Legend has it that it was the chattering of a wren who gave away St. Stephen’s hiding place in a bush, leading to his murder and martyrdom.
Fast forward several centuries to the Emerald Isle, where the so-called “wren boys” commemorated the feast day of St. Stephen—December 26—singing, playing music and dancing in exchange for applause and money to be collected for a party or dance for their village. They performed in colorful clothing and masks.
In the early days, they actually hunted for a wren, killed it and mounted it atop a stick. Thankfully, these days, the tradition continues, but with no avian casualties—a fake wren will do. Continue Reading
Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep took top honors in the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser last week.
In their real lives, the winners are really Letterkenny, County Donegal, native Brendan Bradley (as Bert), a Gaels’ coach and brother of last year’s winner Louie Bradley, Gaels’ chairman, and his dance partner, Miriam Gallagher, a pre-school teacher from Glenties, also in County Donegal. The two did a rollicking dance number to a song from the Disney movie, “Mary Poppins” that took them into the audience and, in the case of Gallagher, into the lap of someone in the audience.
More than 700 people crowded into the spacious Springfield Country Club Ballroom to watch four couples—many of whom didn’t know each other until January, when rehearsals began—perform three ballroom dances for a panel of judges and, like the TV show on which it’s based, for audience votes. Continue Reading
A funny thing happened this year to Wayne’s Mary Lou Sterge. The guy who came to remodel her house asked her to dance.
But no, it’s not what you think. The guy was Louie Bradley, chairperson of the board of the Delco Gaels, youth Gaelic sports club in Delaware County. Last year, Bradley was the winner of the silver mirrored trophy, along with dance partner Michelle Quinn, for the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser, in which eight couples compete in various dance styles that they’ve learned over several months of intense rehearsals.
“Louie recently remodeled my house. My house looks great, and now I’m dancing,” said Sterge, a fundraiser, after rehearsal last Sunday at the McDade-Cara Irish Dance School studio in Newtown Square. She and her partner, Tom Gregory, were sharing some pizza after an hour of dancing to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, he in silver platform shoes he bought from the internet. Continue Reading
This past week saw more than a few Irish holiday-oriented events, and we have souvenirs from three.
On Sunday, the Divine Providence Village Rainbow Irish Step Dancers joined the Tara Gael Dancers at the Irish Center for a memorable Christmas show. The Rainbow dancers are a group of developmentally disabled women taught by local Irish step dancer Kathy Madigan. They live at the archdiocesan home in Delaware County.
They never fail to inspire, and their most recent holiday performance was no exception. Continue Reading
Marcie McComb of Broomall had her three young daughters in tow at the grand opening last Saturday of the brand new home of the McDade Cara School of Irish Dance in Edgmont. Her middle daughter, Riley, five, was signing up. “She and her sister Morgan (7) went to the dance camps in April and Riley wanted to do it. And she’s good too. Riley really gets it.”
In fact, Riley seemed ready to go right then, swinging her hips and arms as the first reel played in one of several vast studios that are replacing the school’s two previous locations. A few lessons and those arms will be as still as tree trunks. Continue Reading
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.
Deborah Streeter-Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes
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.
These days, when we go to many Philly Irish events, we’re occasionally doing double duty. You’ll sometimes see one of us with both a still camera and a video camera draped about the next. We’re often confused about what to do with which.
We got over our confusion the day of the Philly Fleadh down at the Cherokee Festival Grounds last weekend, enough so that you can see some of the dancing, hear some of the music, and generally take in all of the fun.
For one day, the Cherokee Festival Grounds was a microcosm of just about everything that is Irish in the Delaware Valley.
On Saturday, this broad tree-lined lawn played host to a fèis—an Irish dance competition sponsored by the Celtic Flame School of Dance—along with open-air concerts by Burning Bridget Cleary, Jamison Celtic Rock, Seamus Kennedy, Ray Coleman, the Mahones, the Bogside Rogues, and pretty much of the royalty of Irish music from Philly and beyond, traditional and otherwise. People lined up for chips on a stick—what genius invented them?—hot dogs, burgers, bite-sized Guinness cupcakes with swirls of Bailey’s frosting–and again we ask, what genius invented them?–and cold brews to wash it all down with. There were vendors all over the place. If you wanted to buy a Goth-y corset, the Philly Fleadh was just the place to get one.
Thank America Paddy’s Productions for pulling it all off smoothly. We ran into one of the aforementioned Paddys, Jamison front man Frank Daly, who seemed a whole lot more relaxed about things this year than last. And that, even after a last-minute switch from the original festival location, Pennypack Park. Everything worked out for the best—maybe better than the best.