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Big Finish: The 2019 Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival

The 2019 Philadelphia Ceili Group Irish Traditional Music & Dance Festival is over, but what a packed, fun-filled festival it was.

We showed you the Thursday night singers night last week, but that was just the beginning of a long weekend of tunes, high stepping, and workshops on how to do everything from play tin whistle to learn a bit of the Irish language to plumb the depths of your Irish heritage.

There was a dance exhibition by the Temple University Dance Team (go Owls!), along with a small orchestra of musicians from the area’s many traditional Irish music sessions, and a superb, intimate concert by piper Ivan Goff and fiddler Katie Linnane. There was a children’s story time, St. Brigid’s cross making, face painting, a hall full of Celtic and Irish vendors, and the kitchen kept on cranking out chow that had people going back for more.

If you were up for a pint or two, that was there, too.

Then, of course, there was the Saturday night finale concert in the ballroom, featuring singer Donie Carroll and Tony DeMarco and his band, the Atlantic Wave.

We have plenty of pictures, courtesy of Denise Foley and Jeff Meade.

Enjoy!

Music, People, Photos, Videos

Singers Night at the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival

The Philadelphia Ceili Group kicked off the 45th  Annual Festival with its time-honored tradition of Singers Night. Hosted by Terry Kane (one half of the popular Jameson Sisters) and dedicated to the late Frank Malley, who was a driving force behind both Singers Night and the Festival itself, last night also brought poignant tributes to other beloved Irish Philadelphia musicians who have recently passed away.

The late Eugene O’Donnell, Kitty Kelly-Albrecht and Eugenia Brennan were all at the forefront throughout the evening, remembered in favorite songs and personal stories. Among the performers who took the stage were Ellen Tepper (the other half of the Jameson sisters) on the harp, Matt Ward, Rosaleen McGill, Jim McGill, Steve Stanislaw, John Handy, Kathleen Warren, Don Simon, Seamus Carmichael, Don Gill, Trish Callahan and Mike Albrecht.

Jeff took some photos and I got some videos. So, if you couldn’t be there in person, enjoy! And join us for the rest of the weekend; tonight’s Rambling House hosted by the River Drivers and the Ceili Dance with the McGillians & Friends starts at 8 p.m., and tomorrow’s day of concerts and activities begins at 11 a.m. and continues throughout the day and evening. For more information, check out the Philadelphia Ceili Group website. Continue Reading

Music

Music, Dance, Workshops, Genealogy, Food and More: The 2019 Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival

Rosaleen McGill has been volunteering for the Philadelphia Ceili Group Traditional Music & Dance Festival since she was 8 or 9 years old. “It was a great tradition in which to grow up. It felt like being raised by a village. And people were always excited to tell me about their instrument or try to teach me a few words of Gaelic or how to make a St. Brigid’s Cross. There was always so much to get involved in and a beautiful range of ages.”

Now, here she is in her early 30s, and it never gets tired. Obviously not, because she’s on the board of the Ceili Group.

Just as obviously, the festival holds an incredible amount of appeal for her—and, she suggests, that’s as it should be, not just for her, but for anyone even the least bit interested in their Irish heritage and culture.

This year’s festival is certainly no exception.

“It’s a unique showcase of Irish culture,” McGill says. “It’s nice to have a culture all your own to dive deep into and examine the traditions and language and stories and the instruments that we have created, and not just celebrate the history, but all facets.” Continue Reading

Audio, Audios, Music

Podcast: Fiddler Tony DeMarco Brings His New York Style to Philly

Tony DeMarco’s family story isn’t unusual for New York and other big Northeastern cities. He’s the offspring of that classic “Gaelic and garlic” heritage, a DeMarco on one side, and, on his mother’s side, Dempseys.

“I’m in a book that was all about the Irish-Italian condition in New York, called ‘An Unlikely Union’, written by Paul Moses,” says DeMarco. “He goes into the whole story about Italians and Irish in New York, and how they did and didn’t get along. My whole family consists of those kinds of relations and marriages.”

In many, if not most cases, the Catholic church was the common denominator. Italians and Irish were both Catholic, and they settled in the same neighborhoods. “So the dominant nationalities were Italian and Irish and they married a lot, and I’m a product of that,” DeMarco says. “So we had Irish music and good Italian food.” In DeMarco’s estimation, it was the best of both worlds. Continue Reading

Music

Jamison’s Alice Marie Has the World on a String—Well, Four, Actually

The musicians of Jamison are motoring noisily through sound check at Curran’s Tacony on a steamy Friday night, getting ready to begin their show. Off in a corner that is only marginally quieter than the rest of the area around the bar is the band’s fiddler Alice Marie Quirk, the humidity making her long curly hair even curlier.

She has just arrived from a 4thof July gig at a retirement community—a pretty fair indication of how busy and versatile she is. Her sound check is just a few minutes away, but for now she is taking a few moments to tell her story—how she made the transition from classical viola to fiddle in a Celtic rock band.

It’s an incomplete transition because classical music remains an important part of her life, but for some time she has been a fixture on the Philly paddy rock scene.

