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Jeff Meade

Music, People

Frank Daly of Jamison Celtic Rock: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Frank Daly and his band Jamison Celtic Rock were on tour in Florida when the novel coronavirus first began to hit home.

“We had done the Cape Coral Festival the first weekend in March, and then a few of the guys flew back home,” Daly recalls. “Alice Marie (the band’s fiddler), Kyle Walter (drummer) and I stayed the week, and then we were going to play the St. Augustine festival the following weekend. The other three guys were going to fly back down for that weekend. And we were hearing stuff from people back in Philly that things were going to get bad and they might shut things down—and there might be a quarantine. And you know, we’re down there in Florida and on the beaches and playing gigs in Fort Lauderdale, where there was literally no mention of it at all.”

Then came word that the St. Augustine festival was off. That, Daly says, was a blow because it would have been the first time Jamison had performed there, and they were really looking forward to it. “It was kind of a smack in the face,” he says. “Like, this was real.” Continue Reading

Music, News

The Pipes and Drums Are Silenced, But They’ll Play Again

For the members of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes & Drums, the most disappointing impact of the coronavirus shutdown came just days after the March 13 shooting death of Philadelphia Police SWAT Cpl. James O’Connor.

No obligation is more sacred to them than playing as a band in tribute to a fallen police officer or firefighter who suffers a line-of-duty death. That solemn tradition was off the table as the pandemic triggered the shutdown of all but essential services, together with the directive to avoid large public gatherings.

Mark O’Donnell is the unit’s Pipe Major. He’s also a Philadelphia Fire Service Paramedic. Under normal circumstances, the band would have turned out in force for a police officer’s funeral. “But it had to be postponed,” he says. “I’ve just never seen anything like this. We’ve always had that tradition.” Continue Reading

News

Irish Community Relief Effort: Coming Together While Staying Apart

With the notable exception of those heroic souls who are working through the coronavirus pandemic—from health care professionals to cops and medics to grocery store clerks—all the rest of us are, or should be, keeping a safe distance from each other.

As a consequence of the need for physical distancing, millions have been laid off or furloughed from their jobs. Some people were hanging on by their fingernails as it was, before the outbreak. Now, those same people are—and there simply is no better word for it—desperate.

“We know that people normally have enough to get them through a couple of weeks, a month at most, says Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the Delaware County-based Irish Diaspora Center. “If you look at studies across America, the vast majority of people living in the United States don’t have enough to pay a $400 emergency expense. So that says, we’re living from paycheck to paycheck, and we recognize that losing that paycheck is going to be tough.”

In the case of the Philadelphia-area Irish community, many of those people aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance,  government food assistance or other benefits because of the types of visas they hold—or simply because they are undocumented. They’ve slipped through the cracks. Continue Reading

News, People

Friendly Sons Covid-19 Relief Fund Comes to the Assistance of Local Irish, Irish-American Families

The coronavirus pandemic has cost a lot of people their jobs and, therefore, their income. That’s had an impact on everything from mortgage and rent payments, utilities and loans to one extremely essential item: food.

People who never before needed to take advantage of the help of others suddenly find themselves struggling to keep their families fed.

Locally, the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick has long been known for its charitable endeavors. Now, they’ve established a Covid-19 relief fund, available to local Irish and Irish-American families fighting to keep body and soul together.

Friendly Sons President Ryan M. Heenan explains.

“Typically, our benevolence budget includes a lot of scholarships to local universities to help students travel to Ireland and things like that,” Heenan says, “but it became pretty apparent that a lot of those travel plans are going to be pretty restricted or canceled this year. So we made a conscious effort to dedicate those funds and continue to fund-raise toward the goal of food assistance.” Continue Reading

News, People

Healthy First Aid for Hard-Working Nurses

Not to put too fine a point on it, but nurses and other health care professionals are working hard, often to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, putting their own health at risk, as they do battle on the front lines of a coronavirus war.

There’s probably not a person who doesn’t appreciate their sacrifice and professionalism, but Lorilee Stearn, events manager for Paddy Whacks in Northeast Philly, is putting her appreciation into action.

Together with her family members—her husband, brother and three kids—she is putting together care packages for area nurses. Stearn, a local representative for a national health and wellness products firm, Arbonne, is putting together the ingredients for a refreshing respite, including energy and electrolyte hydration powders, packaged in little tubes, along with protein powder packs and protein bars. They seal them up in gallon-sized plastic bags, and they make them available to nurses from the surrounding area. Institutions so far include Pennsylvania Hospital, Jefferson-Torresdale, Cooper Echo Lab, Jefferson-Bucks, and the Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center. Continue Reading

Audio, Audios, Music

“Scatter the Light”—An Interview with Fiddler Eileen Ivers


Premier Irish fiddler Eileen Ivers has released a stunning new album, “Scatter the Light.” We recently spoke with her about the album, the uplifting messages behind each of the tracks, and the uncanny timing of the album’s hopeful, empowering outlook.

