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Audio, Music

Podcast: Irish Christmas in America Comes to Sellersville

A bright, balanced blend of Irish music and dance drawing on seasonal inspirations, Irish Christmas in America arrives on stage at Sellersville Theater 1894 Tuesday, November 27. Fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, of the Irish traditional supergroup Téada, has been producing the show for 14 years, which never ceases to delight audiences from one end of the country to the other—regardless of whether their roots are Irish.

“We started in 2005, a few years into touring with Téada, he says. “We really enjoyed it, so we kept on doing it.”

March, of course, is perhaps the best time of year to acquaint people with Irish culture, but, he adds, Christmas is a great time, too.

Irish Christmas in America features some of the finest musicians and dancers you’re likely to find, including well-known singer, accordionist and story-teller Séamus Begley and harper Gráinne Hambly, who has performed frequently in the Philadelphia area over the years. Continue Reading

Audio, News, People

“Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew”

Author, journalist and broadcaster Jude Collins visited the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Philadelphia Sunday to give a talk on his new book, Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew (Mercier Press).

The book is a collection of interviews with prominent figures in recent Northern Irish history, all reflecting on the late Martin McGuinness, prominent Irish republican Sinn Féin politician, a warrior turned peacemaker, who became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

McGuiness died in 2017.

Among those interviewed are prominent unionists, including Eileen Paisley (widow of Ian Paisley), Michael McGimpsey and John McAllister, peace talks chairman U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and friends and allies such as Gerry Adams and Martina Anderson.

Was McGuinness, as some thought, a terrorist who somehow became a different man? Or was he, as others believed, always the same man—a man who never wavered in his pursuit of the same goal but who, when the time came, simply embraced a new approach?

Collins digs deep to find the answers to this and many other questions. He sat with us for a brief interview preceding his talk.

Here’s what he had to say.

Editor’s note: All Irish Philly podcasts are now available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and Spotify.

Arts, Audio

Audio Podcast: Interview with Peggy Mecham, Director of the Irish Heritage Theatre’s Presentation of “The Plough and the Stars”

The 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which ultimately led to the liberation of Ireland after centuries of British rule—in all but six counties, of course—has been celebrated proudly in Philadelphia with parades and speeches. That historic event is about to be observed again in another way, through the words of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey—and through the eyes of the Dublin underclass.

From May 26 through June 11 at Plays and Players Theatre, the Irish Heritage Theatre is presenting O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars,” the final episode in O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy.  (Details and tickets here.)

IHT presented “The Shadow of a Gunman” two years ago, and “Juno and the Paycock” last year. It’s no accident that “The Plough and the Stars” is being presented in this, the centennial year. According to director Peggy Mecham, that was always part of the plan. The last two acts of the four-act play take place during the Rising, as experienced by Dublin tenement dwellers.

Mecham took a break during rehearsal to have a chat about O’Casey in general and “The Plough and Stars” in particular.

Audio, Music

Audio Podcast: Interview with Celtic Woman’s Máiréad Carlin

Celtic Woman’s Destiny World Tour is coming to Reading, Pa., June 18, 2016, at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading. If you’re willing to drive a little farther, you can also catch them at Eisenhower Auditorium in University Park the night before.

We interviewed singer Máiréad Carlin, one of the four current members of the troupe, which began in 2004 and took off from there.

Máiréad is classically trained, with a background in opera and folk music. She’s well known in her native Northern Ireland for many things, not the least of which is her duet with Glee’s Damian McGinty, singing Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” celebrating Derry’s designation as City of Culture in 2013.

She joined Celtic Woman in August of the same year.

We spoke to Máiréad about her career, about going Celtic Woman, and about music generally and what it means to her. We started by asking her: Why is the world still so enamored of Irish music and dance, more than 20 years after Riverdance.

Here’s what she had to say.

Audio, Music, News

Podcast: Here’s How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without the Booze

It’s almost time for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sunday, March 13, will be here before you know it. It will also be time to celebrate at the 2nd Sober St. Patrick’s Day at WHYY studios at 6th and Race, immediately following the parade.

St. Patrick’s Day—which would include parade day—can sometimes serve as an excuse for people to drink till they fall down or get sick in the street. Some of them, including a fair number of Irish-Americans no doubt, believe boozing and carousing is what day is all about.

Really? Not necessarily. OK, party—but your party can still be lots of fun without the hooch. And if you want to drink in anything, drink in some of the fun, food, dance and some of the best Irish music you’ll hear anywhere at the Sober St. Patrick’s Day party—and we hasten to add, this is all G-rated family fun. By all means, bring the kiddies.

We spoke with Katherine Ball-Weir of the Irish cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Delaware Valley Branch, who together with Frank Daly of American Paddy’s Productions and the great local Irish band Jamison, is working hard to get this party started. Continue Reading

Audio, News

Audio Podcast: Interview with Diarmuid Johnson

014_5582Diarmuid Johnson, noted scholar and musician, is in town to present “The Crooked Road: A Ramble through Irish History in Words and Music,” Saturday, February 27th, at 8 p.m. at the Commodore Barry Club/Philadelphia Irish Center.

Johnson takes “a musical and poetic journey through Irish history leading up to the Easter Rebellion of 1916.”

The event is sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group.

We chatted with him a few days ago. Here’s what he had to say.