Quirk—who just goes by the name “Alice Marie” because people tended to mistake “Quirk” for names like “Kirk” and unfailingly mispronounce it—has come a long way from her Bachelor of Arts degree in music, with a minor in theology, from Immaculata University and her teaching certification from Eastern. (She also taught music for a time in the Philadelphia School District.) Continue Reading

Dance, Music

Remembering Eugene O’Donnell

The world of Irish music and dance is mourning the passing of the supremely gifted fiddler Eugene O’Donnell. News of his death came Friday, June 28, from his longtime musical partner, multi-instrumentalist and folklorist Mick Moloney.

In the Philadelphia area, he is best known for that partnership. He was also a founding member of the Philadelphia Ceili Group.

As a fiddler, he was renowned for his mastery of slow airs—although he certainly had a broad repertoire—but for many in this region, he was also known as one of the greatest step dancers ever to have taken to the floor.

According to Compass Records, for which he recorded, O’Donnell “began Irish dancing at the age of three and was the first Irish dancer ever to dance on television in London at the age of 12, all the while playing and perfecting Derry-style Irish fiddling. As a teen, O’Donnell won an unprecedented five consecutive All-Ireland dancing championships.”

O’Donnell arrived in Philadelphia from Derry in 1957. From there, it didn’t take long for him to begin sharing his many gifts.

Many recall him for his superb musical skills, but they also remember him as one of the finest, most inventive, and occasionally the most exacting of dance instructors. Continue Reading

Music

A Photographer’s Look Back at the Glen Hansard Concert

I had been pining for months since I had learned Glen Hansard was coming back to Philly with his The Wild Willing Tour. After brushing off his music twice before, he quickly became a musical hero whose artistry seemed to speak directly to my soul.   

Although I don’t seem to recall this interaction in the least, apparently NPR had done a story on him and my wife loved his song “Falling Slowly,” which we played in the car. When she pushed me on it, I dismissed it. A friend also recommended him. Again, I didn’t retain it. 

However, perhaps close to a year later, this same friend mentioned him again to me in reply to a Facebook post about what artist inspires you as a human or on a deeper level. It was something like that. Chris, the friend, really talked him up. For whatever reason, this time it stuck with me. So much so that I drove 45 minutes that day to the only Barnes & Noble in the area that had a copy of his famous  “Once” on DVD.   

I watched it that night. And the following day, I bought the digital version of the soundtrack and almost burnt it out. Not sure how I went from blowing him off to then becoming almost like a cult follower. 

Regardless, I was now all in. I brought that friend, Chris, with me to see him live. I owed him that much, right? I wasn’t sure what to expect from his live show or the opener.  I did know that I would not miss it.   

Arriving at the Merriam Theater, it became very clear that Glen had amassed a serious following in Philly. We made our way to our seats. I determined my shooting points for the show, then just waited. The house lights went out and next thing I knew, Glen came out with just an acoustic guitar. I thought to myself, “No opener?” I certainly wasn’t complaining. He got to the mic and launched immediately into a lively version of “Say it to Me Now,” which I knew from the “Once” sound track. 

Glan Hansard pulls you in right away.  After he ended the song, he thanked everyone for coming in early for the show.

He then began to talk about the opening act, Junior Brother, an eclectic singer/songwriter from County Kerry, who would go on to thank Glen for lending him his guitar to use that night. JB also thanked the crowd for coming to see his show, which offered sometimes humorous songs and stories done with an acoustic guitar and foot tambourine for an overarching folk sound.   

When Glen took the stage again, he started with a fully electric “Fool’s Game.” Having this preconceived idea of him as perhaps docile based on the “Once” sound track, I was blown away with just how high-energy, charismatic and animated his show can be.

Early on in his show, he mentioned that he was unsure about booking Philly again “this soon” as he was just here last year. The filled theater quickly showed him the love that this city has for him.

His show ended close to midnight, about three hours after it began. 

Glen interwove various tales, sometimes leading him to other off-topic tales.

The one that really struck me was when he spoke about eventually becoming pen pals with someone in the military who was deployed. Admittedly, he confessed much of the communication was one-way, that the soldier really was just looking for someone to listen to him, as he shared what was going on during deployment. 

It’s because of this that Glen continued this interaction but then became alarmed when the communication stopped. For some time, Glen was unsure of the fate of his friend until one night after a show, the solider came up and greeted him, offering him great relief. 

It was an amazing show with incredible music and wonderful tales. 

To see his entire set list, click here.

Arts, Music, Videos

Dave Curley in Concert

There’s not much that can top the pleasure of spending a Sunday evening in early June listening to Dave Curley performing live for the Philadelphia Ceili Group. And the crowd gathered at the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center last week got to bask in the experience firsthand. It won’t be the same as being there yourself, but Irish Philadelphia captured a few of Dave’s songs on video which we bring to you here.

Hailing from Corofin in County Galway, Dave is a triple threat in the world of Irish music: a multi-instrumentalist, a singer and a dancer. For the past several years, he’s been touring with the groups SLIDE and RUNA, and more recently he’s been performing with fellow SLIDE bandmate, Mick Broderick (the duo released an acclaimed CD that can be found on his website).

But Dave Curley performing solo is a treat for the ears that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re able to be in the York County vicinity tomorrow, Saturday, June 15th, be sure to catch him at the Penn-Mar Irish Festival. At the very least, watch the videos and be sure not to miss him the next time he’s in the area!