Irish Philly: So what inspired you to compose this new album, Scattered the Light?

Eileen: Sort of various things. It came slowly, as an extension I think of even the last record I did, which was called “Beyond the Bog Road,” which really looked at Irish music and its journey, interacting with other roots elements and really forming the roots of Americana music and bluegrass and French Canadian. So it was a very in-depth record. And then after the record came out and all the research and just the touring with that, I started writing more in a certain vein and realized it was all sort of connected with this very upbeat, positive attitude. And I think also coming out of our joyful Christmas shows, I noticed that there was a wonderful sentiment that was happening when those shows would occur, which I loved. And I remember thinking to myself, why can’t this be carried through the year? This feeling of optimism and joy and really looking for those moments? And that’s when the penny dropped, so to speak.

And I felt, you know what, this is a way to connect the dots. And anytime I do a CD, I think I maybe sometimes overthink it because it does take me a little while between projects, but I think it’s such a major statement when you do release a brand-new piece of work like this because it doesn’t come lightly. And I really try to be very thoughtful about it. In short, it really was all of these tracks linking together in a very thematic way, which made sense, which made a statement. And therefore I did call it “Scatter the Light.”

Irish Philly: Well it’s funny that you should mention overthinking it. Because it didn’t come across that way. It really came across as more from the heart than from the head is if there was no conscious decision-making behind it at all, except that you’re going from your soul and your heart.

Eileen: Thank you. No, it’s funny, it really was happening in that way. But when you start to look at a collection of tunes in the body of work, then you, it’s funny, I realized, wow, there is this theme that ran through it, which is the thoughtful part I think of it. But the knee jerk reaction was interesting where I was just writing these tunes. It started with “Shine,” which is the lead track. And also feeling like I wanted those two gospely, faith-filled songs as part of this. And then these tunes just kept coming. “Road Trip.” very quickly. “Hold My Hand” came in a shot. It was literally looking at this picture—and again, heart took over and those words just came right out. And so it is interesting how music does come at different times in people’s lives and thankfully, this did all come and it’s a record I’m super proud of. Continue Reading

News, People

Irish Restaurant Owner Crafts Masks to Help Protect Health Care Workers

Health care providers everywhere face a shortage of personal protective equipment—including masks.

A lot of people are stepping in to fill the breach with homemade masks, including Laurie McGarrity of Havertown, owner of The Hearth, a popular Irish eatery opened only six months ago.

She became aware of the dire need through contacts on social media, including a lot of nurses. McGarrity is a longtime crafter, so responding to the need was right up her alley.

“A lot of my nurse friends said on social media that they are reusing their masks, or they were running low,” McGarrity says. “So for me it was one of those things where, if you’re able to do it and you’re home anyway, you might as well help. I had all the supplies here, so I just figured I’d chip in and do whatever I could.”

Using patterns she found on the internet, McGarrity began sewing the masks early this week in a variety of brightly colored cotton re-washable fabric. The patterns were published by a health organization. Some masks are big enough to cover the preferred N95 masks, and others are smaller to fit the faces of nurses and other providers who have no masks at all. Continue Reading

Audio, Music, People

Still Much to Celebrate: Celtic Woman’s Máiréad Carlin Reflects on New Album

Celtic Woman was scheduled to perform in Philadelphia toward the end of this month, but then—well, you know what happened. With the onset of the novel coronavirus, the tour was canceled, and so went our latest chance to take in one of the biggest and longest-lasting groups in world Irish entertainment.

Fortunately, we now have a new CW album: “Celebration: 15 Years of Music & Magic,” featuring the 15 performers who have comprised Celtic Woman over the years.

We recently interviewed Máiréad Carlin, a seven-year member of Celtic Woman from Northern Ireland, about the abrupt end to the tour, but—more to the point—the new album’s capacity for comfort in trying times.

Irish Philly: We were looking forward to seeing you in Philadelphia. Quite a disappointment, but understandable circumstances, I’m sure.

Máiréad: Absolutely. I mean, my goodness, I think it was a shock for everybody. The news trickled through the world. I think over the few weeks that we were out there and we genuinely didn’t realize the magnitude of what was about to come. And we really only find out ourselves the day before we announced that we were going to go home and have to postpone the tour. It was such a disappointment because for us, this is a celebration. Continue Reading