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Music, News, People

St. Malachy’s Annual Concert Honors Its Fallen Hero and Longtime Supporters

By Kathy McGee Burns

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

Music, News, Videos

The Galway Girl Comes to Philly

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

Music, News, People, Photos

Meet Philly’s New Music Dynasty

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

Music, Photos

The Philadelphia Ceili Group Music Festival in Pictures

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

Arts, Music

For Percussionist Sean Kennedy, the Beat Goes On

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

Dance, Food & Drink, Music

Northeast Philly Irish Festival 2015

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

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.

We caught all of the action.

Mom and sonTaking up the whole table at the Northeast Philadelphia Irish FestivalTaking to the dance floor at the Northeast Philadelphia Irish FestivalHappy dancersSinger Dee ReillyOur dear friends at the Relik jewelry stand, Miriam Stamm and Stanton RossMaster of Ceremonies Bill Reid introduces singer Dee ReillyHappy customers at the shirt stand ... and happy sales guy, too.Fitzpatrick dancers rehearse under the watchful eye of their instructorFitzpatrick dancers of Bucks County warming up before their performanceFitzpatrick dancerDeborah Streeter-Davitt  of MacDougall's Irish Victory CakesClapping hands as Dee Reilly singsBogside Rogies and buddiesAn appreciative audience at the Northeast Philadelphia Irish FestivalAbsolutely love those faces

A Taste of What’s Coming This Weekend

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