We’re just a week away from the 24th annual Greater Philadelphia Mid-Winter Scottish and Irish Music Festival at the Valley Forge Events Center in King of Prussia. And as usual, organizer Bill Reid has come up with about a hundred ways to have a fabulous weekend of music, dance, food, drink, and other great Celtic stuff (sword fight, anyone?) just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Many local performers and bands, including The John Byrne Band, Jamison, The Hooligans, Oliver McElhone, Timlin & Kane, Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks, Gabriel Donohue and Seamus Kennedy (back by popular demand) will be on stage, along with long-time festival favorites Albannach, the Brigadoons, Searson, the Screaming Orphans, the MacLeod Fiddlers and the Washington Memorial Pipers and Drummers. While fan favorite Brother isn’t on the bill, the group’s Angus Richardson will be there. And new this year, the Canadian Celtic rock group, the Mudmen will be rousing the rabble, starting on Friday night, February 12.
This could be the perfect time for you to learn Irish, ceili dancing, and how to tell the difference between whiskies—there are also workshops daily over the three-day event. There’s always a great array of vendors whether you’re interested in jewelry, kilts, or haggis-flavored potato chips.
If you’re colorblind, Old City this weekend might look like a giant “Where’s Waldo” game as Celtic supporters—that is, superfans of the Celtic Gaelic Football Club in Glasgow—descend on the city for their annual Celtic fest. You’ll know them—they’ll be the ones in the green and white jerseys with great big smiles on their faces.
You’ll run into them mainly at The Plough and the Stars, home of the Second Street PloughBhoys (the local branch), where they’ll be having lots of good food and listening to great live music (including Irish transplants Derm Farrell and Raymond Coleman) in between watching games and talking about games. It’s all great craic, even if you don’t care much about football.
If the “blizzard conditions” prediction comes true, chances are you’ll be spending a good part of your weekend sitting at home, eating French toast and drinking wine, when you’re not digging out.
That means that even though there are a few things on the “How to Be Irish” calendar, call first before you head out to an event. The Jamison show at Brittingham’s has already been canceled for Saturday night, as has Saturday’s indoor Delco Gaels’ session at Maple Zone in Garnet Valley. You can catch at least some of Jamison next Thursday at Kildare’s West Chester. That would be Slainte, featuring Jamison’s Frank Daly and CJ Mills, the amazing flying fiddler. And there’s another indoor session for the Gaels on February 6.
Celtic Thunder fans: Are you ready for an encore?
CT’s young tenor, 25-uear-old Emmet Cahill, is returning to The Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Center) in Philadelphia on Monday, February 8, with pianist Seamus Brett for part two of his solo tour before rejoining the world’s most famous Irish boy group. He’s looking forward to it, and not just because of the warm welcome he got when he was there in May 2015.
“When I stop in a place like the Irish Center I genuinely feel at home,” says Cahill, speaking on the phone from his home in Westmeath. “A lot of the people have Irish accents and they’re sitting at the bar drinking Guinness. There’s a great community at the Commodore Barry Club. A lot of people hung around after the show at the bar and it was great craic.”
Proof that Irish traditional music is alive, well, and thriving? The next generation, like fiddler Dylan Foley and accordion player Dan Gurney. The two young Irish-Americans met and honed their skills at the Catskills Irish Weekend in East Durham, NY. It was there and in the Sunday afternoon concert series in the Rhinecliff Hotel where they met their two musical influences, legendary concertina and flute player Father Charlie Coen and flute and whistle player Mike McHale, and where they played in McHale’s Catskills Ceili Band.
Gurney moved to Galway for a year after graduating from Harvard; Foley, who is five years younger, won the All Ireland Senior Fiddle competition in 2014. The two made a CD together—appropriately called “Irish Music from the Hudson Valley”—which came out last year.
They’ll be bringing their talent to the stage on Sunday, January 17, at the Coatesville Cultural Society in Coatesville. Take a listen to what these two can do.
Looking for a place to do a little dancing? The AOH Notre Dame Division one is having an Irish session for your listening and dancing pleasure on Saturday starting at 7 PM at their club at 342 Jefferson Street, Swedesburg.
Jamison Celtic Rock is performing at The Red Rooster Inn at 7960 Dungan Street in Philadelphia on Saturday night. One of our Facebook group members just suggested the Irish breakfast at The Red Rooster so you may want to go back on Sunday morning to try it out (they won’t let you sleep there).
On Monday, the Dubliner on the Delaware—a new pub-restaurant in New Hope—launches its every-Monday Irish music session.
It’s the final countdown to Christmas and there are a few things you may want to do instead of shopping and wrapping.
For one thing, the Notre Dame Ladies Gaelic Football Club is having an Ugly Sweater Party at Paddy Rooney’s pub in Havertown on Saturday night. There will be prizes for the best. . .er, ugliest sweater. The event raises money for the footballers.
Also on Saturday, catch Bob Hurst of the Bogside Rogues at Reedy’s Irish Pub Christmas party, 9245 Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.
The Irish Immigration Center’s annual Christmas party had a bittersweet tinge to it on Thursday night. It’s the last party Siobhan Lyons will preside over as executive director.
The Dublin-born Lyons has taken a new job as CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, an international relations organization that, among other things, runs international exchange programs for the federal government and the city of Philadelphia and matches leaders from other countries with their counterparts in the US. Their slogan: “Make friends. Make contacts. Make peace.”