Every year someone says it, and every year it seems true: “This is the biggest crowd ever.”
Since virtually every pew in St. Malachy’s Church, the historically Irish church in North Philadelphia, was full, and there were people standing in the back, you can take it as read.
Also present in spirit, was Sister Cecile Anne Reiley, SSJ, a force of nature who did so much for so many years for the parish and its highly regarded school. One of her many labors of love was organizing the annual Irish concert. This year’s event was dedicated to her. Continue Reading
It started out as a police and fire band—only there weren’t really enough cops and firefighters to fill out an entire band. So membership in the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band was opened up to civilians.
From that point on, the band has moved from its humble beginnings in an American Legion hall, marching in parades throughout the Delaware Valley, to its longtime practice hall in the ballroom at the Philadelphia Irish Center/Commodore Barry Club. After that move, the band became an integral part of the Irish community, playing for everything from county banquets to the annual Joe McGarrity memorial in Holy Cross Cemetery to—of course—the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Continue Reading
Jimmy Fallon, eat your heart out! You may have made lip syncing cool, but last Friday night the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia filled the ballroom of the Paxon Hollow Golf Club in Broomall with its Lip Sync Challenge. Over 300 people turned out to cheer on the ten acts who performed like the entertainers they were channeling.
And the theme of the night was FUN.
One of the most important missions of the Immigration Center is its work with the seniors in the community, including a monthly lunch at the Irish Center in Mt. Airy, so it was only fitting that two of the acts, The Jailbirds and Seniors in Sync, were composed of seniors. Proving age has no season, they brought the house down with their performances, including interpretations of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Continue Reading
Musician Mick Moloney will be returning to St. Malachy’s Church in Philadelphia for his annual concert on Sunday, November 1. The event raises money for the operating costs of St. Malachy’s School, a mission school and “beacon of hope” in North Philadelphia that serves mainly low-income children.
But this year, something is different. Sr. Cecile Reiley, SSJ, will not be there, physically, to guide us. She passed away on April 24, 2015. She and Mick worked on this event for 28 years and, as Mick said, “Sister Cecile was one of the loveliest people I have ever known. A living Saint, really. The most gentle of souls but with a calm inner strength that was extraordinary.”
Sister Cecile, a native of Pottsville, joined the Sisters of St. Joseph as a young woman in 1957. She double majored in music and art at Chestnut Hill College and later got an MS in pastoral counseling. She was a teacher and an immigration counselor in the Diocese of Allentown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She was a member of the Catholic Peace Fellowship which has met at St. Malachy’s—her ministry up until her death—for more than 30 years. Continue Reading
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.