Sharon Shannon is talking on the phone from her home in Galway and she is surrounded by cats. “I have 11 of them,” she says, “and one is a kitten who’s very playful making the rest of them play.”
She also has eight dogs, all of which live in the house. “You can imagine there is a lot of cleaning,” she says.
But she’s waiting for the arrival of her animal minder who will be staying with her menagerie while Shannon, a legendary accordion player, heads off on her US tour that will bring her to the Tin Angel in Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 7. Opening for her is the John Byrne Band, which is fronted by a Dublin-born singer-songwriter who now calls Philadelphia home. Continue Reading
Philadelphia’s Irish community is known for its musical family dynasties.
There are the Boyces—brothers Michael and John are the linchpins of the Celtic rock group Blackthorn, while sister Karen, formerly with the group, Causeway, still sings solo at many Irish events. The McGillians—they’re Boyce cousins—include accordion player John and guitarist Jimmy. Sister Mary will burn up a keyboard now and again. There’s John, Judy, and Eugenia Brennan, a perfect trio of guitar and fiddle, keyboard, and voice. And siblings Dylan and Haley Richardson, a guitarist and fiddler respectively, have already produced their first CD and they’re not even out of their teens.
Now, these musical siblings have to make room for the McGroarys. Donegal brothers Seamus and Raymond are well known in the area. Both singers and guitarists, they’ve played most of the Irish musical pubs in the city and suburbs though, Raymond says, “Seamus play a lot more bars than I do. I mostly play events and people’s parties.” Continue Reading
The 41st Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival of Traditional Music and Dance drew to a close last Saturday night with a rousing concert by the young group Girsa, whose name means “young girls” in Irish. And the group, from Pearl River, NY, is usually composed of all young girls, but prior commitments for some of the talented young women meant there was a place on the stage for amazing Irish step dancer and flute player Sean Tierney.
You’ll find videos on our homepage, and plenty of photos below of Friday night’s annual ceili and rambling house, hosted by John McGillian, and the nonstop music and fun of Saturday afternoon. Continue Reading
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. 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.
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. Continue Reading
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. Continue Reading