The nascent supergroup Girsa and the singular singer Mary Courtney sent their audience home happy Saturday night, providing music of the high caliber most people have come to expect from the Ceili Group Festival’s closing concert.
Most people wouldn’t take an encounter with a vicious predator and turn it into music—especially music of such a high quality that it merits exposure at Carnegie Hall.
Sean Kennedy isn’t most people.
An accomplished percussionist and Upper Dublin School District music teacher, Kennedy recalls the moment back in August 2001 when he was snorkeling off the coast of Maui and he noticed a barracuda swimming alongside him, just a few feet away.
Organizer Bill Reid kept the rain out and the Irish in, all of them gathered under the big tent behind the Cannstatter Club in Northeast Philadelphia.
Saturday was the first of two days celebrating all things Irish, with a raft of performers, including Deirdre Reilly,the Bogside Rogues, Belfast Connection, The Hooligans and the Fitzpatrick Dancers, plus lots of vendors hawking jewelry, T-shirts, whiskey cakes and scones.
There was a big dance floor in front of the stage, and although there weren’t a lot of dancers, those who stepped up did so with the enthusiasm dancers tend to have in buckets full.
We caught all of the action.
The singers session if always a great way to ease into the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival weekend. It’s quiet and reflective. Mostly.
That is, it was reflective until harper Ellen Tepper sat down at her instrument and sang a hysterical little ditty called “The Pope.” Or something like that. (Video of somebody else singing it here.) As emcee Terry Kane (and frequent partner with Tepper as one part of the duo “The Jameson Sisters) put it, “That’s a hard act to follow.” So she didn’t bother. Time for intermission.
But make no mistake. Some of the area’s best singers did hold forth was some of the sweetest songs you’ll hear, including Matt Ward, who—deviating from his usual repertoire—offered up some rebel songs. Not the kind that will make you want to storm Long Kesh, but more contemplative songs that honored Ireland’s long quest for independence.
Here’s what’s what for the coming week as we head into a big month for local Irish (and Celts of all stripes).
Let’s start with Brittingham’s Irish Festival, Sunday starting at noon at Brittingham’s (of course) , 640 East Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill. Be prepared for the long haul. After 7:30, the party continues inside and continues on into the night. Look for Jamison, Oliver McElhone, Five Quid and Bare Knuckled Boxers. Food, drink, dance, and fun for the kiddies, too.
Wednesday at 7:30, two Irish musical stars, piper Cillian Vallely (of Lunasa) and his concertina-playing brother Niall, perform in a house concert sponsored by the Barn Star Concert Series. It’s a cozy little space on Bainbridge Street in Philly, and tickets are limited. Contact the organizer to reserve a space: firstname.lastname@example.org. More details on Barn Star’s Facebook page. Tickets are 20 bucks. You can bring drinks or goodies to share. You don’t have to, but it really adds to the fun.
We have nearly 60 pics from Sunday’s action at the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association field in Limerick. Sadly, we couldn’t be there for the whole amazing afternoon at the GAA’s terrific new venue. (Just think … there’d probably be more than a milliion pics.)
In any case, we have the under-14 camogie (the ladies’ version of hurling) between the Philly Shamrocks and the St. Brigid’s team from New Yawk. (I didn’t really hear any of them talk like that.)
That particular game is noteworthy in that it was the first camogie played at the new Limerick fields. The Philly team beat the St. Brigid’s but it was not for want of trying by the New York team in the second half. Great game all-round.
Margie Riccheza, a fine arts student at Temple’s Tyler School of Art, is sitting cross-legged on the floor in a wide open studio on Vine Street, carefully applying a ribbon of dark pink paint onto a five-foot-square sheet of parachute cloth. Thin lines of ink delineate the area where she applies the paint, and that particular area is marked with a number corresponding to the color of paint she is to use in that space.
The whole sheet is like that—streaks and squiggles and amoeba-shaped spots bounded by thin lines, each space marked with a roughly drawn number. This is paint-by-the-numbers on a huge scale. Many brightly colored panels line the wall. Some are completed, and others—like this one—are works in progress.
At a table nearby, Monica Matthieu sits, snipping small bits of colored glass into rough-edged shapes, gluing them onto large flower-shaped forms. “It’s like a puzzle, but with color,” she says, smiling, but not looking up from her work. “It’s very relaxing.”
There was no grand plan. It didn’t start out this way. No one was advocating, one way or another.
But here’s what happened: The grand finale concert of the 41st Annual Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival (September 10, 11 & 12th) is going to shine a big, bright spotlight on female Irish musicians.
The sweet-singing Mary Courtney will open the Saturday night concert—a treat in and of itself—and the all-female Irish traditional band Girsa will wrap things up, most likely with their usual burst of energy.