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.
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!
Last Friday, the Philadelphia Ceili Group brought multi-instrumentalist and award-winning folk singer Jarlath Henderson to a very appreciative Delaware Valley audience (with some driving from as far away as Reading in rush hour traffic to attend). And with a crowd of nearly 50 people in attendance at the Fireside Room of the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (AKA The Irish Center) in Mount Airy, the evening was one of brilliant tunes and songs, with Jarlath stunning on pipes (both uilleann and vocal) and accompanied by the talented Glasgow-born Innes Watson on guitar (one audience member was overheard exclaiming “He makes that guitar talk!”). To check out where you can see them perform as they continue their U.S. tour, and to order their CDs, check out Jarlath’s website.
This is just the kick-off to a number of upcoming concerts the Ceili Group is sponsoring, several as a co-production with the Irish Center. First up is next Thursday, May 16, when they bring Beoga to town. In case you haven’t heard, the self-described “new-wave trad” super-group recently shot into the stratosphere when they performed on two Ed Sheeran songs: “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan.”
Then, on Sunday, June 9, they will be presenting David Curley in concert. Dave is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, mandolin, banjo and bodhran, sings and does some Irish dancing as well. He is part of the band RUNA, as well as being a member of SLIDE.
If you’re part of the Irish community in Philadelphia, you know Sean McMenamin from, well, everywhere. For over 50 years, he has been one of the most recognizable and beloved forces of nature in the community; somehow the man from Kildangan, County Mayo, manages to be both a behind-the-scenes presence at the same time that he is leading the charge.
And he will, quite literally, be at the head of the parade when he leads the 2019 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 10, as this year’s Grand Marshal. It is particularly fitting that he does so the year the theme is “St. Patrick, Unite Us,” because this is a man who has been uniting people his entire life.
“Duffy’s Cut is both a place, and it’s a story. It’s a place about 20 miles west of Philadelphia along the railroad tracks so it’s a physical location, but Duffy’s Cut is also a story. And it’s the story of the death of 57 Irishmen in 1832.” ~ Frank Watson
“It could potentially be the worst mass murder in the history of Pennsylvania if all 57 of these workers died. But it is a mass murder scene whether seven died – whom we have excavated – or all 57 did. In which case if it’s 57, it’s the worst mass murder in Pennsylvania history.” ~ William Watson
In their new book, “Massacre at Duffy’s Cut,” William and Frank Watson detail their 15-year odyssey to reclaim the Irish laborers whose lives were cut short and their bodies buried under Mile 59 of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the summer of 1832. They sat down with Irish Philadelphia in the Duffy’s Cut Museum at Gabriele Library, Immaculata University, where they shared their behind-the-scenes account of not only what happened to the workers, but how their mission began when they became the keepers of a secret file inherited from their grandfather.
Watch the interview, and then come to the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (The Irish Center) in Mount Airy on Sunday, December 9, at 3 p.m. for a book signing that will follow a talk and update on what’s next for the dig site. For more information, go to the Facebook Events page here.
For more information on Duffy’s Cut, and to check out “Massacre at Duffy’s Cut,” visit their website.
On Saturday, December 1, Cherish the Ladies with Don Stiffe take the stage at the Commodore Barry Arts & Cultural Center (the Irish Center) to present their amazing Celtic Christmas show. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets here.
One of the seasonal songs to be presented will be the poignant “The Christmas Letter,” with lead vocals performed by Stiffe. As the YouTube promo explains: “The song tells the sad story of forced immigration due to starvation and unemployment and a mother’s broken heart lamenting over the loneliness of a Christmas morning knowing that her family is forever torn apart and the only contact she’ll ever have is the letters that arrive for Christmas.”
Try listening to it without developing a little tremble in the lips and forming a few tears. Heart-breaking and lovely.
Longtime Philadelphia Ceili Group member Jim McGill shared an old program with Mick Moloney before his concert with Robbie O’Connell and Jimmy Keane Saturday night at the Philadelphia Irish Center/Commodore Barry Club.
I didn’t get a look at it, but it was from the first time Mick played at the center, many years ago. It was a photo, of course, of a much younger and bushier Mick Moloney. O’Connell had a look at it and he drew laughs from the audience when he described Moloney as looking like “Sasquatch with a banjo.”
That’s kind of how the evening went. A concert with these three masters of the trade is an informal affair. They all had stories to tell—moonshine and the Tennessee World’s Fair figured prominently in one particularly quirky tale—and even though the three of them were up on stage in the bright lights and the rest of us were sitting in the ballroom in the dark, it felt like a much smaller room, with friends sharing gossip, a few well-worn tunes and a drink or two.
Better to show you than to tell you. So what we have is three videos and a small collection of photos from the concert. Hope you like them.