point out some items of interest in the Irish Center’s library to Irish Ambassador Michael Collins.

Frank Hollingsworth, a board member of the Commodore Barry Arts and Cultural Center, recalls a time when William Brennan was a guest at Villanova for a ceremony celebrating the digitization of the Commodore John Barry papers.

About 25 people were there, including the chairman of the board of Ireland’s County Wexford, Lori Dillard Rech, president of Independence Seaport Museum, and Villanova President Father Peter M. Donohue.

One by one, guests were invited up to the dais to give a brief talk about the historic event. When Brennan was asked to say a few words, Hollingsworth recalls, he stood up and offered these comments: “I think just about everything that can be said has been said. I don’t have anything additional.”

And then, Hollingsworth recalls with a chuckle, Brennan sat down.

Ironically, there was probably no one in the room who knew more about Barry than William “Billy” Brennan. His knowledge of Irish history, and in particular, the story of the Irish in Philadelphia, was encyclopedic, rivaling that of the late Dennis Clark. He was a keeper of the flame.

Brennan passed away July 28 at the age of 83. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Some of what’s on this week—but not everything—is virtual. That’s the way things go these pandemic days. But that doesn’t mean these events are not still fun. (Of course they are!)

So here is what’s happening:

Friday, August 7

Sweeney’s Philadelphia, 13639 Philmont Avenue, hosts ELEVEN starting at 6:30 p.m. out on the outdoor patio.

The First Friday Traditional Irish Music Session, typically held in The Before Times at the Irish Center, tonight goes completely virtual via Zoom, starting at 8 p.m. To take part, direct message Hollis Payer from her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hollis.payer. Continue Reading

Music

Exploring “Lore” … Interview with Orla Fallon

Best known as a founding member of Celtic Woman, Orla Fallon has long forged her own musical path. An accomplished singer and harpist, Fallon is out with a new collection of familiar tunes—tunes she has chosen both because they have meant something in her life and because they are likely to resonate with her fans.

The new CD, “Lore,” was released in late July. We recently chatted—about as socially distanced as you can possibly be, with the interviewer in Philly and the interviewee across the Atlantic in Ireland. And we discussed the new recording and the thought that went into it.

We also talked about the pandemic, and how “Lore” is likely to ease those Covid-19 anxieties.

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

The summer fun just keeps on coming, close to home and down at the beach—and, of course, virtually.

Here’s what’s what:

Friday, July 31

You can catch the glorious Mary Courtney live on Facebook again this week at 6 p.m. She’s a veritable treasure trove of tunes and one of the most stirring voices in Irish music today.

Also at 6 p.m.—you’ll have to make a touch decision here—flutist Will Woodson and fiddler Caitlin Finley, who hails from Philly, host a cocktail hour (and a half) live on Facebook. Catch their act here. (Video below.)

Saturday, August 1

Hard to believe we’re heading into August already. We have one event you can watch from the comfort of your own air-conditioned home. Barleyjuice appears on the lineup for a concert from this year’s virtual Dublin Irish Festival. The show starts at 2 p.m. on Facebook.

Later in the day, Philly’s very own Jamison unPlugged hits the stage at the North Shore Bar & Kitchen, 301-303 New York Avenue in North Wildwood, starting at 5 p.m. Contact North Shore for reservations. Outdoor seating is limited. 609-551-4112.

One quick note: A drive-in concert for Saturday night, featuring The John Byrne Band at People’s Light in Malvern, is sold out. Continue Reading

Arts, Genealogy, History

The Galvin Girls: A Tale of Irish Sisters

Emily Schmidt

In some ways, viewed from the standpoint of so many immigrant stories, this one is unremarkable.

Five sisters, all from the Galvin family, from a dairy farm in the little town Clounmacon, five miles outside Listowel, County Kerry, emigrated to the United States—Philadelphia, to be specific. They sought new lives in what likely seemed by comparison to their desperately poor homeland like the land of plenty.

The Galvin girls followed the usual practice: One sister moved to the U.S., saved her money, and sent for the next—and so on until they were all ensconced in Philadelphia, four of them working 10 hours a day, five hard days a week, in the Apex Hosiery Factory at 5th and Luzerne, the fifth a hairdresser.

But everything changed not long after Bridie Galvin moved to the city. A few weeks after her arrival, the Stock Market crashed. The oldest sister, Anna, had been investing—wisely, it seemed at the time—but after the crash, the sisters’ fortunes changed.

As with so many Irish immigrant stories, the details of the sisters’ lives from that challenging time weren’t discussed from one generation to the next. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

For the first time in a long time, we have quite the full slate for you. A bit of it is virtual, all of it is appropriately distanced.

We’ll start with a virtual concert that you are going to want to watch tonight (Friday, July 24): the fabulous Mary Courtney. You can catch her on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MorningStarBand

You can tip her during the performance via Venmo and PayPal. (Please do. Support our Irish musicians! Details during the show.) Starts at 6 p.m. Video at the end of the story so you can see why we’re crazy about her.

Also tonight, see The Rollers live at Sweeney’s Philly, 13639 Philmont Avenue in Philadelphia. They’ll be playing decades of your favorite tunes. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Continue Reading